Wikiversity – the Attempt to Create a Free University on the Internet

Guest author: Teemu Leinoen
Medialab, University of Art and Design of Helsinki

 

Teemu Leinoen leads the “Learning Environments” research group at the Helsinki Art and Design University Media Lab, where he has developed the Fle3 learning environment, LeMill (a community aimed to manage open education resources) and MobilED, an audio platform based on wiki tools for mobile communities. Teemu Leinonen belongs to the WikiMedia Foundation Council.

Mr. Leinonen will present Wikiversity at UOC UNESCO Chair Fifth International Seminar on November 12th.

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Wikiversity is a project of the Wikimedia community and a sister project of the Wikipedia project. The Wikimedia community is an international online community born and expanding around the Wikipedia project. Wikiversity was launched in June 2006 after an extensive online discussion on the mission, vision and objectives of the project. According to the approved project proposal Wikiversity is: “- a repository of free, multilingual educational resources; – a network of communities to create and use these resources; and – group effort to learn, which may or may not be led by an instructor, who may or may not be an expert on the topic.

Furthermore, the Wikiversity community has defined Wikiversity to be “a centre for the creation and use of free learning materials and activities“. It’s priorities and goals are to: “- Create and host a range of free- content, multilingual learning materials/resources, for all age groups in all languages; – Host scholarly/learning projects and communities that support these materials; and – Complement and develop existing Wikimedia projects (e.g.. a project devoted to finding good sources for Wikipedia articles)” (Wikiversity project proposal 2007)

There is a chance that Wikiversity will become the Internet’s Free University just as Wikipedia is the Free Encyclopedia on the Internet. The building of an educational entity demands considering a number of philosophical and practical questions such as pedagogy and organization.

Open wiki-projects, such as Wikipedia and Wikiversity, take their form with time. They are, first of all, online communities that are responsible of building their own culture and way of operating.
Because of this, when an open wiki-project is started, it is hard to know what it will finally become. Still, the open wiki-projects do not develop independently, but embedded in the socio-cultural context they are found and operating. Because of the free and open nature – anyone may join – the context is changing all the time depending on the socio-cultural-demographic of the active community members.

This image is just an example of one of the featured educational ones

At the time we write this, Wikiversity is still taking its form. It looks that the community is not yet exactly sure what they are or what they want to be. On some part, Wikiversity is already becoming a website for real online learning communities, one kind of educational entities. One may even see some signs of it becoming an educational institution. The slogans used within Wikiversity project promises a lot: “Free Learning Community” and “set learning free”.

As Wikiversity is taking its form, one must consider what will be the underlying educational ideologies driving the activity. From the history of education we know that some radical approaches to education, especially the idea of free and liberal education, have played an important role in capacity building in many societies around the world. I argue that by learning from the free and liberal educational tradition, Wikiversity could become an entity that will have a great impact on human capacity building in a global scale.

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