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Submissions/Our educational wikis - pros and cons of Wikipedia

From Wikimania 2011 • Haifa, Israel

This is an open submission for Wikimania 2011.

Review no.


Title of the submission
Our educational wikis - pros and cons of Wikipedia
Type of submission (workshop, tutorial, panel, presentation)
Author of the submission
Paul Bacsich
E-mail address or username (if username, please confirm email address in Special:Preferences)
Country of origin
United Kingdom
Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)
Matic Media Ltd and Sero Consulting Ltd
Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (please use no less than 300 words to describe your proposal)
I have played in recent years the major role in developing several Mediawiki-based wikis. These include the UK Higher Education Benchmarkwiki (http://elearning.heacademy.ac.uk/wiki/index.php/Main_Page) and later under a European Commission funded project I was Director of Research and information architect for the Re.ViCa wiki (http://www.virtualcampuses.eu/index.php/Main_Page) of e-learning in universities and colleges worldwide. Now I am project manager for the EU-funded VISCED project (Virtual Schools and Colleges) which is further developing and enlarging the Re.ViCa wiki but uses a separate "overwiki" for project management (VISCED - http://visced.referata.com/wiki/Main_Page). We are also developing wiki-based content on OER and benchmarking under national and international funding - with specific "pop-up" microwikis like POERUP (http://poerup.referata.com/wiki/Main_Page) for each project (where the content will in time flow back into the main content wiki).

Although this wiki work depends heavily on the information in and coding conventions of Wikipedia (English version) it does not use Wikipedia or any of the other wikis in the Wikimedia stable. This presentation explores the reasons for this and how the wiki work might converge more fully with Wikipedia. Topics of concern include:

  • the need for a "period of seclusion" (pages that start as private) when users are developing a wiki - researchers are particularly unwilling to let "work in progress" be visible - and their reluctance to ensure "bot storms" of automated and non-automated review of work in progress - a more complex set of protections than Mediawiki supports would be useful (at present we use an "underwiki" for private material). My early experience on Wikipedia was instructive.
  • the need in a wiki based on original research to have pages that are ideas-in-progress research, not just pages that cite research or are final research outputs
  • the need to have a clear view without the "dazzle" (as ethnographers call it) of detail that is not relevant - our focus is on the topic (or a subset of it, like OER) of e-learning in countries - and other details about a country need to be minimal and supportive, not get in the way or complicate categorisations
  • the need to have a clear set of abbreviations (often for universities and colleges - but also see http://elearning.heacademy.ac.uk/wiki/) without the dazzle of irrelevant (off-topic) alternatives
  • the need in European and international projects for a more balanced and muted world-view than the implicit US-centric tone of Wikipedia - this is especially needed when discussing educational issues in countries of disputed political status (even within/near EU) like Kosovo, North Cyprus or parts of the Middle East - we want debate to be focussed on educational issues not political ones.

Topics that have not been of so much concern include:

  • the non-WYSIWYG editor

Topics that are beginning to be of concern as the wikis grow and the user base are not all wiki experts include:

  • lack of compound searching
  • lack of semantic features, especially for subwikis of literature
  • limited and tedious conversions from Word
  • the lack of systematic ways of upgrading user skills.

Finally we are increasingly faced with the moral challenge of flowing our educational research on universities and schools back into Wikipedia, even on quite mundane matters, since for many countries which are not English-speaking (such as in Hispanic America and Francophone Africa), the (English) Wikipedia documentation of their educational systems is very limited and self-referential. But how then do we leverage on the data when it is "back" in Wikipedia? Does Wikipedia need to become more disaggregated (e.g. to allow transclusion of (sub)sections?) and data-driven?

Thus we hope it is clear that our in-project debates mirror some of the ongoing strategic debates in Wikipedia circles and indeed several of the other submissions touch on related aspects.

Track (People and Community/Knowledge and Collaboration/Infrastructure)
Knowledge and Collaboration, with aspects of People and Community
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  1. Vibhijain 06:57, 8 May 2011 (UTC)[reply]
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