Introducing WikiEducator

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The WikiEducator family

Mediawiki logo
Wikis are about communities -- not the technology that enables them. Social communities develop around projects and ideas. For instance, the Wikipedia community is working together to build a free online encyclopedia. These communities are drawn together by a common set of values.

The WikiEducator[1] domain names were first registered in February 2006, and the first site was hosted on a desktop machine at the University of Auckland. WikiEducator was nurtured and incubated by the Commonwealth of Learning[2] from May 2006 till June 2009. Due to the phenomenal growth and international success of the project, WikiEducator is now an independent initiative hosted by the Open Education Resource (OER) Foundation, a charitable non-profit organisation.

The WikiEducator community aims to develop open content resources in support of all national curricula. This represents a return to the core values of education, namely to share knowledge freely.

Many wiki communities believe that content should be free. The slogan of the Mediawiki software, which runs WikiEducator and all the projects of the Wikimedia Foundation, encapsulates this spirit rather well: Ideas want to be free. This is why wiki software is often cited as an example of social software[3] because of the ease with which users can work together on content. This combined with the communication features of wikis enables people to connect with each other and to build a real sense of community.

The values of our WikiEducator community

It is important to recognise and respect the core values that embody a wiki community. The WikiEducator community embraces the following values:

diversity, freedom, innovation, transparency, equality, inclusivity, empowerment, human dignity, wellbeing and sustainability.

WikiEducators strive to be friendly and neighbourly. Our mantra is: "Just try it! Our community will support you".

Types of initiatives and content on WikiEducator

You will find different types of content on Wikieducator, including:

  1. International clusters, project hubs and initiatives within the WikiEducator community. These pages are used for planning of WikiEducator projects;
  2. Learning materials -- our free educational materials;
  3. Resources on how to create open education resources (OERs);
  4. Funding proposals developed as free content.

Icon reflection.gif


Educational wiki projects -- Thinking about similarities and distinguishing features

There are a growing number of wiki projects working in the educational sector. Consider for example:

Questions for reflection

  • In what ways does or should the WikiEducator community differentiate itself from these projects?
  • Based on your analysis of the listed wiki projects, what advice can you provide for our community to promote a sustainable and successful project?

Distinctive characteristics of the WikiEducator family

Figure 1. WikiEducator's traffic demographics relative to the general Internet population. Source, Alexa, 26 June 2009.

In response to these questions, it is fair to say that WikiEducator has established a distinctive niche in the global OER landscape.

Figure 2. WikiEducator's organising principle
73% of WikiEducator's members are teachers, lecturers or trainers working in the formal education sector. Approximately half of our users are over 45 years old demonstrating a strong commitment by practising educators to learn and to use social networking tools for the collaborative development of teaching materials. Learning wiki skills is cited by new users as the top reason for registering an account on the WikiEducator site (70% of respondents). This is closely followed by "researching innovative educational trends and ideas" (68% of respondents) and "developing free content materials" (66% of respondents) as the main reasons for joining the project.

WikiEducator is a global project with registered users distributed around the world (Caribbean 26%; North America 23%, Africa and Indian Ocean 19%, South America 5%, Europe 10%, Pacific/Oceania 17%). The project also serves a multilingual audience with only 51% of respondents indicating English as their first language.

WikiEducator differentiates itself within the OER landscape in a number of ways:

  • A focused education initiative: WikiEducator is a targeted education project focusing on the formal education sector, when compared, for instance, to general public projects like Wikipedia, Wikibooks or Wikiversity. This is evidenced by WikiEducator's traffic demographics relative to the general Internet population. With reference to Figure 1, WikiEducator attracts a higher proportion of the 35 - 54 age group when compared to the general Internet population, contrasted for example, with Wikiversity which shows a higher proportion of the 18 - 24 age group for the same indicator[12]. In addition, WikiEducator attracts a higher proportion of visitors with graduate qualifications and has succeeded in overcoming a male gender bias when contrasted, for example with Wikiversity which shows a male gender bias and lower proportion of visitors with graduate qualifications relative to the general Internet population. WikiEducator is uniquely positioned within the formal education sector when compared with the general Internet population.
  • Self-organising OER community: WikiEducator has organised itself as a community of educators working on a range of different OER artifacts, for example: open textbooks, OER courses for online teaching, learning activities based on external resources, lessons, articles and research papers, handouts, glossary projects for use as reference resources, the establishment of project or community nodes, the development of funding proposals as free content etc. (See Figure 2.) Other projects within the OER landscape have organised themselves around the nature of the objects being produced, for instance: Encyclopaedia articles in the case of Wikipedia or books in the case of Wikibooks, school textbooks with reference to projects like the Free High School Science Texts. Using a community-based organising principle contributes to the flexibility and agility of the project because incorporating additional OER related projects are easily accommodated.
  • Free cultural works approved content licensing: Since the inception of WikiEducator, the project has subscribed to Creative Commons licenses which meet the requirements of the free cultural works definition. Taking into account the recent decision by the Wikimedia Foundation to migrate from the GNU Free documentation license to the Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike license means that our content is now legally compatible with the largest database of OER in the world. This generates significant opportunities for content interoperability among Wikimedia Foundation projects, WikiEducator, Connexions and other OER initiatives which use compatible licenses. Sadly, many OER initiatives within the tertiary sector do not currently use free cultural works approved licenses and are excluded from remixing content from these sources. Moreover, our licensing choices permit us to collaborate with the corporate sector in generating a financially sustainable ecosystem without the risks of commercial exploitation.
  • Refining technology and approaches for a mass peer-collaboration model: WikiEducator is based on the mass peer-collaboration model pioneered by Wikipedia. As a community of educators, WikiEducator has been able to prioritise and focus on developing the educational refinements which distinguish teaching materials from, for instance, encyclopaedia articles. Examples include: the use of pedagocial templates, experimentation with interactive templates[13], pioneering approaches associated with wiki-to-print[14] technologies (aimed at widening access to digital OER for learners who may not have access to the Internet), initiating work on the development of a quality assurance and review[15] framework suitable for the formal education sector, proof-of-concept[16] work for exporting WikiEducator collections as IMS content packages (which would enable seamless export of our content into institutionally hosted Learning Management Systems), and planning projects aimed at making the technology easier to use for the majority educators. This experience distinguishes the WikiEducator community from many of its OER counterparts in the formal sector.

Additional reading


  1. WikiEducator