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Time frames[edit]

In thinking about how to launch Wikiversity, it is important to talk about a timeline for the development of the project. My expectation is that the project will start small and grow larger. It will not be possible to do everything right at the start. We should think critically about the types of activities and subgoals that should be emphasized in order to support the launch of the project. Some major and ultimate goals for the project might need to be approached incrementally with the expectation that "obvious" goals such as constructing conventional online courses will require a wiki support system that will encourage multiple editors to contibute to a course's development in a distributed fashion over an extended period of time.

It has been natural for all of us to leap to the logical conclusion: that it would possible to construct conventional online courses within a wiki. However, we need to put some thought into the practicalities of attracting and supporting Wikiversity editors who will do the hard work of editing the Wikiversity pages so as to construct such courses. Also, we need to face the reality that the easily imagined goal of constructing Wikiversity courses is in competition with many other activities that potential Wikiversity editors can be involved in. I think the past history of Wikiversity (within the Wikibooks project) demonstrates that it is not enough to just start the Wikiversity project and expect that editors will automatically show up and put functioning courses on line. Also, I think that almost all wiki courses will never really fit the "conventional" mode. The natural mode of operations for any wiki is dependent on distributed processes to an extent that is not compatible with conventional online courses that have specific times of existence, designated instructors and a group of students forced to march in lock-step.

All that said, I think the dream of constructing conventional online courses within Wikiversity is fine, but the Board is correct to state that it is not wise to try to launch the project by simply imagining that by setting up a new wiki space then Wikiversity editors will suddenly show up and put courses online. That is not how wiki works. There might be a few people who are only looking for free server space so that they can put some training session online TODAY, but for the most part it is unreasonable to expect that there is an army of people just waiting to put free courses online in wiki format as soon as the doors open.

It is not constructive to view the Board's stated requirements for the contents of an approvable Wikiversity project proposal as a roadblock to goals that are widely held by members of the community who voted in favor of the Wikiversity project. It is not an "us vs them" situation. It is not a question of should there by Wikiversity courses or not. The Board cannot prevent the community from making online courses. However, in my view, the requirements for the project proposal that have been imposed by the Board are based on a realistic assessment of how the wiki interface works and communities of wiki editors grow, interact and die. The requirements for the Wikiversity project proposal that have been established by the Board are not based on arbitrary decisions that should provoke outrage and contempt within the Wikiversity community. If members of the community fail to try to recognize the good intentions of the Board and the wisdom of the imposed restrictions, then the project will never be approved by the Board.

To those members of the community who have responded with outrage to the Board's Wikiversity project proposal requirements, I can suggest a first step towards possible reconciliation. I suspect that it is possible to construct a wiki learning environment that optimally takes advantage of the wiki user interface. There are some goals and projects that make sense for the launch of Wikiversity because they take into account the realities of the wiki interface and how communities of wiki editors grow and function. At the same time, there are some concievable goals for Wikiversity that would actually damage the project if they were adopted as immediate goals for the project launch. I suggest that our first natural impulse, to imagine re-creating conventional courses in wiki format, is easier to imagine than to make happen. I encourage the members of the Wikiversity community to be open to un-conventional learning opportunities that are "natural fits" for the wiki user interface. In my view, if we develop these "wiki-natural" learning-oriented projects at the launch of Wikiversity, then the project will get a good start in life and be able to move on to the most ambitious goals. If the community eventually finds a way (and a need) to put online a bunch of conventional courses, the Board will never be able to stop it. For those who view conventional courses as the only concievable content for Wikiversity, I ask that you remain open to other types of learning opportunities that are made possible by the wiki interface and will be the best way to launch Wikiversity. Please be open to various learning projects that are natural for the wiki interface and will tap into existing pools of wiki editors. Starting Wikiversity with an emphasis on such wiki-oriented learning projects is not saying no to the future possibility of conventional courses. It is saying yes to a viable project that will be approved by the Board. We should all be able to live with courses as a long-term goal that will come into focus after a strong launch of the project. --JWSurf 17:57, 1 April 2006 (UTC)Reply

John, I fully agree with this assessment (with the caveat that the board obviously can stop courses developing if they like, but with the strong feeling that they wouldn't if courses developed in the way that you envisage). As I understand WiseWoman to see them, "full courses" are simply full course materials - in this case there is absolutely no controversy. The controversy begins in whether Wikiversity is itself used as a place of learning. Now, I believe that Wikiversity should be this "place of learning", and I believe that it could include online courses, but I agree that they do not need to be our initial goal. I agree that wiki-based learning projects could be designed around the materials that Wikiversity hosts, and I believe that they can be mediated through study groups, learning communities and portals, which we have already discussed. I think that this needs to be better explained on Wikiversity:Learning, so that people who are obviously motivated to share their knowledge can do so, without feeling frustrated. Cormaggio @ 09:36, 12 April 2006 (UTC)Reply
Methinks we need to define the term "online course", as there are many things this could actually be. I'll get right on it, even if I don't have time :) --WiseWoman 20:39, 12 April 2006 (UTC)Reply
This section of the proposal is too conciliatory to other projects. For example: Wikibooks has a clique of regulars who wish the Wikibooks to be printer ready and who frown upon links to external materials. It is no large stretch of imagination to foresee that this will often make these books less useful to online students than they could be. It is likely in this situation that rather than wasting time debating with Wikibooks regulars learning groups or even individual student will fork the book if it is a useful starting point and start adding links to other online material to improve its effectiveness on Wikiversity learning trails and to Wikiversity students. It would reduce future strife and controversy if it was understood in the approved project proposal that Wikiversity will tend to its knitting and other WMF sponsored projects can tend to theirs. Nevertheless, the project is fine as written if it gets a permanment URL activated. Opponents to Wikiversity never seem to account for its total lack of visibility, advertising, stability, etc. when claiming it has not prospered so far therefore it will never prosper. Allow me to assist you WiseWoman with a prototype definition"
A Wikiversity Online Course is a location in the Wikiversity URL/namespace where more than one student has agreed to work together via some documented and evolving procedures to study material (information, data, and documented knowledge interlinked with the rest of the internet as well as using traditional references to offline material) of interest; while improving that available body of free material available in humanity's knowledge commons (see GNU FDL and the stated mission of WFM used when soliciting public funds for operation) for future students, groups or asynchronous mobs or individual students, and other useful purposes at the sole discretion of the user as per the GNU FDL. 06:55, 3 August 2006 (UTC) lazyquasarReply