Wikiversity: a lecturer's manifesto
Given the existence of Wikipedia, Wikitary, etc., the best use I could see of wikiversity would be a bank of resources for educators/lecturers.
- ''A huge number of (educational) resources are currently available on the net or elsewhere''. If we consider access to images to illustrates the lecture, some textbooks begin to adjoin a CD with the illustrations contained in the book, as for instance the textbook of Fundamental Neuroscience (2002, 2d ED), edited by Larry R. Squire and colleagues, but you need to know about their existence and such textbooks are quite expensive. Loads of illustrations can be found by using Googleâ€™s option to look for images but there is a total absence of organization and a very important noise to signal ratio; for instance, the Google-image search gives 1.360 hits for a specific term as cochlea, and 60.600 for hearing. Some very good quality illustrations can be found by looking for companion websites to lectures in neurosciences and related fields; for instance, the companion website to the lecture â€śNeuroscience 524: An Introduction to Brain and Behaviorâ€ť, by professor Tom Yin at University of Wisconsin (http://www.physiology.wisc.edu/neuro524/index_2002.html) contains about 100 very high quality illustrations scanned from popular textbooks; similarly, wonderful illustrations exist in textbooks, but it takes time to look for them and scan them and then, there is there is the problem of copyright, in case a lecturer wants to use the illustration in some material published on-line. The pictures that are found on other lecturersâ€™ websites have often been scanned from textbooks but scarcely duplicate the copyright notice. If you diligently comply to the copyright laws, you should avoid to copy such resources as long as it is not explicitly stated that they are in the public domain or that you are welcome to copy them. Similarly, references to audio-video material to be used in the context of lectures, references of classic papers as well as papers to serve as readings accompanying lectures, propositions of tutorial activities that are known to work well, are all listed in Instructorâ€™s Resource Manuals as for â€śBehavioral Neuroscience, Instructor's Resource Manualâ€ť (http://cwx.prenhall.com/bookbind/pubbooks/kassin2/chapter2/custom3/deluxe-content.html); textbooks can be found on the net, either freely (for instance: http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/dl/free/0070914028/81181/SantrockChap03.pdf), or thanks to a subscription from Edinburgh University (Gazzaniga, M.S., 2000, The New Cognitive Neurosciences. MIT Press, at â€śhttp://cognet.mit.edu/library/erefs/gazzaniga/â€ť); some on-line lectures in the public domain are centralized in websites as the one of Lecture Hall (http://www.utexas.edu/world/lecture/); Powerpoint presentations can be found on fellow lecturersâ€™ websites; some lecturesâ€™ syllabi are available on-line; they are sometimes accompanied by quizzes to let students test their own understanding about the field.
- ''Any lecturer tempted by an improvement of the quality of their presentation or educational material rapidly discovers that to find these resources is currently extremely time-consuming''. The resources evoked above are spread all over the net and there is no quick way to locate them. Some websites publish repository of resources that are research oriented but to my knowledge, there is no repository oriented to the needs of (University) lecturers. There is no website where links to illustrations for lectures are found along with example of lectures (at least, I could not find one, despite hours of browsing). '''There is a crucial lack of central repository, a central database listing these resources'''. As a result, although there are loads of resources available, lecturers are not really in a position to exploit them; the lecturers have to renounce to the idea of improving their lecture if they are not ready to spend some of their evenings on that task. More importantly, the time lost by lecturers who decide to search for better illustrations for their lectures is lost again and again by lecturers looking for the same resources.
- '' Access to such resources greatly contributed to the quality of the lectures''. I started as a University lecturer a year and a half ago. I had to give lectures prepared by somebody else but for most of the lecture, I found the illustrations not adequate enough (the lectures had been created one year before I arrived). During the first year, I had the initiative to take some evenings and week-end to set up a repository of resources, with both me and my colleagues in mind. As illustrations, Powerpoint presentations, and lecture notes began to cluster my hard disk, I began to organize these. I separated text from pictures to re-organize the material in several categories: (still) pictures, audio-video material, lecture notes, relevant references (scientific papers or textbooks), glossaries, quizzes (along with exam questions and assignments), tutorial activities, websites with list of links, etc. Easy access to these resources greatly contributed to the quality of my lectures. They were rated as rather poor last year and the year before (I toke up lectures given by somebody else), they were rated as excellent this year (of course, it was not just about adding pictures, I completely reorganized the content too; see next point).
- ''The contribution of such a repository of resource is not necessarily limited to the â€ślookâ€ť of the presentation''. Again, if I rely on my own experience, browsing the net for illustrations, Powerpoint presentations or lecture notes from fellow colleagues gives the opportunity to get an idea of the different ways to organize a lecture on a given topic. Browsing the net can contribute to rapidly familiarize a lecturer with some new lectureâ€™s contents as well as to improve his/her understanding of some specific topics. As I discovered, reading lecture notes prepared by other lecturers can help refresh a lecturerâ€™s memory in minutes, when it would have taken him/her hours to skim books to get the same results.
What (important) contribution Wiki could bring to lecturers
- A catalogue of resources for lecturers/students. The catalogue would provide references to a variety of resources to be used in the context of lectures (links to pictures, audio-video material, references of papers to be provided as readings, lecture notes, Powerpoint presentations, textbooks published on-line or off-line, quizzes, tutorial activities). This project should offer the possibility to encode these resources in a shared database so it can easily be shared with fellow colleagues around the world.
- Examples of Bank of resources:
- Database of quiz/test/exam questions. I just designed one for my own use.
- Bank of pictures to illustrate educational material. Examples: http://viperlib.york.ac.uk/, http://www.pics4learning.com/. I have on my hard disk more than 1000 high quality images to be used as illustrations for lectures. They are organized by theme, and stored in powerpoint files (because powerpoint allows to store textual information, images, video, and sound in the same document and because any arbitraty ordering of the pages can be imposed).
- It could be completed by a set of "technical documents"
- Guidelines for teachers, as for instance http://teaching.berkeley.edu/bgd/teaching.html. This could be guidelines on writing descriptors and learning outcomes, an introduction to the different types of learning styles, guidelines on how to prepare lectures on powerpoint, or examples of how to implement quiz/test/educational exercises (an example at http://lang.swarthmore.edu/makers/index.htm)
- Guidelines for students. This could be guidelines on how to make a presentation, guidelines on how to write a good report, information about plagiarism, etc.
There will be a need to dedicate a certain amount of time to decide of the best way to encode these different types of information. Inspiration may be found in the following product: Catalyzer and Mercat, recently developed by Axiope company (see http://www.axiope.com). Catalyzer is a catalogue creation software which lets the user take control of the structure and content, with predefinition of field types for a large variety of electronic documents. The information stored in this catalogue can be shared with via internet, thanks to Mercat, which lets the users of a Catalyzer catalogue view and search information from their catalogue over the internet.
===Difficulties to foresee=== 0 ''Copyright issue''. To prevent a possible request to withdraw the resource following the discovery of a breach of copyright, authorisation to publish a reference to a given resources should be obtained for every entry of the (public) database by the person who adds this resource to the database. For resources other than pictures, link to the original resource will be provided, no local copy will be made (still, authorization to publish an entry referring to that link should be obtained). For pictures, it is, I believe, more desirable to offer a preview of the picture, so that the user can immediately make a decision about whether to download it. In order to minimize the risk of a copyright fraud when doing so, the following line of action is proposed: (a) display a preview of the picture when copyright authorization has been received; (b) display a preview of the picture in black and white or with a stamp over the picture if the copyright holder has agreed to a copy in that format; (c) display a picture containing only a stamp â€ścopyright not obtainedâ€ť for any other resource of picture type. 0 ''Referencing''. There will be a need to cross-reference the resources stored in a database, such that a person can define a search based both on the type of resource (video, quiz, etc.) and on the field of study. This could be quite time-consuming. + there may be a need to define the level of study (school level, 1st year undergraduate, post-graduate; for instance for quiz questions) and therefore to decide of equivalence between different educational systems.
As many others, I am ready to contribute to this catalogue for the fields I cover in my lectures. I am more than willing to share my knowledge, experience, and resources that could be useful to this project. In the past, I published a museum website used for tutorials (http://www.ulb.ac.be/psycho/museum.html), I published a paper on how to increase the intereractivity of web-based educational materials, and I recently submitted a project to an e-learning grant for some kind of similar project. I have a large number of resources ready to share. But I am afraid, I can only dedicate evenings and week-ends to this (that is the ones I am not working on my own stuff). But that's the point, what is missing is a system by which lecturers could share their resources with a limited cost in terms of time. What is needed is a structure which allows the easy sharing of resources and that's exactly what Wiki projects are about!
PS. I am not sure wikiversity is the best name. First, it evokes diversity more than university. Second, various resources could be shared across different levels of education (primary and secondary schools). On the other hand, something like Wiki4Learning is too vague (wikipedia is also for learning).