Creating content collaboratively is a crucial part of innovative learning. It offers significant opportunities for bringing together experts from various backgrounds in different geographical locations to exchange and create knowledge which can then be passed on to others. But what are the best ways to ensure that open content production works in practice? The Finnish national project “AVO” (Open Networks for Learning) asked a group of peers from educational institutions, businesses and public libraries to develop a guide on how to create Wikis (collaborative websites) for teaching and content production. Additionally, a face-to-face study circle plus an online Wikiversity course on how to compose open educational resources were offered. One of the lessons learned was that the creation process can produce high-quality results – but it requires strong coordination. At OEB, Project Manager Tiina Front-Tammivirta will give an insight into the challenges of open peer production – and how to meet them.
Wikis are websites created collaboratively. How can they be used efficiently in the classroom, and which learning purposes do they serve best? How can content quality be ensured and other users be encouraged to contribute? These are some of the questions that the Finnish “AVO” project tackles in its new guide on Wikis.
The guide has been placed on Wiki Library, a part of the Wikimedia Foundation’s open content production platform, and it is designed to inform teachers, librarians and other educational organisations as well as anyone interested in open content creation.
“Wikis are social media tools that are gaining popularity in workplaces and schools. This is why we needed extensive guide material – in Finnish – which will be updated continuously,” explains Tiina Front-Tammivirta from the Association of Finnish e-Learning Centres. Another aim of the Wiki guide project was to gain experience and pilot peer production.
Wiki Enthusiasts Produce a Wiki Guide
Like its content, the wiki guide has been created online. Over a period of five months, a group of “Wiki enthusiasts” from high schools and universities, businesses and public libraries held monthly two-hour web meetings. Weekly e-mail messages by the project coordinators kept the group informed about the progress being made and about upcoming meetings.
The project was book-ended by two face-to-face meetings. Throughout the whole process, the material was open to editing by anyone outside the peer group interested in the project.
“The project proved a success and was a valuable learning experience,” says Tiina Front-Tammivirta. “But it required a great deal of coordination. The coordinators tracked the development of the material and urged participants to concentrate on the production of certain parts which would not otherwise have evolved. It was important for coordinators to know the participants and be familiar with their areas of expertise so that they knew who to ask for content on certain parts of the material.”
Other lessons learned: Participants in Wiki projects should be made aware beforehand of the time they are expected to invest. The number of participants should be limited, but it must not be too small either, considering the possibility of drop-outs. An initial face-to-face meeting helps to create a common understanding of the rules and practices of the production process, and the group should agree on individual responsibilities.
Wikiversity Courses and a Nordic Study Circle
Other activities under the Finnish AVO project included two courses on Wikiversity, a platform that invites teachers, students and researchers to create open educational resources and collaborative learning communities. The two courses in Finland were available to teachers and trainee teachers.
One course was offered as a self-organised study circle called “Leap to open learning”. “Study circles have a long tradition in Nordic countries,” explains Tiina Front-Tammivirta. In this case, circle members practiced using social media tools and methods such as Diigo, blogs, Twitter and Wikiversity.
The second course was a ten-week online class entitled “Composing free and open online educational resources”. Topics included issues of copyright as well as taking and sharing pictures and audio and video content.
“Approximately one hundred students were involved in the activities of the first course, but only a few managed to complete the courses,” says Tiina Front-Tammivirta. “The courses revealed the need to invest more in the process and tutoring resources. It became clear that Wikiversity is a space for peer production, but communication and interaction require other tools if they are to succeed. Traditional online education is teacher-led. Over the web, social pressure is weak, and it is very easy not to participate.”
In other words, Wikis offer great opportunities for peer-produced open content. But their potential can only be leveraged when combined with other communication tools as well as strong personal support and coordination.
At OEB, Tiina Front-Tammivirta’s presentation New Models for Peer-Production and Open Content – Wiki Library and Wikiversity Courses will be part of the session If We Build Them, They Will Come. It will take place on Friday, December 3rd, from 14:30 – 16:00.