Tuesday, September 29, 2009

WikiEducator; a promising star in the OER world



Dr. Wayne along with school children
after signing Open Education Declaration
at Warrington School Otago

WikiEducator (www.wikieducator.org)  is an online community project founded by Dr. Wayne Mackintosh for working collaboratively towards a free version of the education curriculum. It was launched in 2006 using MediaWiki, a free and open technology. WikiEducator aims to build a thriving and sustainable global community dedicated to the design, development and delivery of free content for learning in realization of a free version of the education curriculum by 2015.

Dr. Wayne Mackintosh has set up the prototype of WikiEducator in a desktop machine and registered the WikiEducator domain name during February 2006 in New Zealand. In April 2006, the prototype was moved onto a hosted server with the financial assistance of Cmmonwealth of Learning (COL). By 2009 WikiEducator’s activities and influence have expanded well beyond the Commonwealth and it became an independent entity as from 1 July, 2009, headquartered at the new International Centre for Open Education at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin, New Zealand. While COL continues to provide some financial support for WikiEducator and encourages educators around the world to support it, the newly created Open Education Resource Foundation, a non profit charity, maintains the technical and operational infrastructure of the WikiEducator.

Innovations

Governance:

Towards the realization of its vision of a thriving and sustainable global community dedicated to the design, development and delivery of OER, the WikiEducator has accepted an open community governance model. Following this model, through an open online democratic election process, it has elected a Community Council to lead and guide the WikiEducator community.

Training:

The project has also devloped an innovative training programme, The Learning4Content (L4C). The L4C is inspired by the meaningful native North American proverb Tell me and I'll forget, show me and I may not remember, involve me, and I'll understand. Through L4C WikiEducator community is building capacity among teachers/educators to develop free content for learning, and prioritize wiki skills training in developing countries. Under this initiative the WikiEducator project arranges free face-to-face as well as online wiki skills and OER development trainings by getting a learning contract signed by the participants. The learning contract represents participants' pledge to donate a little of their knowledge for the benefit of education for all. In return, the WikiEducator community promises to support them in their journey to acquire wiki editing skills and to experience the peer-based model for developing open education resources.

The L4C has helped the project to attract more than 11000 volunteer educators to it so far.

Certification of MediaWiki skills:

The WikiEducator community will also certify new WikiEducators who request certification of their skills under the L4C initiative. For this purpose the project has developed a Community Ceretification system with vivid and simple guidelines for requesting and awarding the certifications. The certifications are added to the WikiEducator user pages of those who request certification. The level of certification start at Apprentice 1  and then graduate to  Apprentice 2, WikiBuddy, WikiArtisan, WikiTrainer and WikiMaster respectively. To get each level of certification, the members should demonstrate specific wiki skills on WikiEducator website by content development/editing and community building/collaboration skills by helping other members as well as actively participating in projects and discussions. Experienced members in the community will review the performance and award certifications voluntarily.

Way ahead

My personal opinion is that ODL/OER projects like WikiEducator should take up the development of Open Standards and Frameworks for Transnational Education seriously and should become the platforms to link various efforts in this regards and build it further. This in turn will make the efforts put in by volunteer content developers more meaningful, as the open content developed based on open standards would be used widely by the learners community. These open standards will help Educators and Learners communities to build a really Open World of Education!.

Some promising initiatives like European Qualifications Framework of European Union and the Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC) project of Commonwealth of Learning and related Transnational Qualifications Framework have already signaled a bright future in this respect.

A Transnational Qualifications Framework is a system of educational and professional qualifications that would be recognized internationally. A Qualification Framework is primarily an official document that clearly defines each and every qualification brought under it. It may also provide a hierarchy of qualifications. In system view it is a meta-data model that is an all encompassing framework to integrate the qualifications issued by different academic bodies into a common structure. It consists of a set of common reference points, referring to learning outcomes, supported by a range of tools and techniques, regardless of the system where a particular qualification was acquired In the modern world order, Transnational or Crossborder or Borderless Education has already established its strong presence with the emergence of borderless global market of higher education. Now in order to ensure labour market acceptance of qualifications across the world, a globally accepted Transnational Qualifications Framework is very essential.

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