[Wikiversity-l] free online degrees?

Teemu Leinonen teemu.leinonen at uiah.fi
Sat May 5 15:08:10 UTC 2007

Robert Horning kirjoitti 3.5.2007 kello 14:19:
> I would have to disagree with both points above, to a certain extent.
> The point of trying to appeal to the interests of "employers" is to
> provide an economically viable system for sustaining an effort like
> Wikiversity without having to resort to advertising or constantly  
> having
> donation pledge drives.  While it is nice to live in a utopian society
> where we can do things just because there is some positive social  
> value
> to accomplish a given task, there are hard economic realities to
> operating a site like Wikiversity that can't be ignored.

You are right. There are hard economic realities but I think we  
should aim to find more creative solutions than simply copying or  
adapting to the model of "selling degrees". Instead of this I would  
look for private-public partnerships where the social and wider  
economical value of the Wikiversity is seen so hight that the money  
will come.

> There have been several WMF projects in the past which have used  
> direct
> grants from various organizations (with for-profit companies as a
> possibility) to help pay for various sub-projects.  In educational
> environments, it isn't unknown to even make a legitimate business case
> to a for-profit corporation to provide educational experiences of some
> sort within an educational institution.  I think it would be  
> reasonable
> to discuss under what sort of circumstances such a corporate  
> sponsorship
> would be considered reasonable and what would otherwise be considered
> "selling out".

I do not have anything against corporate sponsorship. However, I  
would at first make an appeal to corporations' social responsibility.

> As can be seen with the Essjay incident on Wikipedia, an altruistic
> attitude on this is not going to be sufficient here.  Some legitimate
> standards need to be established that go well beyond "yeah, I read
> through the material on this topic, and played around with the tests".
> How those standards are established is something of another thread and
> discussion, but there is a real need for hard standards that can be
> universally applied before somebody can claim to have completed a
> Wikiversity curriculum study experience.  Claims to have completed
> something like this will have no value at all until you can  
> demonstrate
> this knowledge and have that somehow certified.

I think ihn the Essjay incident there was not much to report.   
Wikipedia is based on trust and tolerance and so should Wikiversity.  
I do not see why in the Wikiversity there should be any "hard  
standards that can be universally applied". We naturally must aim to  
have "high standards" but they should be aimed to achieve with the  
wiki community effort.

In Wikiversity there will be courses with different quality. We may  
try to showcase those which the community considers to be high  
quality and this way pull up those that are not that good. We could  
also have some practice of "quality control" so that people who have  
took some course could evaluate (vote?) whatever the course should be  
included to some list of "high quality courses".

A course where you "read through the material on a topic, and play  
around with the tests" should never make it to the list.

> Mind you, this is the reason why a degree is valued.  It is a document
> that demonstrates somebody has obtained a certain amount of knowledge,
> and the educational institution who grants the degree is certifying  
> that
> the person who holds the degree has in fact been examined to  
> possess the
> knowledge represented by the degree.  While there may be sometimes
> professional certification exams as well (like a professional engineer
> exam or a bar exam), quite often the degree is considered as  
> valuable if
> not more so than the professional exam itself.  Particularly when the
> degree is from a prestigious institution who has made efforts to keep
> their standards high.

Right. The aim of the Wikiversity should be "a prestigious  
institution who has made efforts to keep their standards high". Only  
this way the studies taken in the Wikiversity can be seen valuable.

> While we may not call them "degrees" as such, I don't see why
> Wikiversity can't establish some sort of academic standard for  
> students
> who wish to have their knowledge about a topic certified to some
> extent.  It doesn't have to (at the moment) be a full baccalaureate
> program, but some sort of independently verifiable knowledge  
> mastery and
> demonstration should be done other than somebody's personal claims on
> their user page.

I think the "high standard course" (or whatever it should be called)  
list will do this. If your course in your user page are all from the  
list, good for you. If they are all some "read and click tests"  
courses, clever people will get the point.

> I also hope that eventually Wikiversity learning experiences will also
> be considered valuable enough that they will be mentioned on
> CV/resumes.  I would certainly look favorably at hiring individuals  
> who
> have participated in a significant fashion with Wikimedia projects, if
> only as a demonstration for how well they can get along with people  
> from
> different cultures and philosophical backgrounds.

Exactly. I guess this is what we are practicing here right now.

	- Teemu

Teemu Leinonen
+358 50 351 6796
Media Lab
University of Art and Design Helsinki

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