Wiki For Higher Education (wiki4HE Project)

"The use of Internet open content for university education: an empirical study on the perceptions, attitudes and practices of university faculty on Wikipedia"

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The use of Internet open content for university education: an empirical study on the perceptions, attitudes and practices of university faculty on Wikipedia

This research project aims to analyze the use of Internet open contents for university teaching and explore and propose new ways of using these resources in learning processes, based on recent international experiences. Specifically, the project examines the educational uses of one of the most important open repositories of knowledge nowadays, Wikipedia, and explores the attitudes and perceptions of university teachers on this virtual collaborative encyclopedia, and, in general, on open resources.

Despite the initial skeptical attitude of university faculty towards Wikipedia as a source of reliable information – mainly because of its unclear authorship – an increasing number of teaching experiences using Wikipedia have begun to appear at different universities. These experiences show, in most cases, very satisfactory results and a substantial improvement in various basic skills, as well as a positive influence on students’ motivation.

Despite these occasional practices and the very frequent use of Wikipedia by the majority of students, the most common perception of university faculty about this repository is still marked by a large skepticism and the reluctance to incorporate it into their ordinary teaching activities. This project aims firstly to systematically analyze, using a comprehensive empirical study, the perception and attitudes of university faculty from different areas, towards Wikipedia and, more generally, towards open resources available in the Internet. Secondly the study aims to establish correlations between these perceptions and several teacher characteristics to establish the extent to which the skeptical attitudes are related to disciplinary or generational factors on the one hand, or to an implicit conflict between the scientific-academic and the specific epistemological culture of Wikipedia (as a paradigmatic example of content production in a collaborative open network), on the other.

The research is based on (1) an empirical study of perceptions, attitudes and use of Wikipedia by university faculty. This study will be conducted through an initial exploratory phase of semi-structured interviews in a small sample of university faculty and then using an online survey to all teaching staff of two Catalan universities (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya and Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya). In parallel (2) a systematic study will be conducted of documented teaching practices involving Wikipedia, at universities around the world, through an analysis model with standard parameters. The expected outcomes of the project are (a) a clear understanding of the perception, attitudes and uses of Wikipedia by university faculty – something missing so far in the international literature – and an identification of the factors that influence these perceptions and practices. Moreover, taking into account this information, we aim (2) to design a catalogue of educational practices – along with small tutorials – that involve the use of Wikipedia, so that teachers and staff responsible of pedagogical support at universities can adapt them to suit their needs and their pedagogical orientations. Finally a set of recommendations will be drafted in order to help any university teacher to design, plan and implement new teaching practices using open resources in the Internet.

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