Here are a list of case studies about online universities with experiences that might be useful to wikiversity
Cool study on how location is no longer as important
University of Phoenix edit
The good thing about University of Phoenix is that it shows that certain things are possible. What UoP does is to use large numbers of adjunct faculty, create strong student groups, and then it is very strong on faculty training and evaluation.
The problems with the UoP model
- adjunct faculty are getting vastly short changed. You have 10 students that pay $1000 per course, and the faculty gets $1000. It *is* true that UoP provides huge amounts of academic support, but I suspect that it can be done more cheaply.
- there are some definite conflicts of interest between UoP marketing and academics. Suppose UoP has a class that makes students really think about whether or not they want to be an MBA. It's not in UoP's interest to make students think about this, since they might conclude that they don't want/need an MBA.
- issues of control. high-level knowledge production requires strong social networks and collective action. UoP discourages these networks and collective action. Once adjunct faculty start talking about developing new course, that moves control from the administration to the adjuncts, and once faculty start talking with each other about new courses, they are likely also going to be starting to talk to each other about pay and working conditions.
Olin College edit
Started with $500,000 and 300 students. The main thing that Olin had was very strong support from big name engineering types.
Diversity University edit
Virtual Online University edit
One effort that was started in the mid-1990 using MOO's. What I think happened
- MOO's created tight social networks
- People used those social networks to create institutions of learning
- Then commercial entities (Yahoo, AOL, Gaim) offered IM and other alternatives
- This killed the social networks
What I (User:Roadrunner) learned
- You have to be willing and able to provide open source platforms. Having closed-source platforms is BAD because they attract people, but the platform users are unwilling to make changes to support academics.
- Be careful of internecine warfare. One of the things about Wikipedia is that it has the critical mass so that no one flame war consumes the community and because there aren't key locuses of power that are targets for warfare. In a small community, these fights divided up people.
- Interoperability is important. MOO's were never really interoperable so that improvements in X MOO get put into another one.
- Open standards and code are important. MediaMOO died after the major entities tried to start a commercial company and then got bought out by Microsoft.
Globewide Network Academy edit
Now just a database of distance learning courses. I (User:Roadrunner) am still president.
I learned a *huge* amount about educational administration. The main points
- to have a functioning institution, you need to worry about money, politics, and funding
- I don't like worrying about money, politics, and funding
- In the early stages people are willing to do a lot of stuff for free because of the novelity. After a technology becomes mature, the novelity factor wears off and you need to have funding, *if* your project is less than a critical mass of people. If you have a large number of people then people get social capital from participating, and you can divide up the work so that people do what they like.
There is some hugely useful stuff on there, that needs to be moved over were the wikimedia social network can get at it.
More notes on the MOO Universities of the 1990's edit
I think that three of the things that I learned in working on GNAcademy are
1) that traditional academia is less solid and impressive than it looks from the outside 2) that organizational stability and money are important (and that I hated working on these issues). 3) and that you really, really need to get a free culture infrastructure
Someone probably should do a study on the rise and fall of MOO universities of the 1990's. The basic problem is that because people in the MOO environment were anti-commercial, there wasn't too much effort put into raising money through grants and other items. The problem then was that the technical architecture sufferred which meant that ordinary people started using yahoo chat, which meant that the community just collapsed. Something that WF needs to do is to make sure that the really key developers get funding to work on open source enhancements to MediaWiki. Something that killed MOO's is that the key developers started working on closed source projects.
So the effort that the Wikimedia Foundation is putting into organizational stability and WYSIWYG ease of use is exactly the right thing to do. What I'd like to see wikiversity do is to serve as an enabler to help ordinary people get access to NSF grants and the like.
Another thing to keep in mind is that A lot of projects are done by undergraduate students and graduate students who have huge reserves of time, energy, and new ideas, and not that much money. The problem happens when graduate students no longer are graduate students and have families and mortgages which require money to keep up. At this point a huge amount of experience just leaves the pool. If we really want to develop wikiversity, we need to look at the human lifecycle and develop institutions that work through the parenting years into retirement.
The other thing that undergraduates and graduate students need to be aware of. The system is horribly exploiting your enthusiasm and new ideas and horribly underpaying you all. I don't know if anything can be done about it, but just realize that the problem exists.