Open versus closed environments

Quality of educational resources should of course be a concern of every educator and I believe that it is possible to be achieved using an open authoring approach like a wiki. Wikipedia and WikiEducator are good examples of high standards in the quality of the content produced this way. However, to achieve a high level of quality in an open authoring approach at least two conditions must be met: the quantity and quality of their contributors. According to a study carried out about Wikipedia at Darmouth College in 2007, “…it is the quantity as well as the quality of contributors that positively affects the quality of open source production.” The more people contribute to the development of a resource, the greater the chance of a higher quality. As Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, put it in a debate with Dale Hoiberg, editor in chief of Encyclopaedia Britannica, in The Wall Street Journal Online “(…) the wide range of inputs means a good chance at a more balanced and more neutral coverage.” Yet, quantity by itself is not enough to guarantee quality. Among the many contributors there must be some who are experts to give the resource the necessary push towards a higher level of quality. This issue is also addressed by Jimmy Wales in the debate referred above. He states that he does “not believe that any resource tool can be reliable without scholarly input.” What seems to be a great advantage of open content approaches compared to more controlled ones is their openness to many different views of the same reality. This encourages the debate and dialog about a topic that most certainly leads to gains in quality. According to Jimmy Wales “The main thrust of our evolution has been to become more open, because we have found time and time again that increased openness, increased dialog and debate, leads to higher quality. (…) “Openness” is going to be necessary in order to reach the highest levels of quality.”

I am pretty certain that the use of an open authoring approach in course development for education could produce a high quality of learning materials because it would take advantage of a worldwide community with different levels of expertise. An extensive debate and dialog would result in the production of interesting and valuable resources for everyone to use in their teaching practice. On the other hand I don’t know if there would be many teachers and other education experts willing to offer much of their valuable time to produce high quality education resources without being rewarded for their work. At this point it’s easier for me to imagine open and closed approaches coexisting in the development of education resources, although I must admit that I feel more sympathy for open approaches then for closed ones.

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One Response to Open versus closed environments

  1. Prof. Teresa says:

    Olá João (agora em Português, posso? ;-)) obrigada pelo comentário no meu Blogue do CEF e por teres visitado alguns blogues dos alunos. Tive oportunidade de ver a Wiki sobre o Earth Day (a Cristina já me enviara o link mas não foi possível conseguir que alguém de LE participasse na minha escola). Tive oportunidade de ver os trabalhos dos teus alunos e estão de parabéns!

    (Summary: Thanks for visiting my blog and congratulations on your student work on Earth’Day) :-D

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