Twofish's Blog

August 7, 2006

The Wikiversity policy should be not to discuss policy

Filed under: academia, massachusetts institute of technology, wikipedia — twofish @ 3:46 pm

Some notes on wikiversity. One tendency in trying to start a university is to make it seem like a “real” university with policies, procedures, and titles. I saw that with Globewide Network Academy, Virtual Online University, and Diversity University in the early 1990’s. The problem with that is that it replicates the part of the university system that people *HATE*. The nasty thing about academic politics is that it drains time and energy, and I don’t know of anyone who enjoys it. If you want to attract people to the university, you aren’t going to do it by replicating the systems that people hate. You attract people by being useful and discussing what they want to discuss. If you want to attract an academic who is interested in numerical astrophysics, you start talking about numerical astrophysics. Same with French literature or computer science.

The other thing that people hate about the university system is the nasty class structure. You are a “teacher” or a “student.” This is non-sense. You are teaching or learning, but your role changes from context to context. If I want to learn about Pokemon, my six year old is the expert, and I’m the novice. You can’t and shouldn’t brand people with labels since everyone at one point is a teacher, and everyone at one point is a student, and you can often be both at the same time.

Just as a case study of what could be done, I’m trying to put together a undergraduate degree in physics which would make someone qualified for graduate school. It’s easier than you think it is. Thomas Edison State College already issues flexible Bachelor of Arts in Natural Sciences, and it is easy to fill in the book learning with degree information from the MIT physics program.

One thing that is interesting is that undergraduate curriculum for physics has changed vastly since I was an undergraduate there. They seem to have been dealing with the oversupply of physics students by offering tracks that don’t lead to graduate school. The reason I’m focusing on a degree that is tailored for getting into grad school is that it’s what I know. Someone else might want to change the program to meet some other requirement, and if I provide enough information so that the student can change the program so that they get what they want (i.e. I’m about 60% sure I want to go to grad school, but I might want to be a lawyer), that’s wonderful.

It’s going to take several months since it involves lots of bits of knowledge that I don’t have (the big one is the internal requirements of TESC), and convince some people with those knowledge to get onto the wiki.

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