The Open University of Catalonia (UOC after its Catalan initials) was a pioneer in on-line education back in the mid-nineties, and has always had a strong inclination to educational innovation. In early March, talks started and an agreement was quickly reached between UOC and Amical Wikimedia to create the first Wikipedian in Residence in a European University, and only the second worldwide after the University of California at Berkeley.
Amical Wikimedia is proud to collaborate with most of the universities in the Catalan-speaking territories, and strongly believes that the future of Wikimedia belongs to education, a field in which we are currently devoting our strongest efforts. We recently produced a memorandum on the work of the Wikipedian in Residence. The Wikipedian in Residence focused on curating the high-quality educational or research materials already produced by UOC on a regular basis under Creative Commons licensing. These materials have been listed so that Wikipedia editors can use them to complete articles or create new ones. Faculty, students, librarians, and administrative staff, have all learned about Wikipedia’s principles and how they apply to the university and their activities. According to Teresa Férriz, UOC project manager and co-creator of Viquilletra, “Wikipedia is an excellent tool to disseminate the knowledge generated within the University, not only by teachers and researchers but also by graduate and postgraduate students. We’re exploring different possibilities, and the Wikipedian in Residence has helped us to answer our first questions.” We aim to continue this collaboration in the next academic year, including new material liberation and curation, seminars with faculty, new wiki educational projects, and Wikipedia workshops with students.
We are very pleased to verify that the perception of Wikipedia among faculty members has dramatically changed, at least among our partners. Those days in which they warned students about “unreliable” contents “that anyone can edit” seem to be long gone. The involvement of associations like Amical Wikimedia helps get us nearer to a future in which Wikipedia and universities become even closer allies.
UOC and Amical Wikimedia have been developing different wiki projects in recent years, particularly several short teaching projects in which students are asked to create or improve articles. UOC also runs Viquilletra, a peer production environment in which students from different high schools share projects and ideas around literature works and authors. Four UOC researchers have been involved in the last three years in a project called wiki4he (wiki for higher education). They aim to analyze the use of Internet open contents, and particularly Wikipedia, for university teaching. They also intend to explore and propose new ways of using these resources in learning processes while learning about attitudes and practices of university faculty on Wikipedia. Eduard Aibar, UOC professor and leader of wiki4he said, “Wikipedia is a major channel for the public communication of science and thus it has become crucial for scientists and researchers from all disciplines to be involved in the improvement of its contents.”
According to Josep-Anton Fernàndez, associate professor of Catalan literature and culture, and academic director of the MA in Catalan Studies at the UOC, who co-organized the Catalan Studies Edit-a-thon, “Collaborating with Amical Wikimedia and the Wikipedia not only allows us to strengthen our academic community through initiatives like the Catalan Studies Edit-a-thon, but also helps us fulfill our role in producing knowledge about Catalan culture and disseminating it worldwide, while reinforcing the interdisciplinary character of our programmes.”
The Catalan Studies Edit-a-thon was a remarkable success, with around 18 editors, including faculty members, students, and highly-qualified experts. Participants contributed more than 160 editions to 25 articles, some of them top-rated across all language versions. We expect to use this experience to organize a more ambitious event next year, increasing the number of participants and venues.
Pep Adrian, Wikipedian in Residence at Open University of Catalonia