Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Top 10 Things Wikiversity Should Change

I am always being inspired by what I read. Some web pages inspired me to take a closure look at what 10 things I would change about Wikiversity, if I could.

1. Courses should be impossible to find.

People that browse and use websites do not think like website designers. A search tool is an expected feature of any website. Type in some words, press go, and find what you want. Dmoz can be searched even though it is aimed at classifying other websites.

Wikiversity can be browsed by school, topic, portal, and category, but what does it mean to browse something by school or by portal? School, topic, and portal are all part of a hierarchy. There are some clear limitations to hierarchies and some benefits to using hierarchy alternatives ("Hierarchy vs Facets vs Tags" makes for a good read too). However I think the fundamental problem is "Does the system make sense?"

Github can be browsed by repositories and by language which makes sense for a website hosting software code, but wouldn't make sense for a website like Amazon.

I expect to see works by actual schools like "University of California, Berkeley" if I browse by school. A portal is a point of access for information available on a website. What information, and how that information is available on a website is not clearly conveyed by the name "portal". By school and by portal are both access points for main topic branches. How does that make any sense?

Less is more. How do you know which navigation to browse? Overlap and no clearly unique benefits to either makes the choice unclear. Less choices with clear distinctions means more things can be found quicker, the choices available can be more flexible, and more time can be spent learning rather than finding what you weren't looking for. Searches will also return fewer results which translates into fewer false positives and things are easier to find. By category will also have less dead ends and repeat listings.

2. Don't encourage people to contribute.

Wikimedia projects usually encourage you the user to contribute and help improve the project. If there are factual errors, the page encourages you to correct the factual errors, if references are missing, the page encourages you to include references, and the list goes on. Wikiversity rarely does this if at all.

As a user browsing courses on Wikiversity you may not know that there are things you can correct, or that you are encouraged to correct things if you see them. I suppose some of the reluctance to encourage error correction could come from a fear that the educational potential of courses will be reduced. If errors are simply corrected than others might make the same errors and nothing will have been learned. Leaving errors intact while highlighting and explaining the errors can prevent the same mistakes from being repeated and help users better understand the topic.

More is less. How can Wikiversity encourage users to provide corrections that benefits everyone? Templates can be used just like with other projects, only instead Wikiversity can ask people to add annotations that provide corrections to factual errors.

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