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What If We Ran Universities Like Wikipedia? 380

Posted by Soulskill
from the voting-classmates-and-professors-off-the-island dept.
Pickens writes "Do university bureaucracies still make sense in the era of networks? At the recent Educause conference, David J. Staley laid out the findings of a focus group he conducted asking educators what a college would look like if it operated like Wikipedia. The 'Wiki-ized University' wouldn't have formal admissions, says Staley; people could enter and exit as they wished and the university would consist of voluntary and self-organizing associations of teachers and students 'not unlike the original idea for the university, in the Middle Ages.' In addition, the curriculum of the 'Wiki-ized University' would be intellectually fluid, and instead of tenure, professors' longevity 'would be determined by the community.' Staley predicts that a new form of academic organization is emerging that will be driven by volunteerism. 'We do see some idea today of how "volunteer teaching" might look: think of the faculty at a place like the University of Phoenix. Most teaching faculty have day jobs — and in fact are hired because they have day jobs — and teach at the university for a nominal stipend,' writes Staley. 'If something like the Phoenix model is what develops in a wiki-ized university setting, this would suggest that a new type of "professorate" will emerge, consisting of those who teach or publish or conduct research for their own personal or professional satisfaction or for some other nonmonetized benefit.'"
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What If We Ran Universities Like Wikipedia?

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  • Degrees (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Reilaos (1544173) on Monday October 18, 2010 @06:58PM (#33940136) Homepage

    Would such a University give out degrees? I'm not sure such a thing would hold much clout. I would have to stoop to actually getting to know a potential hire from this university rather than stare at their GPA and 'work' experience!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Your sarcasm aside, this actually would be a big problem. After all, think about how wikipedia works as a research aid--you can't cite wikipedia, but it works well because it links primary sources. With a major, accredited University, a diploma means that some level of validation has already taken place--that's what accreditation is for. Without that, you'd have to research each candidates classes individually, probably by talking to the professors.

      If this ever does become the norm, there will definitely

      • Re:Degrees (Score:4, Insightful)

        by cayenne8 (626475) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:19PM (#33940390) Homepage Journal
        Not to mention, exactly HOW many people would actually do this? We might end up with like 3 colleges left on the whole planet.

        Most people ONLY work...in order to get money. There just are not that many altrustic people in the world. I mean, if I won the lottery tomorrow, and never had to work every again, I would not.

        The door would not even come close to hitting me on the ass out of the workforce on my way to somewhere tropical with a lifetime of rum drinks and beach babes in my future.

        I'm definitely NOT in the minority here on this one.

        That being likely a given, who exactly is going to be devoting enough time to plan coursework, do testing, and dedicate the time required for in-depth research? Who's going to pay for the facilities/equipment for research?

        I dunno....I know many here give WAY too much credit for the human spirit, and doing work purely for the pleasure and satisfaction of the work itself. I think that is a very small number out there.

        Sure, much of the college system out there sucks due to things like tenure...profs more interested in publish or perish than teaching students, but I sure don't see this as the remedy for the current systems' problems.

        • by qbzzt (11136)

          The accreditation would work like WGU's [wgu.edu] IT degrees. The degree will include a bunch of certification exams from trusted vendors.

        • Most people ONLY work...in order to get money. There just are not that many altrustic people in the world.

          While you're definitely right, a crowd full of F/OSS enthusiasts who likely contribute their knowledge to mailing lists and their patches to mainline programmers isn't exactly the best place to make that kind of argument...

          Just sayin' ;-)

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by selven (1556643)

          Have you ever spent entire months or years without working? It's quite boring. Rum drinks and beach babes only interest you because they're a break from the normal cycle of your life. Once doing nothing becomes the normal cycle of your life, the incentives will switch, and you'll also feel a lack of self-fulfillment that will drive you to accomplish something.

          If you want proof that people take on burdens purely voluntarily, look at our fertility rate.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by cayenne8 (626475)
            "Have you ever spent entire months or years without working? It's quite boring. Rum drinks and beach babes only interest you because they're a break from the normal cycle of your life. Once doing nothing becomes the normal cycle of your life, the incentives will switch, and you'll also feel a lack of self-fulfillment that will drive you to accomplish something."

            Actually...YES.

            The longest break I've had between contract gigs was about 7 months.

            My routine, I'd get up about 8:30-9am. Take the dog for a lon

      • Re:Degrees (Score:4, Funny)

        by HungryHobo (1314109) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:44PM (#33940656)

        Also: http://www.collegehumor.com/video:1830262 [collegehumor.com]

        I can imagine some kind of open university type setup catching on in a wiki like fashion.
        As it stands there can be huge variations in graduates already.
        A lot of the "validation" seems more like bluster.

        I'm working with someone who graduated from the same CS course I did who can't even configure a wireless laptop on the network.
        Others from my course are currently network engineers.

        Personally I'd welcome hiring practices which focused more on testing the candidates actual skill rather than glancing at the name of the university which issued their degree.

    • by toastar (573882)

      Would such a University give out degrees? I'm not sure such a thing would hold much clout. I would have to stoop to actually getting to know a potential hire from this university rather than stare at their GPA and 'work' experience!

      IDK If someone has 120 hours of course work in a field do they really need a piece of paper that says that? or is just saying you have 120 hours good enough?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bsDaemon (87307)

        Did they just show up for 120 hours, or did they actually pass all their graded assignments, and pass enough of the assignments in enough of the courses that the faculty determined them to have a reasonable knowledge of the craft?

      • Re:Degrees (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Moryath (553296) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:22PM (#33940432)

        Given the number of lawsuits against "University of Phoenix" - which is really just a big fucking degree mill - when people found out that their degrees were non-accredited in many cases, this is a key point to consider. "Wiki University" is more likely to be just like Wikipedia in general: corrupt, based entirely on "who you know" or "did your viewpoint contradict some corrupt loony with far too much crowd following or access to the delete/ban buttons."

    • Re:Degrees (Score:5, Insightful)

      by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:23PM (#33940440)

      On the other hand, I think it would be nice to hand someone their resume back filled with [citation needed]s.

    • Re:Degrees (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gtall (79522) on Monday October 18, 2010 @08:03PM (#33940826)

      I think it is worse than that. Let's look at theory of *whatever*. I do a lot mathematics. How many theoretical mathematicians would this new uni support? I'm guessing not a lot. So, if we were to have this back when number theory had no practical applications unlike as it does today in security, we'd probably have no number theory upon which to base our computer security that underlies our new web based companies like Amazon and countless others. How do we measure that loss before the loss can be seen?

      What about physics? Quantum theory was developed because a lot of physicists and mathematicians thought it would be really neat to understand nature in a deep level. There were no applications obvious at that time yet it underlies much of modern electronic computation. Why would they get funded to do their research? How about Einstein and relativity...the use of which makes GPS actually work. No obvious use, why would yer basic Joe Gimme-a-Job schlump take a course in relativity?

      How about philosophy? Descartes had some pretty neat algebraic ideas...no one ever conceived of them before him and in their original text, they are very obscure. Yet much of modern mathematics is built on algebraic theories. I cannot imagine him getting a job. How about the logicians who worked on philosophical logic? Some of that spawned modal logic which in turn spawned Floyd-Hoare logic and the whole notion of proving programs correct with respect to some mathematical specification. It is used intimately in security arguments. How do we fund the philosophers now? How do we predict which philosophical theories will be of use in the future? What about Aristotle? He invented logic. How does he get funded when the common man couldn't see what use it would ever be as short-sighted as they were that they couldn't see modern computers?

      The basic problem with numb-nuts ideas such as wiki-university is that it is spawned by Business School Product who can see no value in anything that doesn't immediately translate into increased sales of widgets. It pretty much consigns humans to no greater intellectual curiosity than what Business School Product can put a price on. And that price has nothing to do with any future value. It is a prescription for consigning the human race to extinction; it would merely become an experiment it how short term gain will doom long term sustainability.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Teancum (67324)

      Would such a University give out degrees? I'm not sure such a thing would hold much clout. I would have to stoop to actually getting to know a potential hire from this university rather than stare at their GPA and 'work' experience!

      While insightful, this comment points out the main problem with a University education:

      It isn't to teach or educate people but rather to come up with a method to allocate "union cards" to various professions and to restrict entry into those fields. If along the process somebody actually picks up some of the knowledge necessary to engage in that profession perhaps might have some use in society, but don't let anybody fool you into thinking that the role of a University has much if anything to do with actual

    • Re:Degrees (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Korin43 (881732) on Monday October 18, 2010 @08:10PM (#33940902) Homepage

      What if the point of going to a university was to actually learn something rather than to get a piece of paper? How I see it, these kinds of changes would make colleges less useful for hiring decisions, but far FAR more interesting for people who actually want to learn something. I don't see that as a bad thing. Most degrees should mean very little anyway. The idea that having a degree means someone can do a specific job better than someone with it is popular but seems to be wrong in most cases. Why not get rid of the BS and make universities actually worth going to?

    • Re:Degrees (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mabhatter654 (561290) on Monday October 18, 2010 @09:10PM (#33941392)

      But that is the ORIGINAL MODEL for the University... the students hired the teachers... they weren't cattle to be passed around.

      To be honest, most university undergrad degrees have less "hands on" instructor time than the degree you would get from Phoenix. You can sit in a class with 100+ other students to learn 200-300 level classes just as well as sitting at home in the quiet and learn them. The whole problem is that the University "System" exists to support the PhD level work which (combine with sports teams) brings in the Executive "business". Undergrads are just there to fulfill their State funding requirements and provide a "fee" base to buy research toys with.

      The majority of workers are employed by small business (that's less that 75 employees) and modern universities have almost nothing to offer regular business owners anymore. Would a small business want somebody from university or somebody from Phoenix, Baker, Davenport, ITT, etc. Do YOU want to learn from a professor that's sat in a lab for 20 years (but worked for Nasa launching the Moon rocket) or do you want to learn from a Sales guy that teaches in between meetings with customers right now? Or how about learning business from a guy that actually started his own business and uses it to feed his family?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Korin43 (881732)

        Do YOU want to learn from a professor that's sat in a lab for 20 years (but worked for Nasa launching the Moon rocket) or do you want to learn from a Sales guy that teaches in between meetings with customers right now? Or how about learning business from a guy that actually started his own business and uses it to feed his family?

        But going to school is all about the experience! You know, proving you're willing to waste years of your life listening to people who've never done anything practical talk about things that don't interest you so you can get a piece of paper that proves you're one of the elite. Why would businesses possibly want to hire someone who finds that too boring to finish? It's important that managers never hire someone who would challenge their nice, safe ideas about how the world should work.

  • I'm not so sure. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigredradio (631970) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:02PM (#33940168) Homepage Journal

    Most teaching faculty have day jobs — and in fact are hired because they have day jobs — and teach at the university for a nominal stipend

    I would guess that they are working a 2nd job to make ends meet. Not for the "love" of teaching.

  • by kithrup (778358) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:03PM (#33940180)

    The South Harmon Institute of Technology.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      I knew some folks with "South Henrietta Institute of Technology" hats. The University they were mocking did not much like them.

  • by gumbi west (610122) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:03PM (#33940192) Journal

    The University of Phoenix is currently being raked over the coals for not graduating a sufficient fraction of students (16% by federal standards) (from the NYT) [nytimes.com]. Also, it is a for profit university, I'd just as soon volunteer at a local manufacturing plant as at a for profit university.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by h4rr4r (612664)

      Isn't failing out a lot of people the job of University?

      • by PCM2 (4486) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:23PM (#33940442) Homepage

        I doubt most of those who don't graduate do so because of failing grades. According to the NYT article the GP cites, a great many drop out in frustration:

        In recent interviews, current and former students in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington who studied at University of Phoenix campuses in those states or online complained of instructional shortcuts, unqualified professors and recruiting abuses. Many of their comments echoed experiences reported by thousands of other students on consumer Web sites.

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          That sucks, but seems what I would expect out of a for profit business. They are really pushed to cut every corner.

      • Most state college admissions offices will tell you it is their job to admit those students who can succeed at their college. Obviously they will not always be right, and sometimes they might take a chance on a student who they think can work their butt off, but usually their goal is to admit students who will complete a degree at the university.

    • by Ohio Calvinist (895750) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:38PM (#33940590)
      The University of Phoenix has an interesting delima. They have a goal of offering as much opportunity as possible (lax admission standards), because it is profitable. I am an MBA student with the University of Phoenix, because I live in the middle of BFE, and drank way too much beer during my undergraduate program several years ago and graduated with a 2.5, which took a lot of schools off-the-table without a stellar GMAT score. Because of their lax standards of admission, they sign on a lot of students who simply cannot handle the program. I was enrolled on Academic Probation in which I had to maintain a 3.0 through the first four classes. During those classes, the quality of my classmates quickly improved as those who were not committed or incapable of the work dropped.

      Phoenix gets penalized for giving students like me an opportunity to try to be successful in the program, but having a high failure rate when those students don't cut it in a program that is comparable to a lot of state-school MBA programs.
      • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Monday October 18, 2010 @08:40PM (#33941194) Homepage Journal

        There are a lot of very good schools that let lots of people in but still manage to graduate a decent proportion of their students. Mine was a pretty common story: at 18 I "went off to college" at my nearby Enormous State University (University of Colorado in my case) and partied all the time, ended up with a crappy GPA my first semester, dropped out and spent a few years in the service, then came back with a much more mature attitude and a determination to do better. The problem was that CU didn't want me back (I mean, my GPA was really bad.) So I did my BS at Metropolitan State College of Denver [mscd.edu], which admits just about anyone with a pulse, but still maintains high educational standards. It cost me a lot less than CU or CSU would have, too.

        Did it work? Well, I'm back at CU now ... working on my PhD and supported by an NIH fellowship. It worked for most of my classmates, too, many of whom had hard-luck stories like mine. I don't know where we'd be if we'd decided to go the UofP route, but I'm guessing most of us would be a lot worse off, educationally and financially, than we are now.

        UofP's problem isn't low admission standards. Its problem is that it's a moneymaking machine run by vultures who prey on desperate people.

    • I'm a Phoenix (yay) (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Xaedalus (1192463) <{Xaedalys} {at} {yahoo.com}> on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:54PM (#33940734)

      I got my Masters in Education from Phoenix, so I'll share my experience. Bear in mind, I'm not in IT, I'm just a finance analyst, so my experience is going to be different than what true IT workers have encountered.

      To be honest, I went in because I needed a Masters degree to move up the corporate ladder. In my opinion and experience, a Masters takes ten years off the advancement clock in the corporate non-IT world, and I didn't want to do the fifteen year Sales grind, or having to change careers at 30 and start at entry-level with entry-level pay yet again. I already have a Bachelor's degree, but chose to go out into the real world and get my teeth kicked in for five years rather than jump to grad school (I had too many friends going to grad school straight out of college, getting their Masters, and then ending up as grocery store clerks or waiters because MBAs and what-not weren't guarantees of jobs anymore- this was in 2000) So I decided to do a Masters in something I thought would be interesting: education. I chose Phoenix because I didn't have the time to go back to a traditional school for two years. I also didn't want to do the night school option for an MBA, as I believe those degrees are overvalued due to market saturation, and not worth the debt. Better to study something you're interested in than following the crowd.

      My recruitment, in retrospect, was something out of a boiler-room. The difference was that I was ready to commit, and my recruiter was actually pretty cool (she wasn't Mormon, unlike the vast majority of them). Anyway, I jumped into the UoP online program and went in.

      Several things became immediately apparent: The GRE, MAT, and other exams are there for a reason-to weed out people who shouldn't be in grad school. Some of the students I saw in my initial classes were atrocious-they should have been kicked straight back to grade school, their academic skills were so awful. The emphasis was more on producing volumes of writing initially than on quality; and the textbook resources were customized for Phoenix exclusively.

      Basically, I experienced every horror story you've read about or heard. And my Master's thesis was a joke. But here's the difference. I only had two truly godawful teachers that made me question the integrity of the program: a teacher in a class about a year in, and the one who managed the end step of my thesis. The rest of my teachers (aside from those two) were highly trained educators who worked in the fields they taught in, and they knew their stuff. Wow, were they good. I learned developmental theory, organizational theory, curriculum design & instruction, statistics, educational psychology, etc from people who lived it every day. And by that point, most of my fellow students were also working teachers who knew what they were doing. So I had to pony up and put in mucho hours of study and work in order to be taken seriously by my classmates and my instructors. THOSE people are why I learned what I did about education.

      When I found out about all the scandals with UoP, I was devastated. Here I was, a 'smart' guy, who'd been conned out of two years and $50K. It was one of the most traumatic moments of my life. I gritted it out and finished with my degree anyway, but I was convinced that my life was over. I'd done all that work for nothing - a tarnished degree worth nothing. But then my wife (who's a teacher herself) would talk with her fellow teachers about some pedagogical matter, and I not only knew what they were talking about, I could describe it and solve their issue better than they could. I knew what the big issues surrounding Education in the US and worldwide were. And, my company transferred me from sales into finance at a much higher salary and more secure position because I went through what I did.

      To wit, the scandals are valid because there are huge problems with UoP.The media says Phoenix is trying to fix the problems, and I've seen their commercials, but I'll believe they've reformed when I see it. I got suckered, a

  • by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3 AT gmail DOT com> on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:05PM (#33940202)
    Job Interview:

    HR: "So I was told you were valedictorian in your graduating class?"
    You: "Why yes, in both my Theoretical Physics MS and my Nuclear Physics PhD."
    HR: "[citation needed]"
    You: "Mods!!!!"
    • by Barrinmw (1791848)
      I thought most Physics MSs were essentially handed to you when you pass your test qualifying you for the doctorate program?
      • Not always. In some univs with direct admission to PhD from BS they might have structured the program that way. But not always. One can register for and pursue an MS alone and then decide to go for a PhD at a later date.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://www.khanacademy.org/

    That all said, parents want to watch their children dress up in funny hats, put on a dress.
    Kids want to leave home, make new friends and get wasted.
    Real jobs want to see you actually went somewhere with a reputation.

    Will never work.

  • by Huntr (951770) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:08PM (#33940238)

    The lack of real expertise on some (many?) subjects, the petty squabbles to protect inconsequential fiefdoms, zero accountability.

    I fail to see how a wiki model could remove all that from universities.

    Boom. Roasted.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mmaniaci (1200061)
      Ha! You had me there for a second. Well said.

      All jokes aside I think you are completely right. Universities are riddled with incompetence (a result of rampant bureaucracy IMO) and the text book industry may as well be controlled by the Mafia. I have a degree in Computer Engineering, and I must say my diploma is the last thing I cite as proof of my knowledge. Having a degree is simply stating, "I can put up with bullshit, fill out forms when needed, and listen to those with power," and really has nothing t
      • by martin-boundary (547041) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:43PM (#33940632)

        Having a degree is simply stating, "I can put up with bullshit, fill out forms when needed, and listen to those with power," and really has nothing to do with actual, real-world ability.

        Errm, isn't that what working in a corporation is all about?

      • by BitHive (578094)

        When a computer can answer questions from students who don't even know what questions to ask, design lesson plans, and help them improve their writing skills by helping them revise their papers then the computer can replace a teacher. Until then, the internet isn't going to replace traditional means of education any more than Microsoft Encarta on CDROM did in the 90s.

      • by apoc.famine (621563) <apoc.famine@noSPaM.gmail.com> on Monday October 18, 2010 @08:49PM (#33941274) Homepage Journal
        The problem is that this is entirely dependent on what you want to do, and in what subject area you're studying.

        I'm in a PhD program doing some climate related stuff which is highly dependent on computational fluid dynamics. I'm modeling the fluid dynamics of the North Atlantic to better help us understand its carbon uptake and transport.

        The computational resources alone are waaaay out of most people's league. Without a grant for tens of thousands of dollars to put together a Rocks cluster with a high-bandwidth back end and many terabytes of high RPM storage and scratch drives, the work I'm doing would run in little better than real-time on your average desktop. No use in modeling 80 years of ocean circulation if it takes you that long to do it!

        The experts I have access to far exceed what I can find on the internet. I got flown to France this spring for a conference with the rockstars of my field. I talked shop over a bottle of fine wine with the guy who wrote the seminal textbook for my field. I had lunch overlooking the harbor with a guy who wrote major parts of the IPCC climate models that the US uses.

        While I agree with your first major paragraph, I have to completely disagree with the second. If I wasn't going to a major university, I wouldn't have had these chances. I wouldn't have tens of thousands of dollars of computation hardware at my fingertips. I wouldn't have known about some of the people I've met and learned from. I wouldn't have been granted a $1600 Euro plant ticket to go rub shoulders with the giants of my field.

        I've learned more from Wikipedia (no, not the sources... the actual wiki pages) than I could ever have lerned in college. If the information is out there, why pay for a professor to present it to you when we now have a machine that presents it to us for free?

        That shows a lacking of your college program, or a failure on your part. As an undergraduate, I learned a ton from a professor who had retired, but still had a full machine shop in the bottom of the main science building as his "office". He didn't teach a class, but he taught more than most of the other professors there. Again, I agree with your first major paragraph. But although that is true, it doesn't mean that a college education is without merit. No offense, (to you and all the rest) but what you're saying more likely applies to CE than to most other college degrees. There's more philosophy and code on the internet than you'd ever be able to get through. Most code can be run on your average desktop. Outside of mainframes, there's not much you can't model (slowly) on affordable hardware.

        Just don't apply that to college as a whole - I'm sure that you can learn just as much English Lit online as you can in school. However, there are many fields where that's simply not true. Trust me...I wouldn't be suffering through graduate school right now if I could do this outside of it. I had a decent job, decent pay, and a lot of free time before this. I gave all that up for the things I've described. I'm not about to be running hundreds to thousands of gigaflops at home, with tends to hundreds of terabytes of storage. I can't easily get access to that on the internet. I can't get personal access to the people who are leaders in my field. Sit on a picnic table with them and pick their brain. That's what college can give you. If you can get what you need to do your job on the internet, great. Not everybody can.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by fishexe (168879)

          Just don't apply that to college as a whole - I'm sure that you can learn just as much English Lit online as you can in school. However, there are many fields where that's simply not true.

          I find this example quite puzzling. Learning Lit is not at all easy...it's easy to read a great book or play and have 90% of it go over your head without a teacher to act as a guide. A few years back I was in my college dropout phase and was reading a bit of Chaucer and some 19th century plays for kicks. They were very enjoyable but I wished I could understand them on a deeper level, and to that end I can't tell you what I would've given to have an instructor asking probing questions that inch me toward

      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday October 18, 2010 @09:45PM (#33941622)

        Was a solid, theoretical, background. If you don't recognize the value, well maybe you just need to work for more time.

        I work for a CE department and we see older students quite often. Not people who are changing careers or the like, though that happens, but people employed as engineers, being sent by their company. The reason is they are good workers, smart, etc, but they never learned the theoretical electronics background. So they run in to problems they have trouble solving, or solve sub optimally because while they know some of the practice, they don't have a good grasp on the theory.

        Also don't think the "Putting up with bullshit, doing as you are told, and sticking with something for 4 years," is useless either. That is part of what companies want. They want someone who understands that work isn't fun it is, well, work. That it isn't about doing whatever strikes your muse, it is about doing what you are asked to do, and following through on things in the long term.

        However if you really think you learned more for Wikipedia than your university courses then it says one or more of these three things, none of which reflect well on you:

        1) You suck at learning. You did a bad job paying attention in class and trying to grasp all you were being taught. You need things broken down for you in to small, media-size chunks and put in simplified terms for you to be interested.

        2) You are lazy at learning. You just wanted to do the bare minimum, memorize what you needed for tests without much understanding, just what you needed to coast by. You didn't bother to learn anymore, or use any of the amazing learning resources you had (like the professors).

        3) You chose a really shitty school. Means you either lacked the acumen to make a good choice or the drive/ability to actually go to a good one.

        If you really think you learned more off a wiki than in school, that says some rather poor things of you.

  • by Krishnoid (984597) * on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:11PM (#33940274) Journal
    would probably look something like this [collegehumor.com].
  • by EdIII (1114411) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:11PM (#33940276)

    that a new type of "professorate" will emerge, consisting of those who teach or publish or conduct research for their own personal or professional satisfaction or for some other nonmonetized benefit.

    That "nonmonetized benefit" is access to college girls with loose morals.

  • Uh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tthomas48 (180798) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:13PM (#33940290) Homepage

    The future is the University of Phoenix? The one that has one of the highest default rates on student loans because it's graduates can't get jobs?

    Sure. That's the future.

    If we were really talking about the Wiki-ization of Universities I would image we would have boards of experts to decide who the professors were. It might resemble a university bureaucracy.

  • Phoenix Model (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dasdrewid (653176) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:14PM (#33940302)

    consisting of those who teach or publish or conduct research for their own personal or professional satisfaction or for some other nonmonetized benefit.

    So, the University of Phoenix, a for profit university, is the model he's using to determine that in the future, professors and researchers will not be doing so for profit. Something seems really, really wrong here.

    • by Khopesh (112447) on Monday October 18, 2010 @08:31PM (#33941108) Homepage Journal

      Most people forget about the basic research performed by most universities, which is absolutely necessary to the academic industry and flows into every aspect of the rest of the world (especially including tech, medical, and military). A good deal of the criticism on the current system comes from a lack of understanding of basic research [blogspot.com] and its part in academia. While the Wikipedia-style likely has merits for far more than we currently expect (it was equally ill-received when proposed for encyclopedias!), it can't fit into our current paradigm of research universities while retaining the current organization of journals and how they handle submissions (which is another point of contention that needs a serious upgrade [wikipedia.org] of its own).

      Therefore, perhaps the part-time lecturer model is preferable as a starting-point. However, due to its for-profit (not to mention anticompetitive and controversial [wikipedia.org]) nature, Phoenix is not an appropriate role model.

      Take a look at examples that are already far closer to Wikipedia, like MIT's ESP [mit.edu] and Tuft's Experimental College [tufts.edu].

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by garcia (6573)

      So, the University of Phoenix, a for profit university, is the model he's using to determine that in the future, professors and researchers will not be doing so for profit. Something seems really, really wrong here.

      What does the status of the university itself have to do with the professors they employ?

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:15PM (#33940308)
    Universities are as much about research and discoveries as they are about teaching. In fact most of the staff get their positions through their research qualifications, rather than their teaching ability (as is often painfully obvious to the students). if you go for an informal approach, there is no structure in place to enforce or even validate the quality of the staff and it will rapidly spiral downwards in both reputation and quality of graduates.
  • It's not a new idea anymore.

    Whether or not it's a good idea or ever will be, is a different question.

  • by dr-alves (1612081) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:15PM (#33940314)

    In the middle ages interested (and I mean wealthy) people would be able to grasp multiple areas of expertise (think leonardo da vinci).

    Since then things have gotten a WHOLE LOT more complicated, i.e., Would we want civil engineers building bridges if they could skip structural courses?

    Professional expertises are narrower and narrower and with that the margin for freedom in terms of what is required to finish a degree is smaller.

    The world is more complex, society is more complex, and while there is certainly some wiggle room for each individual the bottom line is that highly specialized workers require a highly specialized, structured, education.

  • Sounds like an interesting science experiment. I suggest a group of people try it out and see how it goes. Likely there will be lots of revisions to make, very little funding, and most people will thing that they should be in charge.

    Wikipedia University
    An Almost Entirely Accurate Education

    • by Pharmboy (216950)


      {{notability}}
      Wikipedia University
      An Almost Entirely {{weasel words}} Accurate Education {{dubious}}

      Fixed that for you...

  • While we're at it, why don't we let Doctors intern on WebMD?

  • by Pharmboy (216950) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:17PM (#33940344) Journal

    Run universities like Wikipedia? So you can have tenured nazi's running around like they own certain subjects wholesale, like some Wikipedia admins do? So "truth" is only relative to what the most powerful group of professors (admins) that give a damn about the subject matter?

    No thanks. The USA has one of the best university systems in the world, flaws and all, but running it like Wikipedia would just insure that the most incompetent and most vocal (who are often the same) will have an even larger voice.

    • by careysub (976506)

      Run universities like Wikipedia? ...

      Indeed. I don't think that even Wikipedia should be run just like Wikipedia! The ability of Anonymous Cowards to change (almost*) anything on Wikipedia is a fatal flaw that is holding it back from ever being a reasonably reliable source of information on anything even slightly controversial. Requiring the creation of login (which would still be anonymous) before being able to make any change, and using user histories to make assessments of reliability to manage reversions, which edits "stick", etc. would ha

  • by dominion (3153) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:17PM (#33940356) Homepage

    This is basically a model of public intellectualism, and popular education. It has three components: 1. Creating a culture of learning which is not dependent on structure, but which is interwoven into life's fabric. 2. Pushing access to information to everyone, with no prejudices about who it will benefit best or who should be prioritized. 3. Encouraging a culture of healthy debate, humility, and a collective struggle for answers, instead of an individual struggle for superiority.

    We're already seeing this on some level: Wikipedia, Kahn Academy, Amateur Astronomy, Open Courseware, etc. But I think it's not enough to just keep doing what we're doing, I would advocate that we need to go further. There is no reason that, for instance, a university doing research, no matter how obscure, should not be pressured to put their work online in an accessible fashion. Videos of conferences and presentations, notes, theses, etc. Beyond that, we need to actively break down prejudices about who benefits from this information. We cannot claim to know how people will use information, and determining the importance of their access based on condition, geography, poverty, gender, etc. should not be tolerated. Someone who does studies alternative energies should not dismiss the notion that a teenager living in Nigeria might not want to pour over everything they know, either in order to use that knowledge to create a DIY solar or wind generator, or to create something they hadn't even considered. We cannot keep an international presentation on evolutionary biology within a circle of privileged academics, just because we hold to the myth that if you aren't in a university, you aren't interested in being an intellectual.

    And once we have that, or maybe concurrently, we need public spaces, free of charge and open to anyone, that people get together to talk about what they've learned, and to learn more. Like a library where talking is encouraged, or a pub without beer.

    This is something I feel very strongly about, that the delineation between the academic and the non-academic, the intellectual and the non-intellectual, must be broken down and done away with. Here, then, is an RSA animate which talks about the structure of the current education system, and touches on the stratification within it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U [youtube.com]

    • by PCM2 (4486) on Monday October 18, 2010 @08:29PM (#33941080) Homepage

      We cannot keep an international presentation on evolutionary biology within a circle of privileged academics, just because we hold to the myth that if you aren't in a university, you aren't interested in being an intellectual.
      And once we have that, or maybe concurrently, we need public spaces, free of charge and open to anyone, that people get together to talk about what they've learned, and to learn more. Like a library where talking is encouraged, or a pub without beer.

      Maybe I'm cynical, but I think the percentage of people who are willing to enroll in a university out of desire to earn money at a career is far greater than the percentage who are interested in being intellectuals.

      I have one friend who is currently enrolled in a creative writing degree at a university and who professes a desire to be a published author... and who reads about four books a year. Will he succeed? Maybe not, but if not it's hardly because he lacks opportunities to practice intellectualism. Similarly, the number of my friends who hold strong opinions on politics far outstrips the number who can honestly claim to regularly read newspapers and magazines, beyond a few things they find on the Web.

      On the other hand, other friends have just recently completed their degree programs -- some of them advanced degrees -- and now, so burnt out from their academic study that they've lost all passion for their subjects, they look forward to taking a couple years off as professional bartenders. These are very smart people, but to them the thought of spending the rest of their lives pondering the finer points of some bit of classical knowledge is about as exciting as becoming a tax accountant.

      The link between education and the romantic notion of "intellectualism" in modern America is tenuous at best -- but that's just what it is, a romantic notion. Real people's lives are much more dominated by real-world concerns, and I highly doubt pulling all the beer taps out of the pubs is going to change that.

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:20PM (#33940404)

    The businesses I've been in cared about the degree because it showed
    1) you could finish a 4+ year project
    2) which had lots of jerks along the way and you didn't melt down
    3) that had ridiculous hours at times
    4) that had absolutely inflexible deadlines at times and you made them.
    5) you had to communicate a lot with others.

    ---

    Other that than, I can't count how many times someone is moved laterally away from their degree within 18 months of being hired.

  • Uhhhhhhhh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:23PM (#33940438)

    How would this be useful again? Let's remember that if the objective is to self educate, you can already do that quite well in this day and age. The Internet makes almost anything available to you, there are libraries (including the ones on Universities) open to the public, and indeed you can sit in on classes at some universities, even if you aren't a student (some have to allow that). Learning when and what you choose has never been easier.

    However that's not the point of a university. A university is about providing a structured program, with some verification for people that complete it successfully. That has value above and beyond just the education received. This is by no means a complete list but some of the major things:

    1) It provides some proof of what you've done. When someone is self taught, they could well be full of shit. You have no idea. If they have a degree, at least you know that they did well enough for the university to consider it ok. I'm not saying that is a guarantee of competence but it is a whole lot more than just "Trust me, I know what I'm talking about."

    2) It shows the ability to stick with a lengthy, difficult, endeavor and succeed. That is a worthwhile personality trait to have.

    3) It hopefully means you got a broad base of knowledge in the subject. When someone self teaches they often focus just on what interests them or is relevant to the task at hand. A university can mandate a broader range of study on things, and focus on theoretical backgrounds to practical items where the use might not be readily apparent, but important later on.

    4) The accredited ones are held to some standards. Not only is the university itself examined, but individual programs are. It isn't just all up to whatever they feel like.

    I can't see how such a "Do whatever you want," kind of university would be at all useful. Sure you could learn things, but as I said, if all you are going to do is learn what you want, attend the classes you want, then it really isn't any different than you just teaching your self, watching lectures online, etc.

    This doesn't mean university is the be-all, end-all, but the point of the institution is more than just teaching people whatever they happen to be interested in.

  • Noooooooo! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Scotty L (1873912)
    Education by concensus would make obtaining the truth even more difficult. Neils Bohr would roll in his grave if he thought answers would have come from popular opinion on whether electrons orbited a nucleus or not, not to mention poor old Galileo!!!
  • Certified as Clever (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:29PM (#33940508)
    Here in Canada, an undergraduate degree from a respected, accredited university is in effect a 'certificate of cleverness.' It says to potential employers that you're smart enough to have completed four years of full-time course work at a place that is reasonably hard and that you've produced the requisite outputs. With a few exceptions (undergraduate engineering etc.), it's not considered 'job training.'

    It may be different in the USA, I'm not sure...
  • by cjonslashdot (904508) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:36PM (#33940582)
    Universities that sponsor research provide a more important function than teaching. Fundamental research is not done well by private industry. Throughout history the arts and the sciences have always needed benefactors. This is still true today. A professor in a science is paid to perform research with no known benefit. Such research is extremely important, because fundamental research seldom has a known benefit. However, eventually benefits become apparent, much later. Private industry does not like to sponsor fundamental research for this reason because the ROI is unclear. That leaves universities with NSF grants. A wikipedia-like university would not be able to pay scientist professors, since the assumption is that work would be volunteer. Then who would pay for the salaries of these highly skilled people as well as the research labs?
  • University tenure (Score:4, Informative)

    by br00tus (528477) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:40PM (#33940612)
    "In addition, the curriculum of the 'Wiki-ized University' would be intellectually fluid, and instead of tenure, professors' longevity 'would be determined by the community.'"

    Yes, universities want to get rid of tenure due to their desire to be "intellectually fluid". From every case I know about, universities don't want to replace long-time professors with teaching assistants (called "teaching fellows" at some places) due to desire toward being "intellectually fluid" but due to the fact that it costs a lot less for them. It is almost always about short-term budget concerns, not some goal of greater intellectual achievement

    At my college, there are a few core courses which every CS student must take, and they are all taught by long-time, tenured professors. These professors have published papers, really know their stuff, and have excellent ways of teaching about backtracking algorithms, linked lists, stacks, queues and the like. In other classes we get these teaching assistants who are often going for their Masters, don't have a good grasp of the material, don't know how to teach it, and usually seem harried between their teaching and their studies. The only positive for me from my non-CS classes is some of the young, female TAs are attractive and pleasant, although often also incompetent as teachers.

    Another thing that professors often mention - professors are usually not judged by how highly they are rated in teaching undergraduate classes, but by how many grants they bring in, what journals their articles get published in, and what they are doing in research with their graduate students. So if universities wanted professors to be better teachers, simply giving their teaching ability some more measure in how they stood could improve undergraduate teaching. If you're paid by publish-or-perish and your undergraduate classes count for little, who is surprised if teaching suffers? It's amazing how many professors put effort into their classes even though it does nothing for them financially.

    Also, tenure has already had many nails pounded into its coffin. How many tenure-track positions are there nowadays in a department of a college? And how many classes are being taught by people not in a tenure-track position? It's cheaper for colleges to eliminate those positions, and then tell graduate students they don't have to pay tuition and will get some negligible pay to teach classes.

    Despite the idea that universities are outposts of Bolshevism, I know of many, many cases of left-wing professors being booted from their colleges, who the administration tries to boot from college, or fight over tenure and so forth. Paul Wellstone, Howard Zinn, David Graeber, Norman Finkelstein, Joel Kovel, Ward Churchill, Cornel West, these names spring to mind and there have been many more. One of the ideas of tenure is to allow for a free intellectual culture where one can not be booted out of the university for their opinions. I should note that this idea arose a little over a century ago, things used to be much worse, where American scholars who said something some college donor disliked would expect to find themselves out of a job.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hweimer (709734)

      If you're paid by publish-or-perish and your undergraduate classes count for little, who is surprised if teaching suffers? It's amazing how many professors put effort into their classes even though it does nothing for them financially.

      Actually, that's not entirely true. As you mention, most of the research that brings in the money is done by or together with grad students. So scouting for bright future grad students in the undergrad classes is something that pays off in the long run. And yeah, you better don't scare them away by delivering a shitty class.

  • Practical Work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alcoholist (160427) on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:41PM (#33940614) Homepage

    How does that work in such a college.

    So guy shows up on campus and says he's a electrician and he's going to teach anyone interested. All kinds of students flock over looking to learn a trade. He's got a whole bunch of references, but half of them don't answer the phone and at least a quarter of the rest are just references that lead to the other references.

    He explains that this course is just a stub and hopefully some better electricians will come along and make it better and safer. But hey, let's go and get you your ticket!

  • university need some change but Wikipedia like? To big of a jump. You need work it in to smaller ways as you don't want a Wikipedia like system to look like a joke.

    But university and HR need to change there views on higher ed.

    * Costs needs to go down books as well. Having Wikipedia like books may work good at a much lower price and is able to keep up with newer technologies

    * There seems to be to much filler college courses that push costs up. Some Basic courses are ok but chemistry or history for all? Some

  • ... for my own education and career, I have to laugh at the suggested volunteerism... mainly because it takes a massive amount of effort and resources to teach large numbers of people. Even if you could remove bureaucracies attached to HR (since everyone's volunteering time) and fundraising and JUST focus on the teaching aspect, anyone to suggest such a notion is beyond naive

    Here are two, extremely important facts about education:

    1) Most people can't simply learn on their own. They can't even bother themsel

  • Where else could I have learned both the managerial skills to organize a toga party AND the technical skill to tap a keg, keeping foam to an absolute minimum? Did I mention that I got laid, too? Wiki that!
  • so a wiki university would be on that you could go to class any day and instead of course work, be given a neo-nazi screed or a gigantic projection of goatse?
  • Why do we need to create a new Wiki Univ. Just get a cheap PC, photoshop (or Gimp if you want to scrimp), design your own degree and get the thing printed at home. Done!
  • What if we ran universities like Wikipedia?

    Then education would work like the media does today. The loudest or hottest or most in-line with what you already think "professors" would dominate those that actually know more about their field. You wouldn't be learning as much as concreting your world view - exactly the opposite of what higher education should do.

    In fact, why not skip the university concept and meld education into the media entirely? Sign me up for the Daily Show Community College.
  • Seeing how Wikipedia moderators/admins go on insane power ventures, and many seem to want more and more power to abuse, I don't see how this can be positive AT ALL.

  • Will it end up like wikibooks.org? Where after five years a book still isn't complete? They start work and then reorg and start work and then reorg?

  • The beancounters have been around for much too long ... .
    What is the average university/college (outside maybe the Ivy-League)? - A sort of accredited degree-mill. Controlled and regulated by the government of the day, administered a certain number of credit hours, administered a certain number of exams at the end of 'modules' (with a pressure of sometimes the university and/or sometimes the government, to pass a not too low percentage with good grades), churning out a sufficient number of 'graduates' suffi

  • Traditional colleges are probably dead meat due to failure to control costs. Online colleges haven't gotten a clue so far. After all does English 101 need to be any different from college to college and state to state? Standardize the course and make the testing such that a machine can grade it and the entire course could be almost free.
    If we make the texts electronic one might earn an entire degree for under $500 while improving quality compared to current methods a

  • Elements of this make me think of the Anarchist Free University [anarchistu.org].

    I doubt these will replace established institutions, but instead complement them and bring advanced education to communities that might otherwise treat expanded knowledge as something to suspect, even suppress.

  • I get the feeling that that's what this conference was about. I imagine it went kind of like:

    "Oh no! All our students are turning to the internet to get some real value of self-education and we aren't all important anymore! How can we get back on top? Oh, I know, just mimic something popular and get some attention back!"

    Pass. Dumbest idea I've heard all day.

  • by slew (2918) on Monday October 18, 2010 @08:41PM (#33941206)

    Not sure if people have the total concept of what a university looked like in the middle ages (despite looking it up on the wikipedia). Basically people who joined universities were mostly either clergy, civil servants, or what we would call today "professional" students.

    Back in those days, other than the church, there were generally no need for preparatory degrees. Most good jobs that regular folks could aspire to didn't require degrees, they required lengthy apprenticeship which one could tackle by working for essentially peanuts for awhile or actually paying money to join various guilds.

    However, if one had a patron (or a rich family) or if you wanted to dedicate your life to the institution (often associated with the church, but there were some secular institutions), you could instead attend a university and study law, medicine (usually reserved for rich folks), or theology. In the modern era, who would be paying for all this stuff over the 20 or so years that a typical university course of study would entail is quite an interesting problem.

    Of course for those that have the attraction of becoming a professional student, maybe running a wiki-university like the middle ages is interesting, but I don't think it's what many folks had in mind.

    I get the feeling that most folks are thinking about a "free" prep-education for business or engineering or some other trade. That's not really like a university from the middle ages, that is like a much more modern re-invention of the university into a trade-guild. Now, instead of joining the guild, you pay your tuition to a "university" and learn a trade or skill from someone there and get your guild-card/degree to hang out your shingle or to join a co-op/company.

    I think that the folks interested in the "free" prep-education should instead just be questioning the whole concept of a guild that a university education has become and if a wiki-guild is actually more what some folks had in mind...

    • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Monday October 18, 2010 @09:24PM (#33941490)

      Hey, we have those! We call them "tech schools" or, if you want to be fancy, polytechnics. They teach things like welding, power engineering, plumbing, electrical, etc. Programs are one or two years, or sometimes shorter.

      The real problem is that so many of us are so rich that we can spend four years of our lives "finding ourselves" at university, but we're also so whiney we can't see it as a great triumph of modern civilization but rather complain that the university didn't teach us anything useful in the courses we chose.

  • by bradley13 (1118935) on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @05:08AM (#33943852) Homepage

    Can you say "naive" and "idealistic"?

    Sure, Wikipedia is a great resource for basic information on a lot of topics. However, behind the scenes, the "volunteer politics" get pretty ugly. The kind of people who would put up with this on a Wiki-University scale are not the kidn of people you want as professors.

    Professors "longevity would be determined by the community"? Even tenured professors dare not say politically incorrect things - else their tenure is suddenly meaningless. Imagine if professors held their positions on the whim of the students!

    Universities should be non-profit? Why exactly? Non-profit organizations do good work in some fields, but they are just as driven as corporations - just towards different goals.

    Professors should "move back and forth between the 'real world' and the university? Sure, that sounds like the kind of career that lets you do long term planning, raise a family, etc.

    To the credit of the author, TFA ends with: Mr. Staley "clearly understands Wikipedia about as well as he understands universities. That is, not very well."

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