Combining OERs with Wikipedia - a winning combination

October 25, 2009, [MD]

I love when different "open" movements can come together and mutually enhance each other, whether it's using open source software for the production of open educational materials, or using CC-licensed music when creating a CC-licensed documentary. John Willinsky, who recently gave a talk at OISE as part of OA week 2009, has written an article for First Monday called "What open access research can do for Wikipedia". In this article, he finds that very few articles currently contain links to OA articles, and that we should make a real effort to link to these, since they provide jump-off points for people who want to research a topic more in-depth, and are more useful than references to closed articles, or physical books, because they are available to anyone online. I thought it was a great idea at the time. Whenever I talk about open educational resources, I also mention OA research as an important source of information, and I hope that the OER movement and the OA movement can work even more together in the future.

Recently, I came across another very interesting Wikipedia project. The user EconoPhysicist writes on his userpage: *"Many of my contributions have been related to the OpenCourseWare movement, initiatives by universities to make video and other course materials freely available on the web."*Starting in January this year, EconoPhysicist has made more than 350 edits, almost all of them adding open educational videos from universities to relevant articles. Users who go to to the articles for the Euler–Lagrange equation, Flow network or Democracy in America can find at the bottom a link to relevant videolectures from Yale, MIT, Stanford and other universities that make their lectures available in this way.

I think this is a brilliant initiative! It's a great way to improve the "findability" of these resources, and contributes to demolish the idea that Wikipedia is not suitable to education. The point is of course (and has always been) that you don't stop at the Wikipedia article, you start from it. During my talk last week, we discussed the problem with having OCW materials "siloed" off in separate institutional sites, rather than aggregated, and I pointed out that the open nature of these materials means that even if MIT or Stanford themselves haven't created interesting ways to access and aggregate their materials - other users can. So you can have websites like, which aggregate lecture videos and provide Web 2.0 features, you can link resources to Wikipedia, you can create open curricula that include links to lecture videos, etc.

It would be really useful if it was easier to link to a specific segment in a video, or to easily choose a video, trim it, and upload it to Wikimedia Commons (although most of the videos are non-commercial, which means that they could not be included in Wikipedia, only linked to). It might also make sense to make a series of shorter videos, rather than one long one - it would make reuse much more feasible.

I wish Wikipedia's in other languages would take up the challenge - there is lot's of great OCW material in Japan, Korea, China, Mexico, and many other languages.


Stian HĂĄklev October 25, 2009 Toronto, Canada
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