Yet, despite the growing importance of e-learning methodologies, the widespread reach of the open educational resources movement and the heavy use of Wikipedia among students, faculty members seem to hold a much more negative and sceptical opinion of the free encyclopaedia (Knight & Pryke, 2012). In the case of United Kingdom, the reasons for this cautionary attitude in higher education are due to a lack of understanding of Wikipedia, a negative attitude toward collaborative knowledge produced outside academia and the perceived detrimental effects of the use of Web 2.0 applications not included in the university suite (Bayliss, 2013).
We would try to identify the main factors that determine university faculty’s acceptance of Wikipedia both as assistance to improve instructional materials and as a learning resource for teaching activities in a different context: the main online university in Spain. We approach the decision about using Wikipedia considering both the individual attributes of faculty members and the social values of their ecosystem. Meanwhile individual attributes reflect perceptions about capabilities, risks and opportunities to act innovatively using Wikipedia, social values reflect how the university values the use of Wikipedia.
We have conducted a survey of all faculty members of an online university which offers official university training to 60,000 students. A quarter of their faculty members use regularly Wikipedia for learning activities and other quarter use it occasionally.
Personal factors such as academic rank, teaching experience or age do not seem to be decisive. Instead, the decision to use Wikipedia is partially spurred by lecturers’ experience in the use of other collaborative learning resources and subjective factors, such as the perception of Wikipedia’s quality and utility. The milieu is also very important, since use is more frequent when faculty members have role models in their close environment and when they perceive Wikipedia as being valued positively by their colleagues. However, the direct influence of institutional policies to embed an open culture in university seems to be less effective (Meseguer-Artola et al., 2015).
This external influence would work as a network of innovation, since the sharing of relevant and useful information and the dissemination of best practices among faculty might encourage the educational use of Wikipedia.
Therefore, a greater application of Wikipedia would require much more active institutional policies and probably some changes in the incumbent academic culture among faculty members because unfriendly attitudes are probably connected to a deeper conflict between standard academic epistemological principles and the specific peer-to-peer culture (Eijkman, 2010). As Reagle (2010) points out, despite its good-faith collaborative culture, its egalitarian ethos and its openness, Wikipedia must reconcile their vision with the inescapable social reality of irritating personalities, philosophical differences, and external threats.
Some recommendations could be made to improve entrepreneurial framework: it is essential to reach a greater understanding of Wikipedia, its policies, procedures and editing mechanisms; it would also be necessary to directly stimulate Wikipedia usage by promoting active contribution among students and faculty, and granting greater recognition to the teaching innovations involved; and it would also be helpful to encourage the use of online collaborative tools for teaching and open knowledge repositories for publishing academic output and resources.
- Aibar, E. & Lerga, M. (2015). Best practice guide to use Wikipedia in university education. Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. http://hdl.handle.net/10609/41662.
- Bayliss, G. (2013). Exploring the Cautionary Attitude Towards Wikipedia in Higher Education: Implications for Higher Education Institutions. New Review of Academic Librarianship Vol. 19, Issue 1., pp. 36-57.
- Eijkman, H. (2010). Academics and Wikipedia: Reframing Web 2.0+ as a Disruptor of Traditional Academic Power-Knowledge Arrangements. Campus-Wide Information Systems, 27 (3): 173-185.
- Knight, C. & Pryke, S. (2012). Wikipedia and the University, a case study. Teaching in Higher Education, 17 (6): 649-659.
- Meseguer-Artola, A. et al. (2015). Factors that influence the teaching use of Wikipedia in higher education. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, February. DOI: 10.1002/asi.23488.
- Reagle, J. M. (2010). Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia. The MIT Press.