Drivers for change

Universities and veterinary schools exist within political, cultural and social contexts that shape their policy and practice (Hammond, 2003). That context shapes three main drivers:

  • Economic and social development,
  • Beliefs and expectations of the role of education in our ever-changing society,
  • Development of educational technologies that have the potential to enable us to achieve these objectives.

Change. During the last 10 years, changes on the Web created significantly different context, and all three drivers were visibly influenced/strengthened. Web 2.0 technologies and Wikinomics are recognized as the main change agents. Therefore, let’s say a few words about those changes.

Web 2.0 is a framework that facilitates collaboration, user-content creation, information-sharing, user-centered design and inter-operability on the Web. With Web 2.0 tools, users can collaborate, create social networks, create or edit content and, what is very important for us,  they can teach, learn and collaborate on course development. Leading Internet giants such as Google, Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia made outstanding, globally important success as a part of a Web 2.0 framework.

Wikinomics is a framework or movement that brings people together to create a common knowledge through mass collaboration. It represents as important a historical phenomenon as the birth of bureaucracy (Staley, 2009) or the Industrial Revolution. It is based on Web 2.0 technologies such as social-networking sites, blogs, wikis, and video-sharing sites.

Probably the best known example of wikinomics is Wikipedia. It is a free online encyclopedia that was founded in 2001 and allows anyone to edit. It has 3.3 million articles in English (15 million all together), compared with 100,000 articles in Encyclopedia Britannica.

While it has 33 times more articles, the difference in accuracy is not particularly great. Research by Nature (Giles, 2005) showed that, on average, Encyclopedia Britannica has three inaccuracies per article, while Wikipedia has four.

Britannica does Wiki. Explosive development of Wikipedia has forced Encyclopedia Britannica to accept new rules.  Recently, Encyclopedia Britannica is offering editing and adding new article options. Editors have to confirm changes before they become public.

A win-win situation. Dr. Diane Frank (Frank, 2009), president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (2008/2009) noted that Wikinomics principles in the veterinary community ‘would certainly be a win-win situation for those involved.’ Fast development of www.WikiVet.Net gives additional strength to her statement.

Four cornerstones of success. The main principles of Wikinomics (Tapscott, Williams , 2008) are Openness, Peering, Sharing, and Acting Globally:

  • Being Open.  Schools that open their doors to external ideas and human capital will outperform schools that rely solely on their internal resources and capabilities.
  • Peering. Peering leverages self-organization. For some tasks that style is more productive than traditional hierarchical management.
  • Sharing.  In a super-productive collaborative world, schools and companies have to share part of their intellectual property so they can actively collaborate and generate new intellectual property plus improve their position in the global economy.
  • Acting Globally. Winning schools have to act globally. They are globally important institutions and globalized collaboration is the only way to stay at the top.

Traditional and proven tools + Web 2.0 collaboration.  Adoption of those principles has become an important prerequisite of globally significant success. In other words, universities can gain great benefit if they invigorate their traditional structures and procedures with benefits of Web 2.0. For example:

  • An active community of teachers that actively collaborate through wiki and a forum (Web 2.0, Wikinomics) can significantly ease development of classical courses (face-to-face, blended or online)
  • A peer-reviewed wiki can generate results like WikiVet.Net has.

Case Studies