Wikipedia and distance education

What does the world know about distance education? How do people learn about distance education? Well, the standard way of finding details of most topics seems to be Wikipedia, so I thought I’d take a look and see what it says.

The entry on distance education in Wikipedia starts well enough, defining it as ‘a field of education that focuses on the pedagogy and andragogy, technology, and instructional systems design that aim to deliver education to students who are not physically “on site”.’ And so on …

This is followed by sections on history, technology, types, testing and evaluation, references, ‘See also’ and external links. It’s rather ‘bitsy’ and disjointed, and even worse, there is no mention of Australia nor ODLAA!

Now I’ve always hankered to make a contribution to Wikipedia, so here was my chance. There’s a simple account creation process (if you wish to use one), during which you may choose whether or not to include your email address. You are then directed to explanatory material on how to add/edit material, including the option to play in the sandbox. Some of it is a bit fiddly, but overall it’s quite easy (must be if I can do it!).

So what have I done? Well, under ‘history’ I added a sentence about Australia, noting the pioneering efforts of the University of Queensland in 1911 (properly referenced to Michael White’s 1982 article in Distance Education). It seemed a tad crass to simply throw in a specific reference to ODLAA, especially as there are other professional associations serving distance education, so under ‘external links’ I added the list from CoL. Note that in doing so I found that our ODLAA details are somewhat out of date (note to self: contact CoL and have it fixed!).

Finding the process vaguely satisfying and addictive, I fiddled with a paragraph about open universities, adding a reference to mega-universities (John Daniel’s book – did he coin the term?). This further led me, in perusing the ‘See also’ section, to add a link to the Wikipedia entry on open learning. To be blunt, the outline of ‘open learning’ is stunningly underdone (three lines), thus providing an open invitation for someone to step in and make a significant contribution. So if you’re looking to contribute to Wikipedia, here’s a great opportunity!

But I’m getting ahead of myself – there’s plenty of work still to be done under ‘distance education’. Whole areas of our field of interest are missing, and the section on ‘testing and evaluation’ seems unnecessarily negative and unbalanced. 

Go on, have a go!


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