Sunday, September 18, 2011

Process more important than result

There was a  pre-conference day before the EFQUEL Innovation Forum devoted to user generated content (known to its friends as UGC). UGC is defined as free educational resources that have not gone through process of peer review. Often it is a web site, wiki or group blog that has been created by learners and freely shared. Generating content is an important part of the learning process by providing involvement, motivation and performance. This is the focus of an important European project called CONCEDE which aims to:

"... improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning by enhancing the quantity and quality of user generated content that can be incorporated into higher education learning provision."

The project aims at creating a quality framework for user generated content using a mix of users' comments, reviews and ratings as well as institutional quality procedure and find a way of creating a system of trust for UGC. If we can easily see that a learning resource has been endorsed by many and fulfills clear criteria we are more likely to use it.

Here's a film from Swinburne University in Australia describing the process of creating UGC, in this case a student wiki (see film on original site)

This type of quality control is essential work if UGC is going to be used in mainstream education. However, I wonder if the value of this type of content lies more in the process of creation than in the finished product? Creating a quality resource involves a wide range of skills: collaborating, defining, researching, categorizing, creating, adapting, editing and reviewing. The end product is a source of pride for all involved but the journey was the most valuable part. This was described by Steve Wheeler in his presentation as an example of paragogy – peers helping each other to learn in a collaborative process (push) instead of being “pulled” by the teacher.

However, once completed, it is often not as valuable as it was during the process of creation. Other learners may well use the material in their studies and some may even build on it but anyone wishing to investigate the same subject would probably try to start from scratch and build their own site. I have several abandoned wikis as a case in point. It was great fun while I was working on them but once I'd reached the end I just left them to their own devices. I don't think anyone has taken them over but their value to me was in the process not the result.

Maybe by having quality markers and reviews in place these resources will not fade and die but may find new curators. Anyone wanting to take care of my mothballed wikis is welcome to do a makeover!

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