Like the volunteerism shown for Diderot’s Encyclopedie and Oxford’s Dictionary, the Internet inspires people to actively participate. It is one of the greatest features of the Internet, the free flow of information. People have embraced it for a variety of reasons. The Internet frees us from constraints. It offers a forum for our voices to be heard. Even the shyest person can have a voice on the Internet.
What does this have to do with a wiki? The same thing that makes wikis so attractive is what makes other aspects of the Internet attractive as well. Wikis are appealing because they allow anyone the opportunity to contribute. The return on investment is the psychic income gained from participating and giving freely. Most importantly, it is a return on investment that didn’t cost anything up front except the volunteered time and effort.
This brings me to a recent conversation about a new online master’s degree program in computer technology. It is a MOOC (massive open online course) being offered by Georgia Tech, AT&T and Udacity, for less than $7,000. There has been a growing push for more offerings in this type format. Open Learning Initiative through Harvard is one source of free university courses. MIT, Stanford and Open University in the UK all have free university courses. There are many others available to take without credit. However, that doesn’t mean these offerings are going forth without resistance. Much like academia’s questions about the quality of Wikipedia and other wikis, there are discussions and resistance to offering free or extreme low cost MOOC courses online. The reasons on both sides are very real. It is an interesting debate and one worth following.