The “Wiley Wiki Design”

I probably would not have named this the ‘Wiley Wiki Design’, but when someone like Leigh names something after you, how do you refuse? =)

I’ve been meaning to write a little about this design I’ve been using for the last several years and how it has evolved, but recent proddings by Leigh, Teemu, and Bron have finally gotten me off the virtual starting line.

Since Fall 2004 I’ve been running my courses in the open via the wiki at OpenContent (course listing). In the theme of this blog, Iterating Toward Openness, these courses started “basically open” and have become more “completely open” (note more completely open, not actually completely open). What I mean is that the original courses had their syllabus and course content out from behind a password with permissions for people to edit. I was disappointed that, even when you put it in a wiki, students still don’t feel empowered to edit your syllabus. They had little trouble editing the online textbook I wrote for the course, though, which was great. And they all wrote their homework assignments on publicly readable blogs. In one of these early classes Stephen ran one of my student’s assignments in OLDaily, which brought the broader community into the conversation those students were having. Strangely enough, the next week all the students’ writing was longer and more thoughtful. Funny what the pressures of peer review will do… So we might say that these first iterations, the 2004-2006 period, were open in terms of their content and discussions, but only students at USU could really participate in the classes.

When I say that my design has evolved toward a more complete kind of openness, I mean that in 2007 I started trying to figure out how to open participation – meaning the assignment of a credit or credential for those who completed the course. The core components of the current design (used for my Fall 2007 Intro to Open Ed course) include:

  • Running everything in the open
  • Using an open wiki as the core delivery method and encouraging learner contribution to the core learning goals / outcomes, reading lists, educational materials, etc.
  • Using open blogs as the core writing outlet for weekly writing and encouraging broad community engagement in the writing, discussion, and feedback processes
  • Only using readings or other course materials that are freely available on the public internet
  • Accepting class members regardless of location or their admission status at my university
  • Offering multiple paths to credit through:
  • – – Normal channels for students at my university
  • – – Backchannels for students at other universities (I had good luck with people signing up for an independent study at their home university with a faculty member who agreed to accept the course grade I awarded at end of term – so students took my open course but received credit at their home university)
  • – – A certificate of completion which did not have any university credit attached (it was a traditional-looking certificate with the person’s name and my signature) but was still highly valued by several participants

So I’ve worked on opening access to the content, opening access to the discussions, opening access to materials used in the course, opening participation, and opening access to credit / certification. Obviously my course design isn’t perfect, but it’s healthy to stop and reflect occasionally, and assess the progress we make.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing about the core design is that several people seem to be moving in this direction with their designs. A list compiled by Leigh includes:



Leigh and Bron:


I recently heard from Javed about a course inspired by the model that uses Ning instead of a wiki:

And, of course, there is George and Stephen’s course coming up this fall:

Obviously, no design occurs in a vacuum, and there is a growing conversation about open education, and specifically ways to open access to participation, credits, or certification to people who are not enrolled in your university. So I wouldn’t take sole credit for any of these ideas, but perhaps their aggregation and actual implementation has been a contribution to the field. I hope it continues to inspire others to further open access to their courses.

After reflecting back somewhat, I find myself thinking more about the course I have coming up this fall, and wondering how I can open it further… What will the next cycle in the iteration toward openness look like?

3 thoughts on “The “Wiley Wiki Design””

  1. I like your creative approaches to credit and credentialing. Opening courses to a broader range of students in this way is innovative and clearly represents a new “iteration” in OpenCourseWare.

    I’m wondering, though, about scalability. How many “unofficial” students were in your course the last time you taught it? How much did taking care of them add to your workload? How many more students could you handle before you said “uncle”? One possibility for scaling this model further would be to find additional faculty members at other institutions (perhaps those who have agreed to respect your grade and grant local credit) to partner with you to grade / mentor students from their institutions. Not sure exactly how the logistics of this would work, but scalability seems to be the next big iteration . . .

  2. David,I am moved by your work: and troubled.

    Is it possible that a virtue carried to extremes becomes a danger?

    Is it possible that “opening” needs to be balanced by “closing,” by insuring that designs and structures are valued for the work they do?

    “Opening” the doors of a building so that all may enter and enjoy the benefits of the work done inside is one thing: allowing visitors to redesign and rework the structure of the building may cause it to collapse.

    I am referring, of course, to the invitation to students to redesign the syllabus. A good syllabus is often carefully structured to move students along a path, and those without a clear sense of where the path is designed to lead may turn the design into incoherence.

    What happens to the ideas of structure, form, sequence, design if “openness” becomes total?

  3. I note with some interest–and amusement–that the “openness” here is not total. My comment above is not posted at this moment, since it is waiting for “moderation,” which I assume is a gentle way of saying it has to be approved by you–which of course is ok with this not-completely-open-yet explorer.

    I do understand , or think I understand, that the closedness this creates is not of your doing, but is imposed on you by this program.

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