Wiki-based teacher education and resource development/Proposal

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We propose to significantly enhance the usability of mediawiki for developing open learning materials for teacher education. We do this by developing extensions that are crucial for both use in the UK, as well as internationally. Developments will be trialled with a broad range of practicioners on


Overarching goals

Mediawiki is already used to host open educational resources (OER), such as wikipedia. However, mediawiki use to develop and host more complex resources, particularly for structured resources (such as textbooks) is still limited. Mediawiki could be a great platform for collaboratively producing and hosting teacher education resources. For instance, mediawiki comes pretty close to being an excellent platform for open textbooks (whether these are teacher education resources or otherwise). Our research around the ORBIT project ( highlighted some of the issues, and through this proposal, we seek to further develop mediawiki to make it a more suitable platform for hosting structured open educational content. There could bring potentially very significant gains to the OER community, and possibly leads to a far greater adoption of mediawiki in that area.

Concrete goals

The concrete goal of the project is to develop a number of extensions to mediawiki, that will significantly enhance the usability of the platform for creating teaching and learning materials in Higher Education, and particularly for teacher education. We expect the outcomes of this project to be immediately applicable to other wikimedia sites (including wikibooks). During the ORBIT project, we developed a number of features for our mediawiki on an experimental basis, which we now want to develop into proper extensions. Our first goal is to assess the difficulty of this process, and compatibility with the mediawiki upgrade process, as well as to assess impact of our current solutions in terms of performance. Having assessed the options, we would like to improve/(re-)implement the following:

  • Section numbers. When creating longer documents, it is important that each section has a unique number. We would like to be able to prefix the usual page section numbers (1, 2, 3, …) with a chapter number (say “5”, to give 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, …; or say “A”, to give A.1, A.2, A.3). The use of our longer documents (sometimes numbering 100s of printed pages) has been confusing during e.g. during workshops because of the lack of unique section numbers across several pages. (“Let’s look at chapter 5, section 3.” - “No, not this section 3, go to chapter 5 first, then section 3.” vs. “Let’s look at section 5.3.”).
  • Project specific page banners. On our wiki, different "projects" have different “page banners”, i.e. a section at the top of the page that identifies the project. Compare e.g., and In order for projects to choose to place their outputs on a departmental site (let along a University wide, or wikibooks), they need to have their own identity within that site. Otherwise it is simply not acceptable to project stake holders. We have an existing mechanism for this, but it uses the 'site notice’, so we cannot have site notices, and it relies on an actual source code modification, which makes it difficult for us to upgrade.
  • Wiki navigation between pages. We currently have a mechanism (relying on the semantic extension) that allows several wiki pages to be grouped into a collection, displaying a navigation menu on each page, see e.g. We would like to assess our implementation of this, and optimise it.
  • Better searching. We did some user testing, and the wiki search came up as something that users found confusing, and not really useful for finding the content they were looking for. We currently use a Google custom search, but the integration into the wiki is not ideal. We would like to explore options for searching that allows our audience to find relevant content more easily.
  • Assessment of pdf generation. We currently generate our own multi-chapter pdf (using a set of scripts), as we have not found the pediapress pdf generation suitable for our type of content. We would like to explore what other pdf production tool are being worked on, and would like to feed Higher Education requirements into that process.
  • Collaborative options. We would also like to explore options for real-time collaboration, such as the collaborative editor or togetherJS.


£3,000 for roughly 10 days of developer time to address the above issues. A suitable developer could be hired directly by WMUK, no direct funding to Faculty of Education needed: The Faculty of Education will contribute our own staff time (e.g. to manage the project, to host a workshop for Faculty staff), procure additional content through existing projects, liaise with WMUK, include information in conference presentations and engage others through our existing outreach (and, if resources allow, produce a white paper on our experiences of using mediawiki in Higher Education, detailing the enhancements made through this project).


We would like to complete the work before the end of the academic year (say by July 2014), so that we can run workshops before the end of the academic year, that will lead to increased uptake of our resource.


Overarching outcomes

Through our proposal the wiki movement would gain ground in formal Higher Education, particularly in the area of teacher education, and for the use of mediawiki to produce professional open wikibooks. We feel very strongly about the benefits of collaborative teacher resource development, and this projects helps us to take this message out to other departments in the UK. The outcomes will have an impact in a variety of educational contents, both in the UK, and internationally.

Concrete outcomes

The overall specific outcomes of this project are:

  1. Greater engagement of University of Cambridge staff and students with mediawiki, particularly within teacher education. This is measured through additional (University or Faculty) projects adopting our existing mediawiki site to host their resources (such as a teacher development programme for Raspberry Pi.
  2. Greater engagement of UK and international Higher Education staff and students with mediawiki, measured through increased use of discussion on facebook and twitter.

In accordance with the goals, the specific technical deliverables are as follows:

  • Section numbers. A mediawiki extension that allows section numbers to be prefixed with strings, together with documentations. Implementation of this extension on our wiki.
  • Project specific page banners. A mediawiki extension that allows section numbers to be prefixed with strings, together with documentations. Implementation of this extension on our wiki.
  • Wiki navigation between pages. If feasible, and extension that allows better navigation between individual pages in a collection. Otherwise a briefing document on our implementation (together with mediawiki Templates) allowing our approach to be replicated more easily.
  • Better searching. A briefing document on the more advanced search options within mediawiki, aimed at the Higher Education sector. An implementation of these search options on our wiki.
  • Assessment of pdf generation. A briefing document on mediawiki to pdf workflow options, aimed at the Higher Education sector.
  • Collaborative options. A briefing document on real-time collaboration on mediawiki, aimed at the Higher Education sector.


The risks to the project are relatively low, as this is a small number of days of work, over a longer period of time. Loss of key staff during that period does present a risk to the project, which we mitigate through careful planning, and consideration of alternative staffing options.


(I assume this discussion space is for discussion of our proposal? Bjohas (talk) 18:55, 31 March 2014 (BST))