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Submissions/MediaWiki as a Transformative University Platform: Creating an Institutional Gateway to the Commons

From Wikimania 2012 • Washington, D.C., USA

This is a rejected submission for Wikimania 2012.

Submission no.


Title of the submission
MediaWiki as a Transformative University Platform: Creating an Institutional Gateway to the Commons
Type of submission (workshop, tutorial, panel, presentation)
Author of the submission
Brian Lamb, Will Engle, Novak Rogic
E-mail address


Country of origin
Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)
Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology, The University of British Columbia
Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)

The University of British Columbia’s Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT) has been supporting institutional wikis since 2003. Its most recent MediaWiki instance, the UBC Wiki (http://wiki.ubc.ca/), is an institution-wide platform that has emerged as an essential component in the university’s online environment and evolving web strategy. The platform has become a central collaborative workspace, a shared knowledge repository about UBC, a collection of university training materials and documentation, and a rapidly growing set of course materials and open educational resources.

More than a collection of resources, the UBC Wiki serves as a collaborative authoring space for content that is republished on diverse sites across and beyond the institution. This process challenges previously locked-down university content management systems and processes, and empowers faculty, students, and staff to edit and share content to benefit the entire campus community.

Using MediaWiki as a content management system allows such open and sharable content to be syndicated dynamically in multiple online learning spaces -- including traditional course management systems -- via an embed code on each wiki page. In addition, the CTLT has developed the “Wiki Embed” WordPress plugin which allows for more precise control over how MediaWiki content is represented within WordPress sites. This distributed content management approach has been adopted by a number of campus groups, including the UBC Library. The system has also effectively integrated the Collections extension to allow the Wiki to support print resources. The clear advantages of this approach have moved a number of campus processes out of rigidly controlled content management strategy, and greatly expanded the scope and scale of open activity and collaboration at the University.

In its use of MediaWiki, the CTLT attempts to balance institutional requirements for defined structure with practices that allow for emergence. UBC’s “Wiki Gardener” provides assistance to users, and also gently ensures that emerging community, organizational and Namespace standards are met. The open and collaborative ethos has allowed users across the institution to frequently drive innovation, such as a Math Department initiative that constructs and reassembles learning resources using a flexible and powerful content model that exploits namespaces, transclusion, and categories.

Discussion will focus not only on technical and practical details, but questions of navigating organizational culture and policy concerns such as copyright. In addition to sharing development and lessons learned, the UBC Wiki team is eager to engage a dialogue on a range of planned enhancements to the project. One is how the present institutional focus of the wiki might be broadened to integrate with other WikiMedia initiatives and MediaWiki sites, whether it be via syndication, federation, cross-uploading or other means. We are also keen to see how the platform can be pushed to support mobile content and learning, ebooks, and open data management.

Length of presentation/talk
25 Minutes
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
Hopefully, yes.
Slides or further information (optional)
Special request as to time of presentations

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