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

This is an accepted submission for Wikimania 2015.

Submission no.
Title of the submission

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

Type of submission (discussion, hot seat, panel, presentation, tutorial, workshop)


Author of the submission

Jon Beasley-Murray, Will Engle, Novak Rogic

E-mail address




Country of origin


Affiliation, if any (organisation, company etc.)

Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology, The University of British Columbia; Faculty of Arts, 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, 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.

MediaWiki as a Teaching and Learning Tool At UBC, MediaWiki is used for a wide range of teaching and learning needs. From authoring content directly in Wikipedia to using local UBC Wiki in number of creative ways. 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, transclusions, and categories and delivers content to smartphone apps, or Engineering department using it to dynamically populate its websites and virtual laboratory walks. “Student as Producer” concept, which is getting quite popular at UBC, is technologically founded in UBC Wiki and further aggregated in many online spaces.

MediaWiki as a CMS Tool 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 extension, developed by CTLT, and available 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.

Discussion 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.


Education Outreach

Length of session (if other than 30 minutes, specify how long)

30 minutes

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  1. Daniel Mietchen (talk) 11:14, 1 March 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Doc James (talk) 17:55, 8 May 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  3. --アンタナナ 23:14, 22 May 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  4. Blue Rasberry (talk) 18:34, 9 July 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  5. Nancy Gertrudiz
  6. --Ліонкінг (talk) 06:37, 17 July 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  7. --Taweetham (talk) 21:10, 17 July 2015 (UTC)[reply]