Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that is free, multilingual, editable, and is formed by collaborative efforts throughout the world. Wikipedia was first created in the year 2001, and over the past eight years, the website has grown several times. Today more than 65 million people visit the web site every month. More than 13, 000, 000 articles are present on Wikipedia and more than 75000 writers and researchers from various part of the world make contributions to the website regularly. Wikipedia works in about 260 languages throughout the world. In English more than 3, 000, 000 articles exist. A user can visit the Wikipedia web site to search information, edit information, create new articles, etc. A person who is visiting the Wikipedia web site can make valuable contributions. The person need not demonstrate the experience or the training in the field. Once the information is written on the Wikipedia web page, another person can edit the information. A person using Wikipedia need not worry of removing or adding information as this would be taken care of by the company personnel. A user can contribute to the Wikipedia website in different ways including providing information, citation, references, etc. The company is making a strong effort to prevent start topics on various subject matters, keeping in mind the people’s requirements.
Summary description of its structure and purpose
The summary article on distance education is a focusing topic in the field of education and involves the use teaching, learning in adults, use of systems, etc, for students that are physically not present at the site of education. The main purpose of organizing distance education would be to bridge the gap between the teachers and the potential learners who are separated out due to time, distance, and other reasons. Distance education plays a vital role in adult education. The teachers and the students would communicate with each other through mails, contact classes, tele-conversations, provision of assignments, etc. The use of technology has helped the development of distance education as computers are effectively acting s strong communicating devices. Many universities across the world have gone in for this mode of education. Distance education has certain benefits. There is a expanding access of education. Using the distance education mode, universities can put up their programs on the global map and get a diverse pool of students belonging to various cultural backgrounds. As distance education can be undertaken at any time, place, etc, people from various age groups, walk of life, etc, are taking up the course. As distance education has strong educational requirements, there is an urgent need for scientific and technical development and hence greater use of science and technology in the mode of education.
Its overall `look and feel` and apparent target audience
The article on distance education is simple, updated, current, validated and objective in nature. The graphics that are existent in the web site seem appropriate for the user of this particular area, although Wikipedia has not gone in for customized graphics for customized topics. Surprisingly, the webpage of Distance education in Wikipedia has not used any image representative of this topic (which is usually present in other topics). The web page has provided hyperlinks to several pages that seem to be very well functioning. The article is divided into various sub-topics such as history, technology used in delivery, major benefits of use, etc, which provide appropriate information. The target audience of the article includes students, employers, parents, teachers, professors, counselors, administrators, university personnel, government, employees, etc.
What you find useful about this site
The information may be very objective in nature and would provide basic information to the layperson (who wants to know about distance education). However, for research purposes, the links present in the References section can be only utilized. The links provided are leading to good quality information. There are also quality external links present towards the end of the article. To some extent, the website was very informative, but again I required to cross-check the validity of the information with evidence-based resources present on the internet.
Links there that you either did or intend to follow up
The links present in the inline text, references and the external link section were fully functional and lead to certain web pages. Among the links that I intended to follow up included the Distance Learning Project, The Official United States Distance Learning Association and the Texas Distance Learning Association. The article also contained the “See Also” section that provided link to other related Wikipedia articles. These articles were of immense interests to users who were interested in distance education.
Any other things about the site that you find interesting
The article contains the ‘edit’ buttons that were present at the end of each section which helps the user to add any information that he/she thinks would be useful to improve the completeness and quality of the article. However, I feel that having such a feature in the article has several advantages and disadvantages. Users can put in their contributions to add to the value of the articles. This would permit greater number of people to have interest in the article. However, there is always the risk of users inserting junk information that may seem to be inappropriate for the article. This feature seems to be a huge problem with the credibility of the Wikipedia web site.
Bottom-line evaluation of its value to you
Wikipedia seems to be a very informative and useful website containing customized information and providing references, in-text links, references and citations that are very useful to the user. There is a greater chance of getting useful, validated, updated, current, credible and relevant information on the website. However, the risk of users inserting junk information is also present as anybody can edit the information that is present in the website. This is a huge limitation of Wikipedia. Although the site has resources to identify this information and make necessary changes, the risk users using junk information always exists (especially when the edited information has not been verified). Instead the users can directly suggest the Wikipedia directly to make changes in the article and also provide the Evidence-based resources.
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