Let’s get ready to rumble—a wiki/textbook smackdown is coming to the University of California Davis for the spring 2014 term.
In one corner is the traditional print chemistry textbook, used by general chemistry classes for decades. It will face off against the online ChemWiki, an open collection of chemistry articles and resources, collected and vetted over the last five years by Professor Delmar Larsen and a host of student-editors. Researchers from the Center for Education and Evaluation Services at the UC Davis School of Education will decide the winner, according to a university press release.
The 200 students enrolled in general chemistry during the spring term will all attend the same lectures and take the same tests. But half will study from the regular textbook while the other half will use the free ChemWiki in lieu of a textbook. The head-to-head bout, supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, is intended to determine whether the wiki is good enough to knock the textbook out and save students money.
If so, additional grant monies will help expand the wiki. Plans are underway for a collaboration with UC Irvine’s OpenChem initiative, a series of free and open video-recorded lectures on chemistry.
Larsen and his colleagues are also creating wikis for other scientific fields—including physics, statistics, geology, biology, and mathematics—with the idea they may someday deliver a final blow to textbooks, at least those for undergraduate courses dealing with fundamental concepts that haven’t changed in years.