The Internet is flooded with free stuff. Look around and you’ll find a multitude of applications and sites that offer all kinds of content for free. But the model has been changing recently and sites that were once free are beginning to charge. Hulu and Ning are great examples of this. Both sites offered their services at no charge but found that they could not support their work on advertising alone. So, the sites (and many others) moved to subscription based models where users had to pay to use the site which drove some loyal people away.
In the present economic climate, however, you rarely hear about for-pay sites suddenly becoming free. Wikispaces has just made this almost unprecedented move. After years of offering free wikis to K-12 institutions, Wikispaces is now offering free private wikis for Higher Education users. Now, to be completely fair to Wikispaces, they’ve always offered free wikis to educators working in colleges and universities. These free wikis, however, could only be public or protected, meaning that they were either totally open for anyone to edit or open only to select editors. Either way, however, the content on the wikis was open and viewable by the general public. In a private wiki, users need to log-in before they can even view the content on the site. This offers a degree of privacy and security for those of us who want students to be able to contribute and collaborate in a wiki. With a private wiki, students won’t have to worry whether the whole world is watching while they complete their work. The move to free wikis for higher education will save the average educator about $60 for every private wiki they manage through Wikispaces. To date, Wikispaces has given away more than 400,000 free wikis to educators, which will only continue to grow now that they’re offering free options to both collegiate and K-12 institutions.
For those of you who might be new to wikis, be sure to check out my blog post from last summer where I explained the educational value of wikis as well as some applications. There’s even a great video from the In Plain English folks which will help explain wikis conceptually.