Wikipedia, the free online dictionary, provides a database that contains a lot of information on diverse topics. It begins with definition of the topic being researched followed by brief background information about the topic while at the same time giving external links on technical terms mentioned in the text.
It is structured specially to provide sufficient information concerning the topic being researched with further information sources mentioned at the end of the page. With Wikipedia, it is easy for readers with extra information on a topic to add or edit the existing information thus making Wikipedia a valuable information resource.
On Distance Learning, Wikipedia explains the term ‘distance learning’ before reviewing the origins and development of distance learning. Additionally, it also provides the technologies that facilitate distance learning, the factors that have promoted its development and the benefits of distance learning alongside the external links and further information sources.
The structure of Wikipedia provides easy access to external links on the same topic to the reader thus helping the reader to expand his or her understanding on a given topic which allows the reader to confirm the authenticity of the information provided by referring on the other sources.
In addition, Wikipedia is structured with an edit and discussion options to enable readers willing to share information to provide it to other readers. Apart from the in-text external links, references are provided at the end of the article and other related topics under the ‘see also’ option. To promote the reliability of the information provided, non-cited sources are often challenged and removed.
The many aspects of design of Wikipedia make it more user-friendly with easy access to information from other sources. Buttons and boxes link the user to other sources or further information on the topic. In the article Distance Learning, technical have a distinctive blue color which is easily identifiable. Superscripted numbers after the technical words tally with the reference sources to allow the reader to refer to these sources.
Wikipedia provides a primary source for readers researching for more information about a topic. Wikipedia primarily targets three categories of readers. First, readers seeking for basic information concerning a topic get it on Wikipedia. The article, Distance Education, provides background information and history of distance education to enable the reader acquire basic understanding of the topic.
The article further provides literature on the factors that have contributed to the development of distance education and its benefits. The other category of readers includes those who are knowledgeable in a particular topic and wish to share that information. The edit and discussion buttons allow sharing of information among readers. The final category of readers includes those who intend to get more information on the topic. The external links and references provided help the readers to achieve this.
In the article, Distance education, I would like to follow up on sources that provide information on the various aspects of distance education particularly the site with the article on virtual learning environment. Other areas that I am interested to get more information through the external links include the electronic learning, educational technology and continuing education. I would like to understand the difference between these areas and distance education.
In conclusion, Wikipedia presents an invaluable information resource to readers and researchers. It also promotes information sharing through the edit and discussion options. Its design allows easy access to other relevant information sites for readers to gain better understanding on a given concept. The external sites allow the reader to confirm the authenticity of the information provided.
Wikipedia. (2011). Distance Learning. Retrieved 18 April 2011, from