Wikis

An article by Marybeth Green and Gerri Maxwell in the most recent edition of EDUCAUSE Quarterly, “Wikify Your Course: Designing and Implementing a Wiki for Your Learning Environment.” was brought to the Academic Technologies staffs’ attention.  Although its focus is on wiki use in higher Ed, the article starts with technical considerations to be made at the support level when choosing from one of the many different companies offering wiki sites.  Considerations like how “private” it can be, can the college’s internet traffic capacity handle something where a large amount of data is being sent to and where there are many people on one site at one time were addressed.  I appreciate such issues being addressed because I haven’t seen a nuts-and bolts view of having one at a college in other writings.

Wikis can be used for group projects that are of a long or short time length.  Creating a group essay is more efficiently completed on a wiki than passing paper around.  The process can alleviate the student burden of coordinating the time for physically meeting and having to make sure all members of the team are participating equally.

The best affordance of the wiki is that it cuts down on the time and energy spent on getting together to do the project so more time can be spent on creating content at a deeper level. Short term projects that involve tables can be copy and pasted from a word document to the wiki as well. (Green & Maxwell, 4)

As the college looks to embrace, as a unit, the integration of wikis, I have found my research into the uses of wikis going deeper within the actual designated and spontaneous behaviors of any wiki’s “contributor.” The idea of “who does what” in a wiki space to be most effective must be clearly outlined to ensure efficient teamwork.   It is a tool for group collaboration and the definition of roles for contribution can be even more clearly defined as everyone role is transparent during the editing process.  These relationships may be of consideration to those mentors interested in hosting a class wiki. Being able to have all involved sit down and learn about what their role will be, and not address what content they will actually put in it can be done over an indefinite period of time for faculty and staff. Unfortunately, students in higher education, and blended learning, don’t have a loose frame time span to learn to use new technologies.

Therefore, the final page of the article was of most benefit to me as it detailed issues that arose from using wikis in the higher Ed setting.

  • Don’t assume students will become proficient in using a wiki immediately.
  • Students were found to be reluctant to edit each other’s work.
  • Making peer editing a requirement was seen by students as additional pressure.
  • Some students may not readily find value in a learning environment where they take complete ownership in their learning.

Possibilities

Wikis have proven to be a highly effective tool for group collaboration in the classroom and distance setting.  By addressing the above issues as an institution seeks to integrate this tool, planning can take place to insure student participation is at a high level. Perhaps a short, introductory unit on using a wiki could be given by the mentor for their mentees before they enter and edit content.  The focus, then, could be on content itself and student technological issues could be assayed beforehand.  Students should also be made to understand that they must wisely choose what peer content to edit and be prepared to give a constructive explanation of why they made such edits.  Pressure can be alleviated from requiring peer editing by showing student guidelines for what constitutes as peer editing and what constitutes as unconstructive bashing.  Finally, struggling with the idea that greater ownership in ones academic work is worthwhile is less likely to be an issue for adult learners, who are highly self-directed.

Green, M. & Maxwell, G.  (2010) Wikify Your Course: Designing and Implementing a Wiki for your Learning Environment.  EDUCAUSE Quarterly. 33 (3). pp. 1-11.

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