What is a wiki?
A wiki is a collaborative space for contributors to create interconnected repositories of information. Individuals can create a page of content which can then be edited, added to or connected to by other contributors. A wiki can be an environment for groups, classes or entire courses to record information or knowledge, and can be a platform to building a community of collaboration and learning.
Blackboard will track all new content, edits and revisions that are made to a wiki. Each time something is changed, the previous version of the wiki is saved with details of time and date, and who made the changes. As an instructor, you can look back through the version histories of the wiki to see who has been contributing, with a permanent record of the wiki’s development.
Why would you use a wiki?
A wiki acts as a repository of information that grows in usefulness, seriousness and permanence the more it is contributed to and interacted with by wider groups of students. With dedicated use, a wiki can be a great reference of students’ journey of learning throughout their course.
The use of wikis as digital networks has been aligned with social constructivist learning theory and Wenger’s concept of communities of practice. Writers such as Guth (2007), Bruns and Humphreys (2005) and Mathers and Leigh (2009) have stressed their role in:
- Enabling communication outside of the classroom
- Community knowledge building and resource sharing
- The dynamic development of coursework
- Providing a focal point for learning activity
- Facilitating online group participation and collaboration
- Project-based, discovery and problem-based learning scenarios
- Peer-to-peer learning and support
- Self-directed study.
Examples of activities you could use a wiki for:
- Group projects, assignments and essays
- Simple website design
- Resource lists and bibliographies
- Student solutions to problems or case studies
- Project management
- Recording results or data
- Research notebook.
The educational advantages of wikis for students are that they promote a collaborative working environment, even if students cannot be in the same room together. It lets students practice their writing and editing skills whilst also providing automated retention of drafts, revisions that can be returned to or viewed by an assessor to track development. A wiki also does not restrict students to using just text to store information; they can add other media such as images, videos and audio clips as required within a central, easily accessible digital location.
For tutors, having the overview of students’ projects from concept to finish lets you see how students are developing and see the decisions that are being made as a group. Having this overview and retention of versions also allows staff members to have early intervention when a group is struggling, as this will be reflected in the quality and quantity of information present on the wiki. Being able to see a log of individual contributions to the wiki also helps in issues that arise around students having group members that do not participate.
Assessment and feedback:
- Providing a record of contributions and discussion for revision or future reference
- The facilitation of peer feedback, where students are able to collaborate and comment on each other’s work
- Wikis can be linked to the Grade Centre, and feature online marking/feedback tools.
How can you get started with a Blackboard Wiki?
Alternatively, if you would like to speak to one of the TEL advisors in CQSD about using wikis in your teaching, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with a summary of your query to request a TEL 1-2-1 Consultation.
Find out how Dr Mara Oliva has used wikis in her history module as a summative group assessment activity.
Salmon (2013) recommends that when using a wiki, like all online learning activities, as a moderator you create a structure for the wiki; otherwise it may grow quickly and become increasingly complex. A well-structured and well-introduced wiki is a great platform for students to deposit great amounts of information that can be easily weaved together and assessed.
Foord (2008) outlines this same principle clearly in the STOLEN principle for using wikis and recommends:
- A basic outline of pages within the wiki is constructed before students start, as a framework on which they can build.
- A strategy for engagement is considered, where certain tasks or areas of the wiki are designated to individuals or activity is staged with intermediate deadlines.
Schroeder (2008) describes 10 aspects of best practice to improve student engagement:
- Include explicit instructions on how to use the wiki and provide time for students to practice.
- Set some conventions and etiquette on the use of the wiki that students will agree to abide by.
- Realise some students will require initial technical assistance as they learn how to participate in the wiki.
- Create a culture of trust within the wiki. Allow time for students to get to know each other online. This aspect on online ‘socialisation’ can be facilitated with icebreaker activities at the start.
- Set clear expectations of what students need to do within the wiki and ensure these are aligned directly to the learning outcomes of the module.
- Make activities meaningful and authentic. For example, a group project. This aspect has been considered one of the critical factors in improving student engagement.
- Set a common goal for the collaborative activity. This will help motivate students to work together.
- Define student roles and clearly defining the activity, along with assessments are crucial to the success of collaborative learning.
- Remind students of module deadlines to help them draw together wiki activity.
- Model examples of collaborative activities to help show what the results should look like.
Foord, D (2008) The STOLEN principle for using wikis educationally, A6 training, http://www.a6training.co.uk/resources/STOLENticksheet.doc (Accessed 1 February 2019).
Salmon, G (2013) E-tivities: The key to active online learning. Second Ed. Abingdon: Routledge, 62.
Schroeder, B (2008) ’10 Best practices for using wikis in education’. Technology Teacher, 21 May [online], https://edtechtoday.wordpress.com/2008/05/21/10-best-practices-for-using-wikis-in-education/ (Accessed 1 February 2019).