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What are Wikis? And should you use them? A Wiki can be defined as ‘‘a system that allows one or more people to build up a corpus of knowledge in a set of interlinked web pages, using a process of creating and editing pages” (p.5) (6).
Simply put, a Wiki can be defined as a web-based tool on which users collaboratively add/delete/modify content directly from the web browser. The most famous wiki is Wikipedia. Wikis are webpages that encourage user collaboration, allowing them to create, edit, delete, and publish information. For this reason, they are useful for a number of synergistic educational activities, including study guide creation and collaborating on group presentations and assignments.
Adopting technology in education can be very challenging. Research studies document many barriers (lack of resources, lack of education, etc). Wikis have become an increasingly popular form of technology use in classrooms. Educators and teachers are using Wikis as an effective teaching and learning tool to enhance the learning process. Collaboration is an important part of teaching and learning. And Wikis can facilitate collaboration. Wikis can be used to engage learners in learning with others.
In the traditional classroom setting, teachers provide most of the classroom information. With wikis, students can collaboratively create a great deal of that classroom information. Wikis allow students to become the authors of knowledge rather than the consumers of it, making wikis an excellent resource for inspiring students to form critical thinking techniques, to learn from their peers, and to become better contributors in group settings.
The principal advantages of wikis are similar in traditional classrooms and in hybrid or online courses as a mode of gathering information, a mode of assessment, and a way to foster collaboration and engagement among students.
Using wikis in the classroom allows for a unique online experience for students. It basically allows them to exercise control. By allowing more authority over the outcome of a project or assignment, teachers can encourage students to produce content rather than just consume it. This role reversal encourages students to truly learn from and absorb the information.
In order to effectively employ wiki use in your classroom, you must first determine which wiki website is best for you and your class.
Wikis can increase educational productivity:
- Wikis support collaborative learning because Wikis can enable groups of students to work together to solve a problem, complete a project, etc.
- Using Wikis effectively may help your students reach Bloom’s higher-order skills, e.g., creating, evaluation, etc.
- Wikis promote active learning where students can actively participate in educational activities like writing, discussing, etc.
- Wikis can help you create interactive learning environments
- Wikis can help you promote open dialogue and encourage community building
- Wikis can help you prepare your students for the 21st-century marketplace by developing digital literacy skills
- Wikis can improve students’ writing skills
Advantages of wikis include:
- Offer content access at all times, no matter where the user is located
- Support many forms of media, including URLs, photos, videos, and music
- Let the user view every change and entry for group assignments
- Collect information from student groups
- Allow for collaboration in writing of assignment or course reviews
- Offer a highly useful resource for teamwork and conversation at a low cost
- Allow for detailed reading, modification, and recording of each draft
- Foster collaboration between teachers and students in the design and implementation of uncomplicated webpages
- Encourage peer review and editing in group assignments
- Allow for collaborative authoring of projects and assignments
- Offer an alternative to traditional presentation tools like PowerPoint
- Provide an environmentally-friendly alternative to paper-based assignments
- Allow for easy tracking of deadline compliance thanks to date and time stamps
- Show all revisions, offering options like reverting to former versions and ability to undo changes
How to use Wikis in teaching and learning
If you are an educator and want to use Wikis, here some tips for you:
- Set clear rules and expectations
- Let students know what you expect and how students’ work will be evaluated (perhaps design a rubric)
- Include detailed instructions
- Give authentic assignments
- Clearly define students’ roles and activities
- Closely monitor students’ activities
- Ask students to review and comment on each other’s entries
- Encourage interaction
- Become familiar with Wikis yourself
Options for using wikis in traditional or hybrid/online classes include (how to design a course):
- Develop a data bank complete with definitions, descriptions, research information, encyclopedia entries, and more
- Utilize as a hub for group assignments, offering options for revision, tracking contributor participation, and providing a cooperative platform
- Employ as a data bank between classes or semesters
- Use as a training guide with specific directions, like how to complete an exercise
- Allow students to make changes to the training guide in an effort to make it better for future students
See also: Just In Time Teaching
Wikis can be used in MOOCs
How to make wikis work for your classroom
- Offer initiation, directions, and rules for students on wiki use. Make yourself available to answer questions and troubleshoot.
- Form a plan for the layout and structure of the wiki. It may be best to design a simple template yourself, allowing students to add their own information and pages.
- Some wikis limit editing access to one student at a time. Familiarize yourself with the functionality of the wiki site and make a plan for handling this potential roadblock to avoid issues.
- Create an assessment plan to evaluate student participation in the wiki.
- Think about how the wiki will interact or overlap with other classroom assignments and collaborations. Adjust as needed to account for any conflicts.
- Initiate and support hyperlinking to your students.
- Most learning management systems support wiki features and comment functionality. How does this correlate and fit in with the usual discussion board?
- Include the wiki project in your classroom syllabus.
- Talk about cooperative edits before the project begins.
- Be mindful that some wikis might require firewalls and pop-up blockers to be disabled in order to function properly.
You can use Wikis for the following types of activities:
- A white paper
- Research projects
- Student e-portfolios
- Reading comments
- Class summaries
- Discussion activities
- Creating collaborative stories
- Peer feedback
- Resource repository
- Teachers can publish instructional materials
See also: Concept maps
What to avoid
- Do not assume that your students have previous Wiki experience
- Structure and guidance is necessary
Wikis can develop teachers’ knowledge management processes and fulfil student’s satisfaction while collaborating in designing interdisciplinary projects. 
If effectively deployed, wikis, blogs and podcasts could offer a way to enhance students’, clinicians’ and patients’ learning experiences, and deepen levels of learners’ engagement and collaboration within digital learning environments. 
Wiki technology provides new opportunities to foster collaborative writing in teacher education. 
This study demonstrates that while wikis can be a tool for post-secondary collaborative learning, appropriate pedagogical supports are required for successful implementation.
We believe that wiki technology offers a number of potential benefits for administrators, students and instructors, including the ability to share information online, to construct knowledge together, to facilitate collaboration and to enable social learning and peer feedback.
- Biasutti, M., & Heba, E. D. (2012). Using Wiki in teacher education: Impact on knowledge management processes and student satisfaction. Computers & Education, 59(3), 861-872.
- Boulos, M. N. K., Maramba, I., & Wheeler, S. (2006). Wikis, blogs and podcasts: a new generation of Web-based tools for virtual collaborative clinical practice and education. BMC medical education, 6(1), 41.
- Hadjerrouit, S. (2014). Wiki as a collaborative writing tool in teacher education: Evaluation and suggestions for effective use. Computers in Human Behavior, 32, 301-312.
- Zheng, B., Niiya, M., & Warschauer, M. (2015). Wikis and collaborative learning in higher education. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 24(3), 357-374.
- Rasmussen, A., Lewis, M., & White, J. (2013). The application of wiki technology in medical education. Medical teacher, 35(2), 109-114.
- Franklin, T., & Van Harmelen, M. (2007). Web 2.0 for content for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. Bristol: JISC.
See also: ADDIE model