Using Wikis in Courses

There are so many course tools available within most learner management systems (LMS). Whether you are teaching on-campus, online, or hybrid, LMS’ are a great facilitator for delivering learning materials to students. A wiki is a great collaboration tool that can be used for the entire class or within groups. Some examples of LMS’ are Blackboard, Desire2Learn and Edvance360. There are several open source wiki providers such as Google Sites, Wikispaces, and PBwiki.

What is a wiki?

Basically, wikis are online tools that provide information on a topic and allow people to collaborate and edit the information. A wiki is considered a Web 2.0 tool. According to Wikipedia, a wiki is “a website which allows its users to add, modify, or delete its content via a web browser usually using a simplified markup language or a rich-text editor. Wikis are powered by wiki software. Most are created collaboratively.” The origin of the word “wiki” is Hawaiian and means “fast” or “quick”. Wikipedia is probably the most popular wiki repository that serves as a free encyclopedia. Wikipedia has over 4,200,000 articles in English. In education there has been a debate over the use of Wikipedia, because it can be edited by anyone with an account. It is a good initial, quick tool to begin the research process. However, it is best to use peer-reviewed journal databases to conduct research for writing research papers.

Why should I use a wiki?

Wikis are great tools because “they help your students reach Bloom’s higher order skills – things like creating and evaluating. Additionally, wikis achieve many of Chickering and Ehrmann good teaching practices including cooperation between students, active learning, prompt feedback from peers, time on task, the articulation of high expectations, and support for diverse talents.” Wikis are a great method for creating collaboration in courses. It requires students and the professor to work together towards a common goal. In addition, most students are already familiar with the technology so the learning curve is minimal. It also allows them to utilize tools they are already using to help them learn. Wikis are also great resources for businesses. Businesses can use wikis to work on group projects and as a knowledge base for frequently asked questions within their organization.

How do wikis benefit students?

Students benefit from class wikis by contributing to the class discussion and material. Professors can add a vocabulary word or phrase into the wiki (called a wiki entry). Students watch for those keywords or phrases in the videos, PowerPoints, and course material. They then define the terms in the wiki in their own words. Other students read their fellow students’ entries and add their own twist. This fosters debate and discussion that can be missing in online classes. Students have a reason to participate and defend their positions. In on-campus courses, those students who might not be apt to participate in a passionate class discussion suddenly become quite verbose when placed in front of a computer.

How do wikis benefit professors?

Here are two ways professors can benefit from wikis:

  1. They have immediate access to what the students are learning. If students are defining something incorrectly, the teacher does not have to wait until everyone fails a quiz to know that the topic should be covered again.
  2. They can present real-world challenges to students. Students can work together to solve the challenge by sharing resources, editing documents, defining parameters and definitions, assigning duties and deadlines, and more. Where are there examples of wikis? There are so many example wikis available through a simple search on the Internet.

Below are a few examples:

  1. Columbia University
  2. University of Chicago
  3. University of San Diego
  4. Denver Broncos
  5. University of Massachusetts Boston

Originally published on Capterra blog.