Wise wiki advice

Wiki Advice Based on Personal Experience and Current Research Studies:

From personal experience, I found the following to be very important:

  • model the expectations and the use of wiki technology to students
  • introduce students progressively to more complex aspects of wikis
  • provide students with links to wikispaces 'help' pages and 'tours'
  • set regular 'mini' deadlines for tasks
  • provide 'mini' deadlines and expectations for students' use of the discussion forums available for each page
  • provide class time to ensure collaboration is taking place and to gauge how individual students are coping with the technology, also to assess how they are going with group work in general
  • make students aware of the assessment criteria and particularly that they are being assessed on their ability to communicate and collaborate with other members of their wiki group
  • provide different levels of scaffolding for students, according the their individual learning needs
  • provide students with some choice regarding the way in which their wiki is presented and some of the tasks they elect to complete

Research Studies:

Davies (cited in Bower, Woo, Roberts & Watters 2006), from his research recommends:
  • ‘careful seeding’ with appropriate modelling but not so extensively so that students lose ownership
  • Training (both technical and social)
  • Encouraging successful behaviours via reference to other examples.

Bower et al (2006), following their research into wiki use in IT courses at postgraduate level, devised a set of 12 principles for implementing wiki based learning tasks:
  1. Task type affects degree of integration reflected in the wiki
  2. Wikis are suited to tasks requiring negotiated meaning
  3. Tasks requiring less integrated and subjective information are better suited to discussion boards
  4. Providing students with suggestions for patterns of contribution is desirable (eg. the way I modelled pages of the CC wiki for my students)
  5. Time is required for students to become proficient users of the wikis
  6. Technical guidance throughout the use of the wikis can improve the student experience
  7. Care needs to be taken to advance match the tool/s provided to the collaborative requirements of the learning task
  8. Task authenticity impacts on student contribution
  9. Academics need to be aware of the contribution/review trade off when choosing wikis as opposed to face to face collaboration
  10. Wikis are more appropriate than face to face collaboration when you require students to make well considered, asynchronous contributions that are trackable
  11. For mission critical implementations, investigating the performance of the wiki tool being considered is time well spent
  12. Making wiki contributions assessable and providing some level of ongoing academic feedback upon those contributions appear effective andragogic strategies for encouraging participation.

In addition, Bower et al (2006) observed a degree of variance in the ways in which members contributed to group tasks – some pages were created entirely by an individual member, whereas in other examples, the pages had been created collaboratively and members had contributed on a regular basis. They advised that the latter is certainly preferable as it makes full use of collaboration with suggestions and refinements being made by others.

‘Just because a teacher builds a Wiki, does not mean that it will automatically engage students in learning. Planning for integration of Wikis requires rethinking teaching strategies and techniques to take advantage of their full potential.’ (Wetzel 2009)