Wiki Pilot Program Explores Instructional Applications

Article by Sally Hritz
Originally published in a different format

Because of growing interest in a university-sponsored wiki, Technology Enhanced Learning and Research initiated a pilot program this quarter to explore the feasibility of offering this service to the campus. Requests for wiki space poured in, and a full roster of pilot participants are now evaluating an application called Confluence for potential campus use. Most of the 25 testers are using the wiki in courses, but some are applying it to administrative and research projects.

A wiki enables a group to collaborate on teaching, research, and administrative work. They do that by contributing to a web space where the underlying software tracks and compiles the contributions. For instance, when “Contributor A” clicks edit, the text becomes live and s/he can type in new content or change what’s already there. “Contributor B” follows, adding more material or changing what “Contributor A” inserted. Others can simply comment without changing.

“The wiki idea is that the collective knowledge of the group becomes more accurate, creative, and useful than any one person’s knowledge,” says TELR eLearning consultant Valerie Rake, who is also interim lead of training and consultation. “Through the group writing, all the detail gets in and all the grammar is corrected and everything is set right.”

Rake points out that the focus of the pilot is to promote instructional wikis. She notes that instructors could use wikis, for example, to enable students collectively or collaboratively to create an annotated discography for a music history course. Other examples include giving each student in a course that meets in Second Life a wiki page to write about his/her activities in that virtual environment; or letting students collectively make up potential exam questions and provide answers; or asking students to write sample pages of coursework and receiving the instructor’s comments for revision.

“The pilot will give us a sense of how Confluence software handles the load of something as big as Ohio State,” Rake says. “Can we figure out a way to create and manage that many wikis? How much effort does it take to support everyone who wants to use it? The ultimate, ideal goal is that you can opt for a wiki within your Carmen course, or request a wiki through an online form, if that is more convenient.”

She adds that if Ohio State is able to offer this service beyond the pilot, faculty members using it would be able to choose, the next time they offer a course, whether to start with the existing wiki and let the students take it in new directions, or begin a new wiki. “It’s about the process and showing students how to create knowledge in a collaborative way, which is the way they would be doing it professionally, whether they use a wiki or not. The value added is the collaborative work. It might be a knowledge base, it might be a set of terms and definitions to help students study for exams. It’s what the professor and the students want it to be.”

Get more information on the wiki pilot test.

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