CarmenWiki, a service of Learning Technology in the Office of the Chief Information Officer (CIO), has made its transition from extended pilot to production mode. After being informally available for two years, CarmenWiki is now an official service of the university. Steadily increasing use of CarmenWiki by Ohio State students, faculty and staff convinced the Learning Technology team to take the final steps to make the service more easily available and to provide a larger support structure.
Instructors, staff, and administrators at OSU have requested CarmenWiki spaces for many purposes. Conventionally, people use a wiki to create and edit webpages with text and images. The pages can be linked together to connect ideas or coordinate projects. In CarmenWiki, a comments feature allows people to conduct threaded discussions about what they are writing. A blog-like feature allows participants to keep track of their activities in a more chronological fashion. If needed, Word, PDF, and other kinds of files can be attached to pages to supplement the online content.
“The wiki is a great tool for collaboration,” said Valerie Rake, senior information and outreach coordinator for the Office of the CIO. When a page is updated by one or more contributors, the wiki’s version control feature saves all of the older drafts. This is especially useful in a collaborative writing environment, because it is better organized than a game of e-mail tag, and a valuable alternative from the thread-based format of Carmen discussion boards.
“I think it is a wonderful tool for students to explore and learn,” said Marjorie Chan, Associate Professor for East Asian Languages and Literature, “especially for collaborative work that has a great deal of visual content, such as in the case of my Chinese opera course.”
“CarmenWiki is very nicely set up for teaching purposes,” Chan said. “It enables instructors to determine who can view what pages, and when to "unveil" them -- i.e., when the groups are ready for others in the class to see their finished product. It also enables instructors to determine who has editing rights, so that only students who are authors of a project may make changes to their project's pages.”
CarmenWiki Utilities is a new web site developed by OCIO staff to help make the use of Carmen and CarmenWiki nearly seamless. When an instructor creates a wiki space using CarmenWiki Utilities*, access to the wiki is given to all of the course’s students automatically, matching up with the faculty center grade roster (accessed via Buckeye Link). From there, the space owner can change the students’ level of access. For those given access to the wiki, signing in is as simple as using their OSU Internet Username (name.#).
CarmenWiki spaces can be requested for non-course use as well. For example, departmental and college staff and student groups may request spaces for meeting minutes, event planning, and other collaborations. Through a special login procedure, affiliates of OSU who aren’t employed or enrolled can be given access to the wikispaces. Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Professor David Tomasko uses this feature by inviting experts from business and industry to join the wiki and review students’ projects.
Dr. Anish Amin, former chief medical resident, found the wiki helpful in the internal medicine training program within the College of Medicine.
“I stumbled upon the wiki in my quest to find an online template which would be easy for even folks who are not technology-oriented to use and modify,” he said. “We were looking for something secure as we often use and cite copyrighted material. CarmenWiki seemed a logical choice.”
Amin said there was some initial hesitation to use the new tool, and that the instructors are working to empower their trainees to contribute with discussions and articles at their own discretion. He said the Internal Medicine wiki is frequently used now, and the experience has been academically satisfying. Exploring the wiki helped with his experience as someone who has not studied education, but is still responsible for being a teacher to his trainees.
The flexibility of the CarmenWiki tool makes it an effective learning device for potentially any course or program. It can enhance the learning experience for students of any discipline, academic rigor, or level of technical expertise. Instructions for requesting a CarmenWiki space can be found on the sidebar to the (left/right). Online Help is available at https://carmenwiki.osu.edu/display/wikihelp. More information can be requested by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.