Creating and Using Course Wikis

As part of the 2014 Teaching with Technology Institute at Northern Illinois University, I led a breakout session for faculty where we explored creating a course wiki.  We looked at both 3rd party wiki tools as well as integrated course wikis within the learning management system (Blackboard), using a sandbox wiki on Jottit. The following are links to the resources and I shared regarding wikis during this session:

What is a Wiki?

Collaborative website where all participants have equal ability to make change to content

Key features:

  • Easy to use
  • History of contributions
  • Ability to revert to previous versions

Why Wikis in Higher Education?

  • Facilitate constructivist approaches to learning
  • Equal “voice” for all participants
  • Students retain access to constructed knowledge after course ends
  • Can be public or private
  • Easy to use; no advanced programming skills needed
  • View and contribute from any Internet connection

Uses of Wikis

  • E-portfolios
  • Group collaborations
  • Soliciting input from others
  • Presentations
  • …any collaborative content creation activity!

Wiki Activity Ideas

  • Brainstorming of ideas
  • Outlining text materials
  • Drafting weekly summaries of instructional content
  • Collecting bibliography of supplemental resources
  • Creating interactive glossary of key terms
  • …the list goes on, limited only by your imagination!

Sample Wikis

Free Wiki Tools

  • Wiki Tools – directory of 30+ free wiki tools compiled by Jane Hart, Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies
  • DokuWiki – open source wiki software which can be installed on your own web server
  • Jottit – wiki tool that makes getting a website as easy as filling out a textbox
  • MediaWiki – open source wiki software that powers Wikipedia
  • WikiMatrix – compare multiple available wiki tools
  • Wikispaces

Selecting the Right Wiki Tool

  • Does you institution already offer and/or support a wiki tool?
  • Is free hosting available?
  • Is a “WYSIWYG” (What You See Is What You Get) editor built into the wiki?
  • Is special “wiki markup” needed for advanced editing?
  • How long with the wiki be available to students?
  • Can pages be made either public or private?
  • Can other files be uploaded & stored with wiki pages?
  • Can other media elements be embedded in wiki pages? (e.g. videos, spreadsheets, calendars, etc.)
  • How well does the wiki tool integrate with other online services?
  • How stable is the wiki hosting provider?

Wiki Resources

Tips for Teaching with Wikis

  • Decide whether to use single wiki for class or multiple wikis (e.g. each group)
  • Provide suggested organizational structure or create empty pages (recommended)
  • Customize navigation for easy access (ie: links to pages)
  • Create sub-pages within hierarchical structure

Tips for Designing Wiki Activities

  • Specify clear purpose for use of wiki
  • Provide expectations and structure for contributions
  • Allow time for students to become familiar with the wiki tool (e.g. make contributions to individual page)
  • Include instructions for use and/or links where students can find more information (e.g. screencast instructions)

Wiki Issues and Limitations

  • Authorization of users (ie: users must have a login to the wiki tool)
  • Monitoring for inappropriate user
  • Risks to allowing manipulation of site data
  • Structuring initial content and pages can be a challenge
  • How one accesses information, navigates, creates links, etc. must be addressed early
  • Represents collective perspective

Blackboard Wikis vs. 3rd Party Wikis

  Blackboard Wikis 3rd Party Wikis
Access Only registered students and instructor can access in Bb course Can be made available for anyone to access publicly without a Bb login
Availability Available to students and instructor for duration of course Available to students, instructor, and potentially others after course ends
History History of changes tracked and can easily be compared, reverted back to History of changes tracked and can easily be compared, reverted back to
Integration Can be easily graded using interactive Bb rubric and feedback securely provided to students in Grade Center No integration for grading in Bb
Security Student-created content is secure and only available for other students in the course to view Depends on the wiki tool selected
Support Support offered by Blackboard support personnel Depends on the wiki tool selected