Using Wikis to Promote Student Collaboration

You can increase the interaction and collaboration outside of class time among your students by using online technologies such as wikis or blogs.  Even if you are not teaching an online course, you can take advantage of the instructional benefits of these technologies as a complement of your face-to-face courses.

Wikis are collaborative tools that allow multiple users to work on the same content. Probably the most common example of a wiki is Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that can be edited by anyone. However, most Wiki systems nowadays provide a feature that allows you to assign editing and viewing capabilities to a specific group of users, thus protecting the content in this way.

For assessment purposes, all wikis have a revision history feature that allows everyone to know who participated, how much and how often. In this way you can easily identify who contributed and who just took it easy.  Moreover, wikis keep a history of every single change done on every page; this allows you to see the students’ developmental process required to accomplish the final product, and can act to safeguard each page in the event of user mischief or editing mishaps. Peer assessment and employing grading rubrics can provide other useful assessment strategies when using wikis for student collaborative assignments.

Here are some examples how you can use wikis in your class:

Scavenger hunt: This is a great ice breaking activity. Split your class in groups of three to four students each. Assign a list of items, tasks or questions related to the topic that will be covered next class. Each group is requested to report back their findings using the wiki.

WebQuest: Every group will be responsible for locating websites related to their topic, and then annotate, rank, and organize them using the wiki. By the end of the course, the students will have different wiki pages (one per topic) with a list of valuable references that they can use in the future.

Collaborative writing project: In this activity each group is assigned a project such as a research paper, literature review, handbook, etc.  Students are encouraged to work collaboratively in writing and reviewing each other’s contributions.

If you are considering using wikis for your next course, you might want to take a look to the following options:

Oncourse. Yes! There is a wiki that comes with Oncourse.  To enable it, go to “Site Setup” and then “Edit Tools”.  Make sure that the Wiki checkbox is checked. This wiki provides several features such as the ability to see all revisions, revert to a previous revision, get notifications when somebody modifies the content, make the site publicly available, etc.

Wikispaces. WikiSpaces is an alternative free option to use wikis.  It provides an intuitive and easy to use interface. It offers more features than the wiki that comes with Oncourse; however, the drawback is that you and each of your students need to create an account in order to use the wiki. It is free though but it is one more username and password that you and your students need to remember.

PBWorks. PBWorks is another free alternative hosted wiki tool.  It also provides an intuitive and easy to use interface for getting started quickly.  It also offers more features than the Oncourse wiki; but again, the drawback is that everyone in the class needs to create an account in order to use the wiki.

In our next posting we will talk about Blogs!

Please share with us the ways you have used wikis in your classes and what wiki systems you have used!

Checkout these additional useful resources:

Planning to use a wiki for instruction:

Tips for using wikis in the classrooms:

Wiki as a teaching tool:

Blog Post on using Wikispaces vs. PBWorks in the Classroom:


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