Using Wikis for Learning and Collaboration

Similar to Web 2.0, which makes use of newer web technologies for sharing information, eLearning 2.0 uses new technologies to distribute information, share knowledge and collaborate. Everyone knows about Wikipedia, a grand example of a wiki, but what about using smaller wikis in your workplace?

Several years ago, it seemed as though every forward-thinking organization had a wiki strategy. If you didn’t jump on the bandwagon then, now might be the time to consider a wiki to promote and facilitate learning and collaboration. Social-based tools are gaining acceptance in the workplace.

Wiki Defined

A wiki is a collaborative web site that collects and organizes content, created and revised by its users. The most well-known example is Wikipedia. Wikis are a way to grow a knowledge base around a particular content area, be it best practices in a particular field or how to use a specific piece of software. Some organizations allow any registered user to contribute; others limit contributors to a particular department or group.

Features

A hallmark of Web 2.0 is that it improves as more people use it and this approach underlies wiki-based learning. It is based on the idea that within any enterprise, a great deal of knowledge exists among the members. Sharing this knowledge and information can raise the organization’s intelligence level, be it a university, an association, a corporation or club. The wiki is a tool for the Enterprise 2.0.

An important feature of a wiki is that information should be easily accessible. For example, suppose an organization rolls out new software that novice users are finding difficult to use. Power users of that software could contribute tips and guidance on various software procedures through the wiki. The goal would be for novice users to access the wiki on their organization’s intranet, search for the task and quickly find the answer.

Possible Uses

Wikis can be used when an organization needs to collect and distribute information:

  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Knowledge base for a specific IT or Human Resource related topic
  • Technical help for customers

Wikis can be used when geographically dispersed team members need to collaborate. The wiki format is good for adding information and getting feedback from team members:

  • Use to find group solutions to a problem
  • Use to develop standards
  • Use as a database of experiences with relevant stories
  • Use to gather requirements for a new product

Advantages

There is a reason that many people are attracted to wikis for learning.

  • Wikis can be private or public.
  • You can get wiki software at no cost or at a very low cost. (See Resource links below.)
  • They only require basic programming skills for installation, setup and maintenance.
  • Contributors create content independently of each other, so that multiple people can be working on the site at the same time.
  • Wikis can be applied to just about any content area.
  • Users find them easy to search and navigate.
  • Wikis can potentially build community

Developing Community

Wikis develop a sense of community. They typically have a history page that lists the original contributor of an article and those who have edited and made revisions. This type of open collaboration provides contributors with a sense of ownership. In addition, when writers come from within your organization they can add a flavor of real-world expertise that others in the organization may find appealing, helping them to buy-in to the wiki community.

General Tips

When you build a wiki community, experts suggest these guidelines to help make it a success:

  • Ensure the goal of the wiki is clear, then communicate this to your organization
  • Determine who the users will be
  • Ensure there is a moderator/editor to ensure contributions fit the goal and format
  • Provide clear instructions on how to use a wiki and how to contribute
  • Promote a culture of friendly collaboration in the wiki

To read a case study of a wiki launch in a pharma company, see Case Study of a Wiki Changing an Enterprise

Wiki Software

  • Wikispaces (free and low-cost wiki software)
  • Mediawiki (free software engine used for Wikipedia)
  • TikiWiki (open source and free wiki software)
  • DokuWiki (targeted at developer teams and small companies)

Wiki Examples

Check out these public wiki examples:

Related Books

Does your workplace use wikis? Tell us about it below.

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Comments

  1. Joanne M. Lozar Glenn says

    Connie, thanks for this inspiring post. I recently started experimenting with a wiki for one of my writing classes. It’s not all that collaborative yet, but I wanted to get familiar with the software first and then open it up to others for content. I find Wikispaces really easy to work with and would recommend it to others.

  2. Kelley says

    This was a great introduction to wikis! The Federal Government actually uses a robust wiki for collaboration, document production/management, knowledge management, data collection, online meetings, etc. It is called MAX. If any readers here work for any agency of the Federal Government, I suggest checking it out at max.gov

  3. Connie Malamed says

    That’s great to know, Kelly. Good to know the US Govt is in on this too, as I’m sure it adds to efficiency and increases organizational knowledge. Thanks for letting us know.

    Connie

  4. Aneesh says

    Wikis are ideally designed to be the most useful training resource in the workplace of the future.

    “As the pace of technological change speeds up, many jobs will require constant adaptation, because of new information and new task requirements. In this context, the distinction between learning and work will disappear. A trend toward integrating training with on-the-job activities will be a result. This trend will extend itself to the point that training, as a distinct function, will no longer be the primary learning vehicle for many types of jobs. Works will use on-the-job information systems instead.” — Attributed to Tony O’Discroll, “Achieving Desired Business Performance: A framework for Developing Human Performance Technology in Organizations, 1999 International Society for Performance Improvement”

  5. Nick Hobar says

    One of the integrated social media and professional development tools in our free learning community is called “WikiTasks.” The tool helps members to post and access teaching and learning tasks developed with another tool known as TaskBuilderOnline. For example:

    1. Lessons and training plans
    2. Formative or summative assessments
    3. Scoring tools such as rubrics
    4. Graphic or advance organizers
    5. Data displays
    6. Action plans
    7. PD Agenda
    8. eLearning program content

    The WikiTasks tool allows members to access, clone, and edit available content in these types of teaching tasks independently or collaboratively. The “Wiki It” option makes a task available to all LearningFront members without any restrictions for making changes to WikiTask content and format. This option works best for getting feedback from the broadest audience in the WikiTask space of LearningFront. The “Moderate It” option makes a task available to all LearningFront members with restrictions for making changes to a WikiTask content and format. This option requires approval to changes anyone suggests before the revised task appears in the WikiTask space of LearningFront. This option works best for ensuring control over changes made to a WikiTask. And a WikiTasks search facilitates finding WikiTasks posted by all members.

    You are cordially invited to try WikiTasks here:

    http://www.learningfront.com

    And we are offering a free webinar series that demonstrates the use of WikiTasks with the new Common Core State Standards for mathematics and English/Language Arts:

    http://www.learningfront.com/Media/Webinars.pdf

  6. Cara Heitz says

    Hi Connie,
    I wanted to thank you for writing about wikis! I am just starting my Master’s in IDT through Walden and I am also a teacher at a Career & Technical school in Alaska. I did jump on the wiki bandwagon many years ago and I haven’t looked back. I feel like wikis tend to fall to the wayside these days amidst the plethora of amazing new tech tools, but the versatility of the wiki often can’t be beat.

    I don’t recall how I learned about wikis but I do know that I owe a lot of my learning to THE wiki woman Louise Maine (http://www.edutopia.org/wiki-tool-transforms-teaching). When I began thinking about transforming my classes to be wiki-centered I had so many questions. I decided to contact Louise via email and asking if I could call her. Despite the 4-hour time zone difference, we managed to connect and our 3-hour conversation was some of the best professional development I ever had!

    At the time I was in a school district that had a 1:1 laptop program that was ideal for using the wiki. I took my five preps and replaced their static web pages by creating a Wikispace for each. The Wikispace was the hub for our classroom, beginning with the home page, which housed a digital Animoto syllabus, which modeled the use of a unique web 2.0 tool and captures the students’ attention. It also housed our wiki & blog warranty that students agree to follow as safe digital citizens. The home page had a class notes and web links page where unit objectives are posted and where, more importantly, I could post all the interactive web links that students can access to supplement their learning. The most exciting parts of the wiki page was the student and team pages where students could edit and post artifacts of their digital learning, as well as create content to demonstrate their understanding. The fact that they could demonstrate their learning in this environment seemed to really motivate a lot of students. In addition to a wiki, each class had a blog, which is used in different contexts for each class, from daily journaling in Health to Science news projects, movie reflections and thinking critically discussions in Science classes. This digital transformation allowed me to utilize technology to support pedagogy and empower my students to further develop their 21st century skills.

    This year I am in a district without a 1:1 initiative, but I still find the wiki to be an essential part of my classes. I am starting to transition to the idea of flipping my classroom and will use the wiki to embed the videos of the lectures and have students access these outside of class. When I polled my students at the beginning of the year many of them said they had no experience with wikis. I guess the wiki still isn’t receiving a lot of attention. However, with Wikispaces ease of use, the students are now wiki-ing away!

    For a look at one of my wikis from last year (a more robust example then the one I have just begun this year), check out: http://cordovabiology.wikispaces.com

  7. Sarah Nystrom says

    Hi Cara,
    What a small world! I just started my master’s in IDT this summer through Walden. Thank you for sharing your experience using wikis within a seventh grade classroom. I appreciate your story since it shows that using technology isn’t impossible with middle schoolers.

    I currently teach sixth grade science and would love to begin a wiki with each of my classes. I love the collaborate nature of the wiki environment! Learners also tend to be more successful in retaining information if they can interact with the material in a variety of ways.

    Connie, do you have any helpful hints for a smooth start? I appreciate any advice you can offer!

    Thanks!
    Sarah

Trackbacks

  1. [...] People use Wikis in education for certain reasons. Some of those reasons are that the software either has no cost or if it has a cost it is very low. The contributors are allowed to add to the account independently of each other so that more than one person can be altering the Wikis at a time. Topics of any kind can be discussed through them especially for the purpose of learning and education. People seem to also like them because they are easy to search and navigate through. This website provides a few more advantages of using Wikis as well as some general tips to making them successful. http://theelearningcoach.com/elearning2-0/using-wikis-for-elearning/ [...]

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