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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
- 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)
Check out these public wiki examples:
- SAP Community Network
- Catawiki: a wiki of catalogs for collectors
- Open Street Map: creates and provides free geographic data and mapping
- Wikitionary: a multilanguage dictionary
- The Complete Guide to Wikis: How to Set Up, Use, and Benefit from Wikis for Teachers, Business Professionals, Families, and Friends: Chatfield, 2009.
- Social Media for Trainers: Techniques for Enhancing and Extending Learning: Bozarth, 2010.
- Social Media at Work: How Networking Tools Propel Organizational Performance: Jue, Marr and Kassotakis; 2009
- Exploring Web 2.0: Second Generation Interactive Tools - Blogs, Podcasts, Wikis, Networking, Virtual Words, And More: Bell, 2009.
- Wikis for Dummies: Woods and Theony, 2007.
Does your workplace use wikis? Tell us about it below.