by Cathy Mewes and Bettina Pfaendner

In the process of teaching students we are in a constant wave of decision making: How do we transmit our content knowledge in a way that sticks with the learner and enables them to apply new knowledge creating new scenarios? The ever required combination of content with 21st century skills in Higher Education leads us educators to always look out for the best learning and teaching tool, both pedagogically valuable and easy to handle as technology.

When it comes to group work and assessment of collaboration with timely and meaningful feedback, which pedagogical and easy to handle tool comes to mind? Wait, there was this one tool which always stood out, but was never considered much: The Wiki, almost forgotten.

Living a humble life in iLearn’s activities, the convenors of SOC311 brought it out right into the light, and into practice.

I think the best thing about the wiki is that it provides a platform to support group collaboration that can be used by both external and on campus students equally. I’ve seen some groups of students make great use of all the features and pull together to produce some really exciting work. It is also a great place to assess student contributions as it is all there in black and white so to speak.

Helen Easton, current convenor of SOC311

We emphasise key skills beyond specific ‘social theory’ content – like personal responsibility, conflict resolution, commitment over time and meaningful collaboration – but can also track individual student contributions to the collective via the wiki and thus quality control the wider group experience without being too invasive as they do (or don’t do) the work.

Key skills are intended to be dovetailed into graduate capabilities in the hope it will help them get better at ‘doing things for themselves

Peter Rogers, convenor of SOC311

But what exactly is a Wiki?

Dictionary Definition: Wiki – a website or database developed collaboratively by a community of users, allowing any user to add and edit content.

The OU Wiki is our tool available in iLearn that does just that.

OU Wiki in iLearn

The OU Wiki allows students to build a collection of webpages. This is especially suitable for group projects and collaborative writing. Users can edit any page or create new pages in this online space.

Students can create a structure of linked webpages or the teacher can define this structure by applying a template from the outset.

Some key features of the OU Wiki:

  • Full formatting … add images, other media, links to external sites, add file attachments.
  • Linked pages that collaboratively evolve.
  • OU wiki can be graded and links to the Gradebook.
  • View participation by user. (See ‘Participation by user’ tab).
  • Allows teacher to annotate student work.
  • History of page edits is retained. (See ‘Wiki changes’ tab).
  • Students can view a history of their own participation.
  • Ability for teachers to create preformatted templates.

Templates allow you to create a predefined set of content pages and sections for your wiki activity. You could create one or more ‘framework wikis’, save them as templates and then create different wikis for different purposes using these templates e.g. a single wiki per user as a reflective private journal/portfolio space with a set framework, or initially identical wikis for different groups, or a single wiki for the course. SOC311 is an example of the use of templates for group wikis.

You can use the wiki in a number of ways, though it is similar to an online blog in many ways.

The convenor of SOC311

The convenors then take the students by the hand and walk them through the learning and teaching activity.

Clear rubric categories define what is expected during that journey.

This rubric shows that the humble wiki tool is not so humble after all as it enables the students to  train their competencies within almost all key 21st century skills: Literacy ,Critical Thinking, Interpersonal, Intercultural, and Digital.

But the convenors are going even one step further, providing help and support, so that the student can actually achieve a good outcome.

They provide scaffolded learning material to enable the student to compose a good wiki page:

We invite you all to give the humble wiki a trial run and let it arise into the light, explore and enjoy its features, collecting students’ feedback and share your experience with us, to meet Helen Easton with her statement that students are enabled with our humble wiki “to produce some really exciting work”.

Here are some great online resources for your Wiki journey:
MQ iLearn Quick Guide for OU Wiki

UNSW Guide: Use OU Wiki in Moodle

City University of London Guide

Lancaster University (Guide by Steven Wright)

Posted by Bettina Pfaendner

Bettina is a creative mind, lecturer for film and television, media and communication, and a Learning Designer by heart. What is more fulfilling than helping others to learn!

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