Wikis are websites where content can be edited by any visitor to the site. An example of a wiki is Wikipedia – an online encyclopaedia providing free content to all visitors and to which any visitor can add their own information or make corrections simply by clicking the edit this page link. See also: Wikispaces. Blogging and wikis are intriguing because they are tools that offer students some control over content and knowledge. The members of a  wiki usually have the same rights (apart from Admin) so that they can amend, add and share knowledge or information. Wikis are a collection of web pages and can focus on a particular subject or a collection of topics. To add depth to the wiki pages you can add audio, video, images, files and external links.

Setting up a wiki in Blackboard

You can set up a wiki in Blackboard for your course module for all users to participate, you can also have group wikis for students so that only those members in that group can access their wiki, yourself as tutor will be needed to added so athat you can monitor activities. More on Blackbaord Wikis are available here. Wikis can also be hosted third party on the Web for example, WikiSpaces, PBWorks. Some of these wiki service providers are free, some charge and may carry adverts. Its important that if you go for any of these sites tthat you familiarise yourself with the Non-DMU tools checklist which will provide gudiance.

Find more on: Comparison of Wiki Hosted and running wiki sites

You should think of the design elements and choices that you will have to grapple with. There are more questions than those posed below, but these will keep you going for now.

  • Do you want a shared space for a group to edit and produce a “text” or a “critique or a “portfolio” or a “reflective journal”?
  • Do you want an on-line space for individual students to produce a text that others can comment upon but not edit?
  • In either case, how will you support them?
  • So, who will be able to add and/or edit information? (The higher the percentage of expertise in your population, the better. The lower the opportunities for personal gain, the less likely you’ll get intentionally troublesome information posted.)
  • Can you build-in some validation methods and critique for the information and analysis posted?.
  • Are you going to agree to anonymous posting? Why?
  • How can you assess the value of entries? Through community scoring, expert scoring, or openness about a person’s posting history and background?
  • Do you need software that supports plain text or does it need to include media files?
  • Do you want to engage students on your Blackboard shell through a module-blog with comments on each posting?
  • Do you want a whole cohort to share a wiki with an attached discussion forum?
  • Who gets to decide on the evolution of the blog/wiki? Do students get a vote on where the story goes next?
  • Can you bring in guest bloggers to add commentary if you build a module-blog?
  • Do you want to link to educational resources as they become relevant? Is this a useful way to engage your learners?

For ideas and inspiration try putting some key search terms into Google. For instance, couple “wiki” or “blog” with “[your subject area]”. You may wish to refine your search by including with “higher education” as well to see if any exemplars exist.

There are some things for you to consider before embarking on the deployment of or wikis. These focus, not exclusively, upon: site design and usability; site management and ownership; and user motivation. The two links below cover some of these issues:

  1. On wiki issues:

Below are 10 suggestions taken from Technology Teacher Blog (site no longer exists) a blog site by  Clinical Associate Professor Barbara Schroeder, Ed.D for the Department of Educational Technology at Boise State University on ‘How can you increase your chances of improving student acceptance of and contribution to a class/group/project wiki?’:

1. Include detailed wiki instructions or a link on the home page and provide time for practice

Most students have never used a wiki before and will need instructions and practice on how to actually use the software. By providing time and instructions for how to use the wiki, students will feel more comfortable in this environment and be more willing to contribute. Make sure you stress that they can’t mess anything up . . . wikis have page versions that save everything! You might provide a sandbox or a practice wiki before your students actually use the real wiki. You might create individual student pages and ask them to answer 5 questions about themselves and insert a picture. The main point here is: Have them practice and get good at using a wiki. Then, they will be ready to work on the collaborative project without stressing over learning the technology!

2. Post wiki conventions and require participants to abide by them

Conventions are a huge part of a wiki’s success. If all students abide by the rules, the wiki community is strong and vibrant. If some are not abiding by the rules, it can become a disruptive and less attractive learning environment. Tell students up front what the expectations are for the wiki and put it on the home page. You may want them to acknowledge and sign a web form, for instance. Here is an example of what you might post for Wiki Etiquette.

3. Be patient with students and realize they may require technical assistance as they learn how to participate in a wiki environment

Remember, not all students are technologically savvy and may need some initial help with the wiki. However, once they get going and see how easy and quick a wiki is, they should start feeling more comfortable and eager to use the wiki for its powerful collaborative features.

4. Create a culture of trust within the wiki

You will need to help your students feel comfortable within the wiki, by creating a culture of trust among all participants. You may want to include some icebreaker activities, to get students to know each other better before they start their “real” activities. You may want to more closely monitor activity at first to engage shy students and to intervene when needed if potentially explosive or harmful interactions occur. In other words, you need to set up and continue to maintain a culture of trust so that students feel safe in the environment while also encouraging them to experiment and take risks. This is not entirely easy to do, but your attitude and leadership can play a huge role in how students perceive their roles and responsibilities toward each other.

5. Provide clear and explicit course expectations

Again, this is an essential part of good pedagogy, but is an important part of working within a wiki. Students should have a clear understanding of course expectations and how they are to use the wiki to achieve the course goals.

6. Assign meaningful, authentic activities

Again, this relates to problem-based learning and should really be a part of any learning experience. Through a wiki, you can facilitate and drive authentic, relevant learning

7. Include a common goal for collaborative activities

Usually wikis work best in a problem-solving environment or something that requires common goals and collaboration. This will help motivate students to work together on completing the goal/tasks/project.

8. Define and identify student roles, activities, and assessments

This is important for any collaborative activity. Defining roles and clearly defining the activity, along with assessments are crucial to the success of collaborative learning.

9. Remind students of course deadlines and schedulesThe very nature of a wiki allows and encourages a lot of freedom and self-direction. However, sometimes students need to be reminded of course requirements and deadlines.

10. Model examples of collaborative activities

Since many students have never worked in a collaborative environment before, you will need to model these behaviors and show them what they look like.

Advantages of a Wiki

They enable participation, sharing and building of information by all members if permission settings have been set (to edit, crreate and delete) for the wiki pages.

Students can collaborate on assignments without having to meet synchronously.

As with a web 2.0 tools, this can be done anytime, anywhere as it suits a user and changes are most often instant.

Changes made are usually recorded in the version history of the site. If group wikis have been set up you can analyse conttibution by members in Blackboard.

Create a content rich website in your wiki. It is possible to add images, create external links in the WYSIWYG editor. You can have this text based as well.

Disadvantages of a Wiki

Wikis can get confusing if there is no clear structure for the members involved, Site structure should be well thought out here, the task objective can help plan out the structure. The key is to keep it simple.


Advantages/Disadvantages of using an external wiki over an internal one

You can find out more about Wikis at: