Sunday, May 15, 2011

Introduction to Wikis: A Collaboration Tool Defined

Most internet users are familiar with blogs, and many of them have even created one themselves. However, wikis are still fairly new and obscure to many casual users of the internet. As more education is done online and adult learners are turning to distance learning to continue their educational goals, the use of wikis will become more popular and a more common resource for online collaboration.

The term “wiki” comes from “the Hawaiian word for ‘quick,’ to mean a collection of Web pages that can be edited by anyone” (West, 2009. p. 3). Because of the ease of editing and contributing to a wiki, it is a great tool for online groups to collaborate on a variety of projects. Some potential uses for a wiki in an educational setting include:

·         Research papers
·         Debates or discussions
·         Resource guide/Frequently Asked Questions
·         Critical analysis

As an instructor, it is important to orient the class with the appropriate use of the wiki, the ground rules for the project and possibly to define the learners’ responsibilities. Before jumping into the actual assignment, it is advisable to give the group a “practice run” of how a wiki works. To do this, the instructor could facilitate a game where team members contribute and get the feel for how the wiki works. This is also a good ice breaker to get the class comfortable with working with each other in a new format.

Once the project is underway, it’s important that the instructor maintain the role of facilitator, but not participant. The instructor should not make changes or add to the wiki contents. Rather, if necessary, the instructor can make comments in the discussion section or lead the group to re-focus back on the project when the group discussion goes astray.

I have started a wiki to create a Frequently Asked Questions document that could be used in a corporate setting, specific to my job in Information Technology. Contributors to such a document could include other members of the IT team, HR professionals and program developers. The intended audience for the FAQ document is employees of the company that will be working with the system.

West, J. A. & West, M. L. (2009). Using wikis for online collaboration: The power of the read-write web. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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