- What was the rationale for the use of a wiki, in terms of real world practice and in terms of the learning outcomes for the course?
“On a software development project, team members often work remotely from one another and increasingly use wikis to collaboratively develop the requirements specification. In order to emulate requirements engineering practice, the course has been enhanced to include group collaboration using a wiki.”
“We also hoped that the wiki activities would help to facilitate learning and the acquisition of various skills including:
- the creation of explicit knowledge from tacit understanding of course concepts;
- learning through discussion, disagreement, and consensus building;
- team working; and
- effective communication of ideas to others through networked knowledge environments; articulation, analysis and synthesis of ideas and knowledge-sharing.“
- Which areas of learning theory do the authors draw upon specifically?
“Social software tools such as wikis and blogs enable the generation of social constructivist scenarios wherein a group of learners collaboratively construct shared artefacts, create a culture of dialogue, and negotiate meanings.
- In what ways did the course designers seek to persuade students to view the wiki positively?
The Salmon 5 stage model was applied to the course design
“The model shows how to motivate online participants, to build learning through appropriate online activities and by support from the e-moderator. Since we were not expecting our tutors to perform the role of e-moderators on the wiki activities, we decided that we would indirectly support our students via: comprehensive guidance notes on the wiki activities, regular e-mails of encouragement and addressing any queries that the students raise with their tutors or on the course discussion forum or in their e-mails to the course manager.”
- How effectively did the wiki function in relation to key features of the learning requirements; e.g;
the need to track individual contributions,
“It [the wiki] allows a history and audit trail of documentation to be automatically maintained and referenced in the future therefore enabling traceability of requirements through to development.”
to publish written contributions, “It is difficult to see how our group could have produced and reviewed a set of requirements in the space of 2-3 weeks without the Wiki. “
to edit a single, collaborative text
to discuss and collaborate”I found the group discussion pages useful to make suggestions to other members of the group and to make arrangements for editing the TMA Wiki.”
- What role did the assignments play in shaping the students’ use of the wiki?
“I found the collaborative [activity] very difficult to participate in, with the job I have I travel a lot and the collaboration relied on you being available for the last 5 days or less before [the TMA] deadline to see everyone’s contribution.”
- What conclusions do the authors come to in relation to:
a. the ways in which the wiki worked well?
In terms of collaborating on an OU course, the benefits seem to outweigh the disadvantages; it is difficult for all people collaborating to be able to arrange a pre-determined time to collaborate, so using the wiki as a collaboration medium is quite effective.
b. the main disadvantages of the wiki?
The… Wiki is a poor tool for keeping a sense of order to these multiple discussions. The Wiki does not create a ‘thread’ that can be followed. The Wiki does not clearly identify the contributor. The Wiki does not clearly time stamp contributions. The Wiki does not separate discussions about points so a great deal of searching is required before a thread of a discussion can be followed.
- c. the software changes that would improve the wiki for this purpose?
“The editing window in the wiki was small and did not provide enough context and content for the document being edited. Students had to scroll the content up and down while they were entering text in the wiki via this editing window.
The wiki navigation was poor because the user always has to return to the root page before reviewing another branch.
Users had to check the wiki on a regular basis to see whether there had been any contributions from other group members. As one student said, “It would have been good to have some mechanism for requesting alerts on certain pages to save you constantly having to check”.
“A major technological obstacle was the absence of a locking mechanism on the wiki to avoid the problems of concurrent updates.”