Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wikis in Higher Education

There was an interesting piece by Steve Kolowich in Inside Higher Ed today on wikis in higher ed. he concludes that unless wikis find a satisfactory way to attribute specific content to individual contributors they will not satisfy academic researchers, but they that have been more successful in teaching and administration.

I am not sure I agree that they have been more successful in teaching or administration. I have used them in the classroom (as a glorified annotated bibliography in a one credit information course) and in administration (as regular readers of this blog know the Olin Library's strategic plan is a wiki.) The major problem I have found it the lack of enthusiastic adoption by the group one wants to participate in building the wiki. I think this is because the barriers to entry -- logging in, and the WYSIWYG editing features -- are just a bit too high for casual users to manage, even those who have no problem with other web based technologies. That combined with a the lack of attractiveness of much of the content (I am shocked, shocked, to find that our library staff are not as excited about strategic planning as I am!) leads to a lack of uptake.


rose petralia said...

I think if wikis did employ wysiwyg editing (there are some out there), they'd be much less intimidating to users.

Classic wiki editing is unintuitive, but I agree wikis are useful for collaboration over the long term, especially when such things as standards, guidelines, and procedures are the end result.

Bryan's workshop blog said...

I agree with Rose about the problems non-WYSIWYG editors have, having taught them as far back as 2001. But so many alternatives are readily available these days: PBwiki, Confluence, etc. Plus Google Docs.

Good group wiki work takes more social energy than technical expertise. Unless folks are already used to getting value from wikis, it takes some convincing to get enough people editing. And some practice. I recommend a few things:
1) small groups assigned to different pages
2) pre-populating pages with content (rather than presenting blank pages)
3) clearly showing the purpose and benefits of wiki work

That WikiPatterns book is good on this score.

Brian Lamb (UBC) has a fine post in response to that article,