What is a wiki?

This is part of a regular series of articles exploring some of the terms used in e-learning (view other articles in the series).  We’ll do our best to break down the jargon and explain what things are from a basic perspective.

Photo of a wiki wiki shuttle in Hawaii

Obligatory Wiki Photo by cogdogblog

Today we’ll look at the term ‘wiki’.  Wiki means ‘fast’ in Hawaiian.  In keeping with their name, wikis are groups of web pages which can be edited quickly, and normally without needing to know any web language like HTML.

Another key feature of a wiki is the ability of multiple people to work on a wiki collaboratively.  Wikis also remember all of the changes that have been made to them, so it is easy to judge how has contributed what to a wiki and undo any mistakes in the wiki.  Most wikis allow you to add new pages in your wiki project, audio, video, images and links to other websites.

Wikis have grown in popularity since the early 2000s, especially due to wikipedia, the most famous example of a wiki.  Wikipedia is a collaborative encyclopaedia that anyone can edit.  It hopes by harnessing the power of everyone on the Internet, it can build a more complete and accurate encyclopaedia than is possible with a publishing house.

There is a wiki feature available within Blackboard as well.  This tool allows you to set up wikis which either all your Blackboard site users can access or that are limited to specific groups of users.  This wiki tool helps facilitate a student-centred Blackboard site by allowing students to build content in your site, comment on others’ wikis and export that content for later use.

Here are some examples of how wikis are being used in higher education:

  • A class-wide glossary which everyone can contribute entries and resources for
  • An annotated bibliography which all of the students contribute to with additional resources relevant to a topic or assessment
  • A lesson-plan repository for trainee teachers to share lessons and ideas with each other
  • Group presentations created online in wikis, then peer reviewed by other groups
  • A space for individuals to develop a piece of writing which they can get peer feedback on while writing
  • Tutor-generated content which students can comment on and add to
  • Student reps have used it in organisation sites to inform the rest of the cohort about developments at meetings
  • Cross-cohort collaborative projects, where one cohort begins building a resource which they agree to share with future cohorts. Those cohorts develop the resource further and the process repeats itself.

As you can see there are a variety of different ways that wikis can be used to enhance the learning experience and open up the possibility of more student ownership in the learning experience.  If you would like to discuss how wikis could fit into your specific curriculum, please talk to your Faculty e-learning contact.

Read more about wikis in the Educause Learning Initiative’s 7 things you should know about Wikis.

7 thoughts on “What is a wiki?

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