WIKI assignments: make it better

Blackboard’s wiki option has made it easier for us to experiment with this collaborative writing application, but designing good wiki assignments remains challenging. There are a number of web sites that assert that wikis can be powerful learning tools, a number of sites that discuss how to create wikis, and the usual line up of sites that promise that wikis will cure all ills. The following article goes beyond the hype and basic how-to by describing three challenges to creating wiki assignemnts, and suggesting how they might be used to better support learning.

Reynard, Ruth. “3 Challenges (with Benefits) to Wiki Use in Instruction,” in Campus Technology. Feb. 11, 2009.

According to Reynard, current writing about wikis promise that they will “highlight higher-level thinking skills that teachers would love to see developed in their students. The reality is, however, that just as with any actual use of technology in instruction, there are always challenges, not only in practical terms with familiarity with the technology itself but, more importantly, in a pedagogical sense as the benefits to teaching and learning are examined more thoroughly. How can the instructional uses of a wiki be maximized to ensure this higher level of engagement with students?”

She continues that “There is a temptation with using a tool like the wiki for teachers to simply introduce the tool and ask the students to use it, and then watch to see what happens…While knowledge around this is still growing, we do know from teaching in general that students respond poorly to badly designed assignments with no real purpose articulated as to their connection with the learning outcomes or direct benefit to the student’s overall learning experience.”

The challenges she addresses are:

  1. Creating Meaningful Assignments: Motivation
  2. Grade Value for Constructed Input: Affirmation
  3. Collective Knowledge Use: Learning

The suggestions she provides are simple, concrete, and probably quite effective. Good reading for anyone who is considering using wiki assignments in their course.

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