Sunday, October 4, 2009

Using Wikis in the Online Classroom

Using a wiki for your classroom can add many benefits, not only for students, but for the instructor as well. The one thing that we strive for in any classroom experience is participation from our students. This is usually a difficult task in any F2F classroom, but proves more challenging in teaching an online class. Usually students simply respond to the assignments posted, and tend not to invest in much more, but using a class wiki can open up more possibilities in creating online collaboration among your students. Students could have the opportunity to share their notes with the class which allows a better understanding of the material, but also gives the instructor a glimpse if in fact the students are understanding the material. Another advantage is students can begin collaborating with each other and allowing a more cohesive class. They could form groups that could organize ideas for group projects and use the wiki as the central base of putting their information for their projects in a cohesive final paper.

Wiki’s could also be a rich resource for your class creating it own vocabulary list, study guides and list of links to the internet that would serve as additional resources for the students. Class presentations could even be posted on the class wiki allowing each student to share their information and their own resources, rather that online students simply presenting the instructor with his paper and not having the opportunity to share his thoughts and ideas with the rest of the class.

Using the wiki to serve as updating class housekeeping information would be easy as well. Class calendars, posting assignments or any changes in assignments would be an easy way of every student to always being aware of time lines and expectations when assignments were due. This in itself could eliminate those students who seem to always forget or claim they thought assignment was due the week after it was actually due. There shouldn’t be any more need for the instructors for those “reminders” that we always feel the need to give our students. The list could go on and on, depending on the class needs and how creative one could be in utilizing the wiki.

A word about some of the possible obstacles that some may have using a wiki, for this will challenge some of us in letting go of the ownership we take with our classes. We may feel fearful of student’s lack of participation as well as possible disruption and even sabotage of the material presented in the wiki. These are very real possibilities, but if the students can see for themselves the advantages of using such a tool, I believe a sense of pride and ownership with follow. So perhaps the biggest challenge is not only going to be for us as educators to promote and encourage our students to use the wiki, but for us to look at how we will teach the class as well as reeducate ourselves in how we may need to present our classes as well.

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