Educators are interested in new ways to engage students in online technologies within online courses. There are ever increasing numbers of group interaction technologies that can be utilized in online education. However, there is a lack of information about the efficacy of use of teaching technologies within online education at the graduate level.
Success or failure for students enrolled in graduate education using these new technologies is not evident in the literature. Given the increasing number of individuals enrolled in online courses, it is important to develop a body of evidence supporting teaching excellence and providing information about effective teaching tools in online distance education. Graf (2007) indicates that courses offered through online learning management platforms, more specifically MOODLE, are very amenable to the adaptation necessary to present course work in the multiple ways that are appropriate for different student learning styles. The Athabasca University Nursing and Health Studies graduate program is entirely online and uses the MOODLE platform. Therefore, determining the learning style preferences of the students is appropriate in anticipation of designing more flexible and appropriate course activities for them.
Within the MOODLE platform, several new technologies are being explored to adapt online education to learning style preferences of students. One such new group interaction tool is called Wiki. Wiki is a technology which allows multiple editors access to a single document. This technology might enhance student interaction, thereby increasing learning capabilities.
This study is an exploration of graduate students' perceptions of Wiki as a group interaction tool and the relationship of perceived value of the Wiki to the students' preferred learning style. Given the limited published research in terms of Wiki use in online education environments and graduate programs, this study adds to the existing knowledge of this teaching strategy. This study provides information on ways to enhance learning for students accessing distance education through online programs.
1. LITERATURE REVIEW
Wiki is a new interactive strategy in online education. The name "Wiki" is a Hawaiian term meaning "quick" (Winder, 2007). Wiki software allows anyone on the Internet to edit, create, or delete content within a Wiki based information resource (Winder, 2007). All Wikis share common features such as editing, syntax, versioning, linkages, and unrestricted access. The information contained in a Wiki is maintained by all users rather than one individual. Wiki users oversee the content creation and maintenance.
Wei, Maust, Barrick, Cuddihy, and Spyridakis (2005) defined Wikis as "online workspace that allows members to collaboratively create and edit web pages without requiring HTML knowledge, using no more complicated technology than [a] web browser" (p. 204). These authors reported that using Wikis for collaborative writing would also "allow users to hold a stake in the community and develop a reputation that ultimately can foster close, productive group work" (p. 204). Augar, Raitman, and Zhou (2004) found that students indicated that Wikis were successful in achieving high participation rates as a social activity.
Lamb (2004) suggested that Wikis could positively enhance the learning experience. Wikis empower students and give them autonomy to initiate and engage in interactions with fellow students. In fact, Lamb suggested that Wikis are most effective when teachers relinquish control and allow students to facilitate the learning process through the use of the Wiki. According to Lamb, the perception of students in relation to this interactive strategy is very positive. Some comments included "what's unique about Wikis is that users define for themselves how their process and groups will develop, usually by making things up as they go along" and "teams can quickly and collaboratively build reference lists and outlines, brainstorm instructional strategies, and capture suggestions" (p. …