Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Wiki or Word? Evaluating Tools for Collaborative Writing and Editing

Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Wiki or Word? Evaluating Tools for Collaborative Writing and Editing

Article excerpt


Organizations are relying increasingly on virtual teams to perform a range of activities (Hertel, Geister, and Konradt, 2005). Because members of virtual teams do not necessarily work in close proximity, finding ways to support collaboration effectively among members raises new challenges. In general, organizations that are more collaborative perform better (Frost and Sullivan, 2006). Although there are a variety of factors affect collaboration, including organization culture and de-centralized structure, technology is the primary tool in supporting collaboration in virtual teams.

A technology that recently has received the attention of both business and educational worlds as a collaborative tool is the wiki. A wiki is a web site that allows many people to edit the site very easily using nothing more than a web browser (Leuf and Cunningham, 2001). This has produced such stunning successes as Wikipedia (, WikiHow (, and WikiBooks (, as well as wikis on every conceivable topic, including Foodista ( to develop collaborative recipes. Creating a new wiki is fairly simple, as several web sites offer free basic wikis (including WikiSpaces, Wetpaint, and Wikia). Wikis also are characterized by the free-form structure of wiki documents.

Business applications of wikis that recently have been studied include enabling organizational memory (Munson, 2008; White and Lutters, 2007), crystallizing knowledge in software development (Correia, Ferreira, Flores, and Aguiar, 2009), use as a publishing platform (Maxwell, 2007), and cocreation of knowledge (Hasan, Meloche, Pfaff, and Willis, 2007).

Collaborative work is equally pertinent to the educational field. Many college courses involve group work where teams of students are asked to create a report as the final result of a collaborative effort. Creating such a shared document often causes students great trouble in coordinating the effort.

The education community has grabbed onto the idea of a wiki as a way to increase student engagement and collaboration within the classroom (Parker and Chao, 2007). Educators have found many different ways to incorporate the use of wikis in classes. Common uses include creating a shared annotated bibliography of class readings; developing shared lecture notes; publishing syllabi, assignments, and handouts; and having students collaborate on shared documents such as research papers, reports, study guides, article critiques, etc. (Chu, 2008; Hazari, North, and Moreland, 2008; Watson, Boudreau, York, Greiner, and Wynn, 2008).


In this research project, we use an adaptation of the extended Task-Technology Fit (Dishaw and Strong, 1999) framework to compare a wiki with a more conventional approach using word processing and email. Our overall goal is to examine which technology better supports a distributed group writing project in a higher education setting for undergraduate students. In the experiment, one group of students used MS Word with Track Changes turned on combined with emailing the document among students. A second group was provided a wiki where they created the report. The two approaches were compared in terms of Perceived Ease of Use, Perceived Usefulness and Perceived Effort at Collaboration.


The idea that information technology could support communication and collaboration has been around for a number of years. The primary goal of this support is connecting individuals across time and space. However, a recent assessment suggests that collaboration technologies are not as effective as they might be (Nosek and McManus, 2008). Challenges facing effective e-collaboration include: 1) group process challenges, 2) theoretical challenges that limit the scope of work and new conceptualizations, 3) conceptual challenges that affect what individuals conceive of doing with the technology, 4) technical challenges that limit what the technology can do, and 5) use challenges that suggest usefulness is the only predictor for continued acceptance and use of a technology (Kock and Nosek, 2005; Nosek and McManus, 2008). …

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