Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

A Collaborative Writing Approach to Wikis: Design, Implementation, and Evaluation

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

A Collaborative Writing Approach to Wikis: Design, Implementation, and Evaluation

Article excerpt

Introduction

Wikis are increasingly gaining in popularity in educational settings because of the potential benefits they bring to teaching and learning (Clark & Mason, 2008; Fitch, 2007). From a technical point of view, users of wikis do not need any specific software. A web browser would suffice. In addition, wiki users do not need to acquire advanced technical skills to create wikis. An editor is sufficient for constructing wiki applications. Furthermore, wiki technologies provide a number of useful functions, such as tracking of edits, comparison between different versions of edits, rollbacks to earlier versions of the wiki, threaded discussions, special and protected pages, customizable access to pages, read and edit rights, and use of different types of multimedia, e.g. images, graphics, sounds, and video.

From a pedagogical point of view, wikis enable collaborative writing. They can be used in project development with peer-review, as a group authoring tool, to track a group project, to collect data for a class project, for class and teacher evaluation, and for tracking research groups (Parker & Chao, 2007). In addition, teachers can use wikis for collaborative curriculum design and for course content authoring (Leung & Wah Chu, 2009; Matthew & Callaway, 2009; Mindel & Verma, 2006). Wikis provide teachers and educators with potentially significant opportunities for creating socially engaged tasks that require active student participation and collaboration, instead of passive and behaviorist learning, reproduction and transmission of knowledge.

The potential benefits of using wikis in education is that they allow students to work together to reach a common goal, giving them a sense of how writing can be performed in collaboration. In writing collaboratively with wikis, students need to agree on the structure and content of the wiki, and the methods that are necessary to accomplish collaborative writing. In these ways, wikis help to build mutually beneficial communities of writers (Vratulis & Dobson, 2008). However, despite the promising collaborative capabilities of wikis, their pedagogical usefulness regarding true collaboration is still questionable. Clearly, wiki alone cannot make collaborative writing happen, and students do not automatically become more active, participate, and collaborate with others when they use wikis for educational purposes, as the research literature clearly reveals (Chao & Lo, 2009; Cole, 2009). Students' willingness and motivation to use wiki in a collaborative way is important but not sufficient to initiate true collaboration. To foster collaborative writing, participation, and active involvement in wiki development there is a need for a systematic approach to the development of wiki applications.

The main goal of this work is to present a collaborative writing approach to wikis and to report on an application example in higher education that was carried out with students to investigate the effectiveness of the approach to support students' collaboration and active participation with fellow students. The aim is to let students create wiki applications using the collaborative writing approach and the MediaWiki technology as a platform to support collaborative writing projects within given subjects chosen by the students.

The paper is structured as follows. First, the research goal is described. Second, a literature review is undertaken. This is followed by the collaborative writing approach that is used to develop wiki applications. The article presents an application example in higher education. Then, the paper continues with a discussion and evaluation of the results and implications for the development of collaborative writing. Finally, the article ends with some conclusions and future research directions.

Research Methodology

The hypothesis of the work is that wiki alone cannot make collaborative writing happen, unless students know how to participate and collaborate with others when they develop wikis. …

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