Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration > Wikis


What is a Wiki?

Screen shot of TitanPad (a free wiki software)

A wiki is a collaborative writing and editing web page that can be used both as a group workspace or database for anyone with a Web browser and internet access and without having to know HTML. Wikis are can be accessed online for free, be purchased online or already be embedded in Learning Management Systems (LMS) such as Blackboard v. 9. Instructors who seek free open source wiki software can make informed decisions by comparing the differences in the functionality using the WikiMatrix. This tool is helpful when selecting a technology to fit the educational context.


Wikis are particularly effective when used with asynchronous collaborative activities (Parker & Chou, 2007). The value of wikis is dependent upon the members who contribute their knowledge and information, and therefore requires trust among its members and the process to create an emergent product. The nature of authoring with others requires an awareness of self in relation to others and a sense of group efficacy and effectiveness.

To experiment with the wiki shown in the image above, (click here).


* Engages students in active learning, sharing and knowledge building

* Promotes literacy skills (Bruns & Humphrey, 2005)

* Enables students to consider multiple perspectives and world views as a result of “multiple authors”

* Enables students to recognize and understand multiple solutions exist for ill structured problems.

* Allows users to track history while providing options to revert to previous versions or retain a current version (Parker & Chao, 2007).

* Enables students to incorporate text easily, upload and export document in a variety of usable formats such as PDF documents. Some wikis enable users to incorporate hypertext and multimedia and depending upon the software.

* Depending upon security permissions set by the instructor, access may be available to an external community and made available beyond the duration of a course.

* Provides learners with an opportunity to develop collaborative project based skills sets required in authentic working situations such as consensus building, negotiating skills and critical analysis. (Bruns & Humphrey, 2005)

* Promotes student-student, student-instructor and student-content interactions

* Provides a great platform for developing a community of practice

* Can limit public access to protect learner privacy which may also increase student participation for those who are more hesitant about writing publicly (Gardner, 2007)

* Grading the contribution of individual group members can be determined more accurately due to history of editing feature.


* Wikis are flexible and unstructured if starting with a blank slate, structure is required to support user success.

* May be subject to “group think” or bias

* Unequal workload

* Vandalism is possible with editing features and if published publicly; monitoring is required

* Information and shared knowledge must be critically analyzed for accuracy (Bruns & Humphrey, 2005)

* Ownership of work, fearfulness of public exposure and critique,

* Assessment of an individual’s contribution.

* Due to the organic nature of knowledge construction possible in wikis, linear subjects are not well suited to a wiki unless content is presented as informational only.

Strategies for creating effective wikis:

* Ensure purpose for using a wiki aligns with learning objectives and nature of the subject matter

* Provide clearly articulated instructions and marking rubrics so students understand what is required of them.

* Consider teaching applications such as such as project based activities, or problem based and inquiry based learning activities. Some examples might include:

      • Collaborative writing spaces for individuals and groups
      • Peer review and editing
      • Gathering resources or generating an annotated bibliography
      • Research projects
      • Brain storming and planning projects
      • Peer tutor activities and assessments
      • Student generated lessons and evaluations
      • Case studies
      • Debates

* Provide examples and allow for practice to promote self confidence and competence prior to assigning a wiki project for grading (Mader, 2011).

* Create tutorials or provide links to training resources focused solely on the functionality of the wiki

* Provide a template and instructions for initial use as the structure of a wiki is very flexible and may be more difficult to start from scratch.

* Create an environment and culture of trust to minimize student apprehension – regular interaction, monitoring and feedback is helpful in creating a positive culture

* Provide icebreakers as a way to assist learners in becoming comfortable with each other while using a wiki. This provides a low stake activity before learners begin to work interactively with higher stake activities.

* Consider restricting public access to student wikis so that students might feel freer when contributing to the course wiki (Gardner, 2007).

Resources of Interest

Illinois Online Network (2010). Online teaching activity index. University of Illinois. This site provides many different activities and ideas for teaching online.

Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators – Assessment & Rubric information. This site provides a many valuable resources for evaluating multimedia, web 2.0, and web page for student generated projects.

Rubric Assessment – Flat Classroom Project 2007. This site offers 3 types of rubrics for digital story telling, participation/reflection/evaluation, and wiki grading. -This site explores various human patterns associated with wiki participation and provides several ideas to enhance wiki adoption.

The Speakers Wiki – designed as a site to connect conference organizers with female speakers specializing in technology.

WikiBooks – collaborative space for writing and editing books and subsections.

WikiEducator – a collaborative community dedicated to education and e-learning including “planning and development of free content, building open education resources and funding proposal development”

Wiki Research at UCF – a wiki based research site exploring wiki use in higher education at the University of Central Florida. Instructors share their methodology, case studies and student examples.

If you have creative ideas or suggestions for using a wiki for teaching and learning, please leave a reply at the end of this page!


Bruns, A., & Humphreys, S. (2005). Wikis in teaching and assessment: The M/Cyclopedia project. WikiSym ’05 Proceedings of the 2005 international symposium on Wikis. Queensland University of Technology. doi: 10.1145/1104973.1104976

Ellis, Cath & Folley, S. (2010). Students Writing Their Own Lectures with a Wiki and the CSA. (R. (Eds ) In Wang, F.L., Fong, J., & Kwan, Ed.) (Handbook o., pp. 244-259). doi: 10.4018/978-1-60566-380-7.ch015.

Huang, W.-hao D. (2010). A Case Study of Wikis ’ Effects on Online Transactional Interactions. Learning, 6(1), 1-14.

Mader, S. (2008). Using Wiki in Education: Case studies from the classroom. Lulu Marketplace.

Mader, S. (2011). Wiki patterns.

Parker, K. R., & Chao, J. T. (2007). Wiki as a Teaching Tool. Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects, 3.

Raible, J. (2009). Implementing Wiki-Based collaborative strategies in online courses. Educause.

Staley, D. (2009). Managing the platform: Higher education and the logic of wikinomics. Educause, 44,(1).

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