Wikis offer a unique opportunity for educators. They can be useful in both traditional classrooms and online situations. They can be used in many different ways in a classroom. One of these is to create and build upon a communal knowledge base. Wikis can be used in conjunction with your eLearning platform. Building a wiki can be a fun and effective way to get even shy students actively involved in the class.
You will have to lay some groundwork to effectively integrate a wiki into your class. Start by building basic pages that relate to the first unit you are teaching. Do not include all the content, but you should lay out the framework that will be filled in. For example, in a course on literature, you may want to start with a page on the book and then one for a major character. Fill content in for one section, and make sure to include formatting like links and references.
You will need to dedicate at least one class session for teaching how to use and edit the wiki. Plan a lesson that involves students actively editing. The age of your students and their confidence with editing wikis will determine how much hand-holding you need to do. If you have students with experience working with wikis, be sure to engage them as assistants. This will keep the more experienced students engaged, help create a cooperative learning community and reduce your workload.
Wikis as Homework
The wiki can be tied into both homework and class participation. Connecting it to homework assignments is particularly helpful, since it means assignments will have a definite and clear purpose. For larger classes, you can assign different subjects to groups of students. You may alternate those groupings occasionally to make sure that everyone is working together.
Tying a wiki to your class participation grades gives students alternative ways to participate. Often, in online classes, participation is based on posting in discussions. However, some students may find fast-paced discussions intimidating or may feel that all they are adding to the discussion is redundancies. Wiki contributions can be a more comfortable way for some students to participate in class.
Another way to use wikis in a classroom is to assign pages to specific students. The student would be responsible for all the content on that page. This can be a good unit-long project. Give clear guidelines about expectations for content and references. To encourage students to actively use the class wiki, require them to link to at least two other relevant pages in the article. You can do some easy differentiation for students by making careful choices about what pages are assigned to whom.
In order to make the class wiki meaningful, make sure that you use it. Integrate it into lectures and discussions. Though, as an educator, your role in the wiki should be primarily as an administrator, you want to also guide your students towards effective ways to contribute. Provide challenges and gentle guidance as needed by your class.