User:Randyfisher/TORs/Project Services/Teams/Wikis

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   1. Explore the various eL4C36 workshop pages by clicking on the links displayed at the top of every workshop page (eL4C36 Workshop navigation template). If you already have a user account, feel free to start posting on the Wiki Discussions threads. These pages are designed to empower your collaborative editing skills.
   2. If you haven't done so yet, please introduce yourself to the group at WikiDiscussions Introductions thread.
   3. Watch the video on Wikis in plain English hosted on YouTube.
   4. Read through WikiEducator's Tutorial 1 on What is a wiki?
   5. Post your thoughts, ideas and feedback on the quality of open authoring approaches at the Wikis thread.

Icon objectives.jpg Objectives
In this tutorial we will:
  • provide an overview of what wikis are;
  • show examples of their different uses;
  • discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using wikis to develop content;
  • describe the main features of WikiEducator.

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Preknowledge for Learning4Content participants

We encourage Learning4Content participants to review the following resources before embarking on your WikiEducator journey:

What is a Wiki?

The name "Wiki" was chosen by Ward Cunningham -- the creator of the first Wiki. It is a shortened form of "wiki-wiki", the Hawaiian word for quick.

A wiki is a web site that is generally editable by anyone with a computer, a web browser, and an Internet connection. Wikis use a quick and easy syntax to allow users to apply formatting to text and create links between pages. This simple formatting syntax means that authors no longer need to learn the complexities of HTML to create content on the web.

The main strength of a wiki is that it gives people the ability to work collaboratively on the same document. The only software you need is an Internet browser. Consequently, wikis are used for a variety of purposes. If you make a mistake, it's easy to revert back to an earlier version of the document.

Examples of Wikis

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The largest and most talked about Wiki on the Internet is Wikipedia[4]

Wikipedia is, for the most part, editable by anyone in the world with a computer and an Internet connection and, as of 2009, contained over 14,000,000 articles in more than 260 languages. Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has grown rapidly into one of the largest reference web sites, attracting around 65 million visitors monthly as of 2009. There are more than 85,000 active contributors working on Wikipedia articles! While Wikipedia's mission is to create an encyclopedic resource of knowledge, wikis can be used for a variety of purposes and are quickly becoming the defacto technology for collaborative group work online. They can be great social tools for classrooms, teams, and community groups, or configured to provide easily updatable web sites for organisations.

The following wikis display a range of different applications of wiki technology:

  • WikiWikiWeb[5] - the first ever wiki, it has been around since 1995.
  • Wikitravel[6] - a project to create a free, complete, up-to-date, and reliable world-wide travel guide.
  • Moodle docs - a community wiki used to develop and maintain the documentation for Moodle, the popular open source learning management system.
  • Scholarpedia[7] - a wiki project based on a system of peer review.

There are literally thousands of wikis around the web on a diverse range of subjects and supporting many communities.

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The purpose of this activity is to introduce you to a few examples of wiki projects. In this activity you are encouraged to visit at least three of Wikipedia's sister projects listed below.

For each of the Wikimedia project sites, you should:

  1. Identify the main purpose of the site and how this differs from Wikipedia
  2. Skim through at least three representative pages on the site to get a feel for contributions from the community
  3. Determine which content license is used for the site.

Visit three sites from the list of Wikimedia projects below:

Many of Wikipedia's sister projects were initiated because the encyclopedia was being cluttered by entries that were not appropriate for an encyclopedia.

Interesting uses of Wiki technology

  • British Council Case Study on using wiki technology to promote collaboration at the office.
  • Conference planning, see for example Wikimania 2006
  • Wiki as an online presentation tool demonstrated by Meredith Gorran Farkas, a distance education librarian.
  • Open Streetmap is a wiki project to provide free geographic data such as street maps to anyone who wants them.
  • Distinguishing between types of wiki communities - the difference between "above-the-flow" and "in-the-flow" wikis.
  • The Wealth of Networks WikiNotes - This Wiki is an invitation to collaborate on building a learning and research environment based on Yochai Benkler's book, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, available under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial Sharealike license.
  • Other uses include:
    • Meetings (Posting of agendas, prior meeting discussions, minutes)
    • Documentation for collaborative projects
    • Web space for personal note taking
  • If you find a really interesting use of a wiki - please feel free to add it to the list above.


  5. WikiWikiWeb
  6. Wikitravel
  7. Scholarpedia
  8. Wikinews
  9. Wikimedia Commons
  10. Wikiversity
  11. Wikiquote
  12. Wiktionary
  13. Wikibooks

In the old days you had to edit quite complex HTML syntax to create web pages.


  • Anyone can edit.
  • Wikis are easy to use and learn.
  • Wikis are instantaneous so there is no need to wait for a publisher to create a new edition or update information
  • A rich text editor offers a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) interface, facilitating the formatting and layout of content.
  • People located in different parts of the world can work on the same content.
  • The wiki software keeps track of every edit made and it's a simple process to revert back to a previous version of a page.
  • Non-technical users have access to the power of web publishing.
  • The wiki has no predetermined structure - consequently it is a flexible tool which can be used for a wide range of applications.
  • There are a wide range of open source software wiki's to choose from so licensing costs shouldn't be a barrier to installing an institutional wiki.


Advantages in one context, may be disadvantages in another.

  • Anyone can edit so this may be too open for some applications, for example confidential documentation. However it is possible to regulate user access.
  • Open to SPAM and vandalism if not managed properly. There are easy ways to restore a page and in the case of WikiEducator you must be logged in to edit pages so this reduces vandalism by automated spam bots.
  • Requires Internet connectivity to collaborate, but technologies to produce print versions of articles are improving.
  • The flexibility of a wiki's structure can mean that information becomes disorganised. As a wiki grows, the community must plan and administer the structure collaboratively.

The usual guidelines for healthy computer use apply

What about quality?

Before proceeding with the discussion activity for this tutorial, you should read the following short article.

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There is divided opinion and a healthy debate among educators concerning the quality of content developed in a wiki environment. In your opinion, do you expect to find significant differences in the quality of content when comparing open and closed authoring approaches? Given the recentness of the wiki phenomenon, research on this question is limited. Can both open and closed authoring models produce high quality material? To find out more, consider the Wikipedia article on the reliability[1] of articles.

The Wall Street Journal Online has an interesting debate between Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia and Dale Hoiberg, editor in chief of Encyclopaedia Britannica, and you may find this to be an interesting read[2] as well.

When comparing closed versus open authoring approaches, it is worth looking at the history of Wikipedia, which has succeeded in creating the largest encyclopedia in history. Wikipedia was preceded by the Nupedia[3] project, which also aimed to build a free content encyclopedia. Nupedia was not an open wiki like Wikipedia and adopted an extensive process of peer review before final publication of an article. After 3.5 years, Nupedia had only completed 24 Articles, with 74 more articles as work in progress. Clearly this authoring model was not scalable, and was a strong motivation for Jimmy Wales, the founder of Nupedia to open up the authoring model by starting the Wikipedia project.

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This activity is designed for participants using these tutorials in a face-to-face workshop, or alternatively in an eLearning format with a group of learners. Consider the following questions, which can be discussed in small groups or using an online discussion forum:
  • Do you have any concerns about the quality of educational resources developed using an open authoring approach? If so, what are your concerns? If not, how does an open authoring approach contribute to high quality learning materials?
  • In your opinion, should closed or open authoring approaches be used in the development of learning resources for use in education? Give reasons for your view?
  • What mechanisms can be adopted to assure quality of educational content developed in wiki environments?

Concluding thoughts

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Am I still concerned about the openness of wiki editing?
  • What is to prevent such a website from anarchy?
  • How does a wiki protect my authorship?
  • What if someone deletes my work?

Matt Barton provides a candid yet light hearted response to your concerns in a posting[4] on a list, which is repeated here for convenience of access. Matt says:

"They [wikis] will not help a writer develop a personal voice. They will, however, enable collaboration and teach us all something very important about what a true democracy is all about.

So, if wikis elide all claims to authorship, offer no protection of material, and allow any 5-year old child or racist bigot to edit a page, what good are they? Well, let us explore why so many wikis are able to flourish in the well-fertilized fields in which they are sown.
For one thing, wikis are not really as vulnerable as you may think. They are at least as well-protected as your home. Now, I beg you to consider: Is your home really invulnerable? Couldn't a small group of hoodlums take it into their minds to vandalize your home? How is that you are able to drive a car at all, since anyone with a fifty-cent pocketknife could slash your tires wherever you park it?
You may say that the police are there to prevent such things. However, I'm looking out my apartment window now at my tiny little Mazda Miata. There are no uniformed people about. However, there are some neighbors. Hopefully they would notice if someone was deflating one of my tires and do something about it.
Wikis work under the same model. In wikipedia, authors can choose to "subscribe" to a wiki page, which means they are notified via email when anyone tries to change a page. They are free, of course, to re-visit the page and investigate. If someone has written something disagreeable, it's a small effort to change it back. You see, wikis do not only save one version of a page, but every version. Each time a user saves a new version, the old version is stored in a database where it can be accessed by examining the "History" of the page.
Thus, while wikis by default display the top layer of each page, one can easily dig down into the underlying layers and examine the sediment there. What one finds is that highly controversial topics (like abortion) are often loaded with hundreds of layers, whereas boring topics like "comma usage" are typically left alone after three or four changes.
In short, wikis are protected not by code, or by law, but rather by the participation of an active wiki community. If you are proud of your entry, you will feel compelled to see what's up if you receive a notification that the entry has been changed, and "roll it back" if it's obvious the page was vandalized or rendered less intelligent."

Wikis can be powerful tools to facilitate collaborative work and the development of online communities. The ability for distributed individuals to contribute to the same topics/content or project with just a web browser and a network connection has resulted in some amazing achievements of peer-produced content over recent years. The most notable example is Wikipedia but we are still in the early days of this technology and great things may come from a wide adoption of wiki technology by communities and groups interested in creating open resources. We hope that WikiEducator continues to grow as a place for communities of interested practitioners to facilitate and support the development of Open Educational Resources (OERs).

"For the gains in autonomy, democracy, justice, and a critical culture to materialize, the practices of non-market information production, individually free creation, and cooperative peer production must become more than fringe practices. They must become part of life for substantial portions of the networked population." - Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

If there is anything you would like to know more about regarding this tutorial, check out the FAQs page, someone else may have had the same question. If your question is not already covered on this page please add it to the talk page under an appropriate subject or post your question on the main WikiEducator google group.

External links and resources

These links are provided for further reading. They will be particularly useful for facilitators wanting to add interesting points when working through the WikiEducator tutorials.




Why Wikis. CC By blogefl
Wikis usually have a discussion tab with each page, and you can sometimes see community like communication there.

Sample To Do's

1. Write to your blog the initial ideas you have for your assignment 2 - facilitating your event in the course mini conference. Describe who or what you plan to bring to the group and through what channel of communication.

2. Add your proposed event to the course mini conference web page, and use that wiki page's discussion tab to negotiate and discuss and develop the mini conference. Ie. start a discussion forum thread for your proposed event and discribe your idea in more detail, including any questions or concerns you have that the group may be able to help with. Respond to other people's threads and get the wiki happening.

3. Join in a webconference to discuss the up coming course mini conference and everyone's thoughts and ideas for it. Meeting 1 will be at UTC 9pm 29 September 2008 (what time is that for you?), and meeting 2 will be at UTC 8am 30 September 2008 (what time is that for you?). Both meetings will be in the the 24/7 meeting room.

Extra resources