Wikis use a special, simplified form of computer code, (special characters typed along with words and phrases), to enable users to make text look a certain way on a page, and also, to create internal links to other subjects. Readers can click on these links, which are easily found because they show up in a different colour, to browse through many topics on the wiki.
Wikis are particularly useful when people want to work in collaboration on a special project, such as a community project, an Internet project organised for a specific purpose, or in a corporation with an intranet (an internally linked computer system).
Advantages to using wikis
- Allows many users at a time
- No need to circulate drafts; readily available to all
- The language and its syntax are relative simple
User can start with very little training; easy to create pages and place text and images on them.
Disadvantage to using wikis
- Very easy to vandalise.
- No inherent quality control
- Wiki markup is not uniform, that is, different wiki software uses different syntax, so users have to learn each one. Novice users can easily become frustrated.
- Although any number can participate; one must have a good number of participants to take full advantage of the system. Users get discourage if there are not perceived to be a lot of people participating and cooperating.
The best known Internet wiki is probably Wikipedia Other websites set up as wikis include
How can a wiki be used to educate?
Wikis are powerful tools for teaching because they do not require any physical presence in order to educate:
- One can work online, i.e. directly on the wiki
- One can work offline, and upload the work to the wiki, either bit by bit, or all at once.
- excellent for long distance learning
- both students and instructors can work on or off of the wiki
- vandalism can be minimized by restricting access to parts of the wiki or to certain functions. It can be virtually eliminated by ‘closing’ the wiki, that is, requiring registration and/or proof of identity for registration.
- only need to verify users once; then user can sign in using a password to confirm identity.
- images, scans and video can be uploaded to the wiki
- students can work cooperatively or alone
The teacher can
- teaching materials easily uploaded
- assess students' skills easily; there is no more danger of cheating than in traditional assignments, i.e. term/research papers; take-home examinations.
The student can
- Work at her or his own pace
- Use a combination of methods to work:
- hand write and then type notes and/or
- type directly onto a shared or personal computer; save work on disks or drives to upload later, and/or
- upload completed work to the wiki; cleanup if necessary, and/or
- type directly onto the wiki, formatting as s/he types