The Use of Wikis within the Virtual Learning Environment to Support Collaborative Working and their Influence on Students’ Learning Experience
Keywords:wikis, collaboration, group work, employability skills, virtual learning environment
Wikis are collaborative websites and are increasingly used by organisations for working in groups and sharing knowledge. Furthermore, universities have recently started to implement wikis for teaching and learning purposes. The academic literature suggests that wikis are a suitable tool to enhance constructivist learning environments as well as to develop students’ employability skills. Furthermore, wikis can help mitigate some of the common challenges of group work at university.
This paper explores students’ experiences with the informal use of wikis that are embedded in the university’s virtual learning environment (VLE) and provides suggestions for the implementation of similar wikis in other situations. It is based on data that were gathered in a module for first year undergraduate Festival and Event Management students at a UK University.Findings suggest some negative experiences with VLE wikis on this module due to the layout of the wiki software, combined with readily available means of online collaboration such as Facebook that students were more familiar with. The findings constitute the basis for advice on using wikis in the future. Most importantly, the wiki software should possess as many of the key characteristics of a wiki as possible. Furthermore, the research confirms several findings from other studies: Students should be given guidance on how they can use and benefit from the wiki and how it is used by the teaching team for monitoring and marking. For high levels of student engagement, a mandatory use of the wiki should be considered, or, alternatively, a thorough embedding of the wiki in the curriculum combined with high levels of staff engagement needs to be in place.
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