TCC09: Wikis that Work: Effective Wiki Practices for Virtual Learning Communities

Wiki Wiki
Wiki Wiki

Liveblogged notes from the TCC online conference. My notes in italics.

In this session, we will share a collaborative wiki created by a self-organized, self-managed group of online graduate students. This virtual learning community took the initiative to form a study group and share strategies for completing course problem-solving assignments. They effectively managed issues of trust, workload, and learning within their social network. We will discuss our observations and recommendations for using wikis as a collaborative learning tool.


  • Barbara Frey, University of Pittsburgh
  • Lorna Kearns, University of Pittsburgh
  • Carol Johnston, University of Pittsburgh


  • Theoretical foundation
  • Define wiki
  • Examples
  • Recommended practices
  • Identify future directions
  • Resources & references

Social Learning/Social Constructivism

  • We’ve had learning communities before, but online learning makes it more visible
  • Research showing benefits of learning communities
  • Community of Inquiry
  • Social presence–ability to project yourself in an online environment and make connections with others

Started with a study of their students–how students were communicating outside the classroom

  • 100% used email
  • 60% used cell phone
  • 60% used collaborative authoring (wiki)
  • Social gaming (e.g., Second Life) very low

What is a wiki

Skipping most of the intro here–interesting that they define it as WYSIWYG editing. Not really true in all cases.

Organized by context, not by chronology like a discussion board

Benefits for Education

  • Freely available
  • Easy to archive for later
  • Support for group work


  • Getting students to contribute
  • Setting rules to allow for organic evolution of the wiki
  • Getting contributors to feel comfortable editing work of others, having their work edited


  • If you use third party, your internal tech support can’t help
  • Backups–hosted elsewhere


Instructional and extracurricular wikis

Library Science course on Retrieving Information

Students (including Carol Johnston, presenting) decided to start a wiki themselves

Search and Seize assignments: What is this? On the slide but not explained yet

Students were very active–they are all on the wiki just about every day. Increased their sense of community with others in the course. Said it gave her more of an on-campus feeling in an off-campus environment.

Because everyone could go to their own library and share resources, they got many more resources than they would have otherwise. Wished they would have prioritized the best resources though.

As an entirely personal note, it’s hard to look at slides with a solid gray background and bullet points with very few images. I will give credit to Carol that she’s just talking and not reading bullet points, but it’s hard to keep focus with multiple webinars when you have boring visuals.

This was a self-selected group of students

Another example: Introduction to Information Science

  • co-taught with a 92-year-old prof who was teaching his first online course
  • Lecture videos, readings, participation, asynchronous discussions
  • Used wiki as a place for students to collect summaries of content each week showing connections in content–2 students assigned to do the summaries with connections each week
  • Got some feedback that it was too much to switch back and forth between discussion and wiki
  • Sign of success: students asked if they could download the wiki as a reference after the course was done

Study Group wikis

  • encourage students to communicate with each other outside of class
  • don’t institutionalize the wiki–let it belong to them, they should have a space to complain

And practice presenting in the actual environment before you go live. This is getting painful to listen to as the poor moderator tries to explain to the student presenter how to open a new browser tab so they can do a web tour. And the wiki they want to show is password protected…leaving now

Image: ‘WikiWiki Means Fast

2 thoughts on “TCC09: Wikis that Work: Effective Wiki Practices for Virtual Learning Communities”

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