Wikis

Wikis

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Wikis

In the past, face-to-face meetings between students and teachers were the norm. By then advanced technology, like the computers we have today, was not as popular. Today, all ways of communication including the use of the internet in order to get information and communicate with the teachers are in use. One of the most known online information website type is called the wiki. A wiki is a collection of information, which is removable, can be added, modifiable or alterable by an individual. This essay will discuss whether wikis facilitate collaboration between students or not. It will be investigated whether the ability of students to modify and edit information found in wiki facilitates collaborative learning skills for learners that aid in negotiating, discussing and finding solutions to problems relating to their studies. In my argument, wikis can be used as a learning mode for students to collaborate and gain from in formal learning processes, which help in the growth of interaction between the student and tutor/lecturer.

It is important to mention that people are using ways of achieving the most with the least time and the least effort. Students are not an exception. Online interaction sites, such as wikis, provide a very efficient, effective, and fast way of using the least effort of achieving results that could have otherwise taken more effort and time in the past. Most students work and have families at the same time. This leaves them with limited time in their hands. Wikis have enabled most of these students get some group work finished in the comfort of their homes or during an office break without necessarily compromising other issues. In this way, students are able to collaborate and gain knowledge without physically meeting.

Wikis are being used more often than not in the promotion of group-based and collaborative learning (Hunag & Nakazawa, 2009). This is because of a number of reasons. First, wikis are put in order of content rather than chronological order of happenings unlike blogs. This enables those who use wiki and have similar interests to communicate, share ideas and make contents via a reachable wiki interface in a collaborative way. Second, work done collaboratively via a wiki encourages the active participation of students. This is because wikis enable the tutors and the learners stay active or communicate even when outside the formal learning environment. In most cases, they establish a stronger connection with their peers than with those of higher ranks.

A third factor is that wikis give those using them the chance to observe the development of the content by saving time and dates with identifications belonging to the users. For example, PBwiki has a page where the users can check the history of the particular information. Users can check when the page was reviewed, when it was edited, how many times it has been edited, the previous information, and so on. This enables users to check and observe how the contents of a particular page have progressed. Finally, collaboration taking place online advocates for high-leveled social interactions among learners. This means that these sites, including wikis, give a learner-centered environment. In this way, students can engage with one another either asynchronously or synchronously (Huang & Nakazawa, 2009).

According to research carried out using subjects from the University of Oxford Brookes, 87% of the participants confessed that their group work was in an organized manner because of the use of wikis websites (Witney & Smallbone, 2011). These websites enable the students to have online seminars and workshops, which are more convenient and easier than having one-on-one meetings. They also enable the learners to flex with the available time, store any new information, retrieve any previous data, and get direct information (Witney & Smallbone, 2011). Other data gathered on 300,000 participants by the National Research Project, 85% of college learners confessed that they used Wikipedia as a source to get any kind of information they required (Ertmer, Liu, Newby, Lee, Tomory & Yu, 2011).

However, not all students use wikis in their studies or in any aspect of their learning. Nevertheless, this does not mean that it is not useful or beneficial to their learning. In most cases, these students do not use these websites as they do not know how to use them as a means of communication. Judging the importance and the credibility of wikis in collaborative learning should not be based on these negative aspects. The greater picture should be viewed. Records confirm that there were about 70% of learners in the first year of college and above attending Brookes University, who knew how to use Wiki tools such as Facebook, Skype, and email, amongst others. These tools aid in the improvement of group work held by students (Witney & Smallbone, 2011).

As proved continually, wikis websites have a force on activities involving the learning processes. The writers research on the types of activities that interest most people. They also evaluate the participants’ level of interaction between tutors and students. They also evaluate the effect of wikis on the student (Hung, and Nakazawa, 2010). This research carried out showed that students were more likely to interact with their fellow students than they were with their tutors (Hung & Nakazawa). This is because it is easier to communicate with peers using email, Facebook and the other websites than communicating with a tutor who is of a higher rank.

Another study was carried out in order to identify whether students doing the psychology course benefited from these websites. In this study, it was identified that students in this learning were not willing to use wikis (Judd, Cropper & Kennedy, 2010). The study showed that the students were not willing to use wikis due to the lack of experience. There was also the lack of preparation from the students in order to undertake the task (Judd, Cropper & Kennedy, 2010). In each case, the students were unwilling to participate in the use of wikis due to their own weaknesses but not necessarily because of the inability of wikis as a collaborative devise.

In addition, the confidence and perception of the students can be facilitated using wikis. The perception of values is tied to the anticipated future value and the current value of a given project (Ertmer et al, 2011). Other researches conducted on a number of learners proved that perceived value and confidence increased in students. For example, 34% of the learners questioned confessed to using wikis more than two to three times in a week. Other students confessed to using wikis more than 5 times. However, a lesser percentage of the students confessed to using wikis 2-3 times per week (Ertmer et al, 2011).

It is good to appreciate that the ability of students to collaborate using wikis and other online sites is not only based by their experience of using these sites. It is also wise to ensure that the learners are equipped with the skills of working in collaboration. A good example is when a students is disciplined enough not to criticize other learners’ works (Witney & Smallbone, 2011). Having this is mind it is important to note that the failure of wikis as a collaborative device, if any, is not its inability to be a collaborative means, but rather other components that need to facilitate it.

Projects that are related to wiki give students learning opportunities when they expose them to new perspectives or points of view (Ertmer et al, 2011). With this in mind, learning deeply includes how the participants work collaboratively in order to assist in the progress of the wiki product. In addition, if learners are going to gain from these collaborations, they are required to trust in their value and to have confidence in a reasonable way that they can successfully accomplish the needed. Overall, it requires the effort of everybody in order to make wiki related projects successful.

Change is inevitable. Technology is rapidly taking over the learning systems and processes. It is only wise and fair for institutions to take maximum advantage of it. Wikis are some of the online sites that can be used in advancing the collaborative experiences between students and students and between students and teachers. Most learners admitted to having an experience in using wikis at some point. They used these sites both as a leisure activity and as a tool. Although there are other skills that need to be incorporated in the use of wikis, it should not be completely ignored or be branded as an incompetent collaborative tool. It will only be wise for each institution to aid in the use of wikis as a collaborative tool by teaching the necessary skills and ethics while using it. With further research and information, ways can be innovated of how to make such sites be the preferred choice in collaborative learning as compared to the traditional face-to-face meetings. With much improvement, wikis can be fully incorporated in the learning systems in order to achieve better group work results.

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