An evaluation of the contribution of Wikis to the student experience of collaborative learning

Debbie Witney and Teresa Smallbone (BS)

There is a consensus that the development of team working skills through group learning activities (assessed and non-assessed) is an essential component of business and management undergraduate programmes. However, dissatisfaction with the quality of student group work in terms of content and process from both academics and students provides an on-going challenge for the development of appropriate teaching, learning and assessment strategies and forms the rationale for this project

The aim of the project was to evaluate the use of wikis for supporting group work and to assess their potential for enhancing student engagement with group learning. The project explored whether offering this on-line option to undergraduates provides an effective and satisfactory experience of collaborative working. Wikis were offered on two Business School modules where there was an assessed piece of group course work.

The findings show that many students are already familiar with file sharing software of various types. For group work, most found that dedicated in-class time slots and face-to-face meetings were the best means of facilitating group learning. The most useful technological aid was the mobile phone which was used to arrange meetings, and email to send draft work. Much group work is not truly collaborative in any case, with group members organised to work separately on different sections of the assignment.

Using a wiki as an optional tool in group course work offers the potential for increased support for collaborative learning. The pedagogic literature suggests that wikis can promote peer interaction, facilitate sharing of knowledge, can be student-centred and empowering and therefore their wider use should enhance student engagement with learning. The reality for many tutors is that they do not have sufficient resources to explore and reflect on the theory of on-line course design when considering the introduction of technologies within their modules and evidence from the student experience is limited.

The project offers the ’ busy ’ academic a learner-centred framework for evaluating appropriate e-learning tools and activities designed to support the development and assessment of group working. This session offers the audience an opportunity to examine the rationale for introducing on-line tools within their modules and to align their expectations with the expectations of their students.