Category Archives: Wikis

How do you encourage student participation online?

Whether you’re studying online, or facilitating online study, the issue of student participation is always going to dog you. This is a very important area that all tutors or online facilitators should be very knowledgeable about, as just one person ‘lurking’ or not joining in has a very marked effect on the whole online discussion.

So, what are the skills and techniques that can be used to ‘encourage’ the few who are reluctant to join in?

Draw all students into the discussion. You can involve more students by asking whether they agree with what has just been said or whether someone can provide another example to support or contradict a point: “How do the rest of you feel about that?” or “Does anyone who hasn’t spoken care to comment on XYZ?” Moreover, if you move away from – rather than toward – a student who makes a comment, the student will speak up and outward, drawing everyone into the conversation. The comment will be “on the floor,” open for students to respond to.

Give quiet students special encouragement. Quiet students are not necessarily uninvolved, so avoid excessive efforts to draw them out. Some quiet students, though, are just waiting for a non-threatening opportunity to speak.”

Active facilitation – A variety of strategies were grouped in this category, including challenging students to answer more in depth, not letting people dominate the discussion, and stopping folks who are just participating for the sake of participating.

Asking effective questions – This is related to the old adage about the quality of the questions being predictive of the quality of the answers. But there was also this student observation about a response that decreases discussion: “when a facilitator is looking for specific answers and does not consider alternative concepts.

Affirm contributions and provide constructive feedback – Recommendations here ranged from stressing how the class benefits from wrong answers to making reference subsequently to student answers or writing good student responses on the board.”

“You can improve student participation in your course by devoting time and thought to shaping the environment and planning each class session. Furthermore, the way in which you interact, both verbally and non-verbally, communicates to students your attitude about participation.”

“The instructor’s goal is to create conditions that enable students of various learning styles and personalities to contribute. To reach this goal, you will need to take extra steps to encourage quiet students to speak up and, occasionally, ask the more verbose students to hold back from commenting in order to give others a chance.”

Wikis in Education

When trying to find things for work and to try and help other people I often come across some really good articles or web pages. In this instance I was trying to find something to help me demonstrate to a reluctant user that a Wiki can be used effectively for an item of coursework, and still be assessed.

I found this:

What I pulled out of this resource for the academic were the following passages (pages 10-14), intended to outline the advantages of a ‘wiki in education’ for someone new to the idea/technology.

(The emphasised text is my emphasis, not from the original piece)

“The strength of a wiki is the ability for numerous interested readers and users to express ideas online, edit someone else’s work, send and receive ideas, and post links to related resources and sites. As a result, wikis go a step further and allow for greater collaboration and interactivity. Wikis have been found to have value for educational purposes, and their use has begun to be integrated into a number of university courses, in particular.”

“Wikis are useful for education in that they help to promote student participation and also a sense of group community and purpose in learning. Indeed, an important element of this is the relaxed sense of control over the content, allowing students to have a greater role in managing its focus and direction.”

“The (educational) emphasis therefore is on teamwork, continuous review and testing, and the development of conversational sharing. Inherent in the workings of wikis is support for an open, collaborative environment, where many people can contribute to the development of knowledge instead of being limited to a set of “experts.” It appears that conversational knowledge acquisition and management are appropriate for wikis. As for educational applications and KM, a study … examined the use of a wiki to help encourage and support collaborative activities in a knowledge management course. More specifically, using wikis in the course helped to encourage openness and better sharing and updating of knowledge bases. Many-to-many communication is supported, and the persistence of the created pages formed the basis of a knowledge repository. In short, the impact of easy page creation and improved updating and editing, together with effective maintenance of knowledge histories, were seen as positives.”

Wikis in Education

The Internet of Web 2.0 is all about collaborative and dynamic content, and this has had a huge impact in education and eLearning. I want to concentrate on just one ‘tool’, that of the ‘wiki’.

In a nutshell, a wiki is “a type of website that allows the visitors to add, remove, and sometimes edit the available content” or  a website that “includes the collaboration of work from many different authors”. Whether it’s limited access or global, the wiki can be used for many different purposes … information, documentation, assessment, etc.

According to Stewart Malder 38% of the responders to his poll are using a wiki as a knowledge base or source for documentation, with a further 17% as a tool for project management. However, this does not cover the education environment as the options offered are base more in ‘business’ than ‘academia’. The beauty of a wiki, as Arielle Pandolph writes, is that they are “flexible, easy to use, and don’t have a steep learning curve like a lot of technology tools”.

Benefits of using a wiki are undoubtedly that the wiki is fast, efficient collaboration giving the ability to collaboratively build projects, papers, and websites, and as a tool for gathering input “in an inclusive way”. Students like them because they make group projects easier to coordinate, teachers like them because they can interact with students throughout the course of a project or assignment, see their progress, and give them feedback along the way.

Wikis are commonly being used in higher education for (according to Arielle) group authoring, project development, peer review. We almost must identify the advantage of the wiki as a source of reducing email traffic for collaborative work.

If you want more information on a wiki, try Google. If you want more information on how to use them/it, stay tuned (subscribe to the RSS feed) and I’ll write about it again later.