I attended the Eastern Ontario Symposium on Educational Technology (EOSET) hosted by the University of Ottawa last Thursday (May 29th). The format this year was different than in the past. It consisted of a series of short 10 minute presentations. One talk that I found interesting was by Mark Salter in the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa. He described his large introductory class in "Politics of Globalization" which he branded as ‘iGlobe’ to attract student attention on the materials and to convey that this course was different than other politics courses. It sure was. Mark mixed aspects of problem-based learning (PBL), wikis and pod-casting into the materials of his course. His course has two assignments (in which students had choice as to what deliverables they had to submit) and two exams. Mark reported that often in undergraduate politics courses, professors give feedback to students on their papers and students do not get the opportunity to integrate that feedback into future assignments. He felt that by using the wiki in the course that students could take advantage of professor (and peer) feedback to improve their work by incorporating feedback. I have written on the topic of using wikis as class assignments before, so it is clear to the readers of this blog that I am very pro-wikis. Mark mentioned a good point that I took away from this presentation: he felt that students need a significant amount of training on how to use a wiki in the context of education. In his experience, the concept of a wiki was new to some of his students and so basic training on how to operate it was necessary.
In addition, he felt it was important to emphasize to the students that the goal of using a wiki in this course is not to create as many pages as you can, but rather to create a few pages and edit them extensively and repeatedly. The cycle of ‘research-write-feedback-edit-repeat’ was the preferred activity here. Not simply a linear ‘write as much as you can’ scenario. It is this feedback integrating cycle that is the key in an educational context! The entire course is still a work in progress and you can check out the iGlobe wiki here.
If you use wikis in your undergraduate courses, let us know how they are working in your context by leaving a comment below.