Countless articles have appeared over the last few years on the topic of wikis and whether they have a place in higher ed, or whether their use has a future at all. Contrary to the naysayers, wikis have not died, but using them does tend to be a quiet affair in contrast to blogging (Wikipedia notwithstanding).
So why would you wiki? There isn’t one simple answer. A better question to ask might be: What learning objective are you attempting to meet? Actually, there’s a second question to ask: What organizational objective are you trying to meet? Wikis can address both depending on how they are set up and managed.
While much touted for their inherent “collaborative” aspects, this can be deceiving if the wiki is not managed well. Think drop box. Students might deliver an assignment to the same place (virtual or otherwise), but that doesn’t mean they had any interaction with each other on the way there. If collaboration is one of your objectives, it may take a little creative thinking to design, or re-design, projects and assignments to ensure students truly are able to interact on that basis.
Wikis can be a fantastic tool from an organizational perspective. Organize class projects, lab work, writing assignments, research—you name it. Likewise, wikis can be very useful for committees and other administrative groups. Forget the confusing flurry of emails as participants offer their contributions to the group. Set up a wiki and everyone can access and edit the calendars, documents, lists, photos charts and so on. No lost emails. No paper for the dog to eat.
If you want to know more about using wikis, take a look at this compilation of faculty interviews (audio) by Mathieu Plourde at the University of Delaware. Click on the name of the faculty member to hear a candid discussion about that person’s experience. Also, check out the InTech Workshops link in the left column. We’re offering several sessions on wikis (along with lots of other topics).