An investigation into the role of a wiki in supporting collaborative learning activities

King, David John (2010). An investigation into the role of a wiki in supporting collaborative learning activities. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00008d18

Abstract

Providing students with learning opportunities based on real-life situations has beenfound to enhance student learning. With this aim, two Open University post-graduatecourses introduced collaborative activities modelled on workplace situations. Theactivities employed wikis: a lightweight, web-based collaborative authoringenvironment. The purpose of this research has been to investigate the role of a wiki insupporting the collaborative learning activities, and to assess how the wiki influencedstudent engagement with the activities.The dissertation draws data from the three presentations of Open University courses’56 wikis produced by almost 240 students. The base data includes wiki content andstudent discussions. Issues identified in the base data were further explored throughpost-course questionnaires and interviews. An iterative inductive qualitative analysiswas applied to analyse students' perceptions and experiences with the wikis. Activitytheory was used to place these within the context of the activities.The wikis enabled all student groups to author collaboratively the documents requiredby their courses. Writing the documents benefited the students because it prompteddiscussion and personal reflection; both of which many students reported as enhancingtheir learning. The students particularly valued the wiki’s role as a central repositorythat helped them achieve these two benefits. The research shows that wikis cansupport collaborative activities among students and lead to enhanced learningopportunities. The key findings suggest that a wiki’s simplicity enabled students toengage easily with the collaborative learning activities. However, a wiki’s lack ofinherent structure hindered their progress until they had worked out how to organisetheir use of the wiki.

The insights from the research are presented as guidelines for educators intending toincorporate wiki supported collaborative learning activities into their courses. Theguidelines have two aims: first, to help educators facilitate speedy induction andparticipation of the students in the collaborative activities; second, to ensure the wiki isused effectively by students to increase their collaborative learning opportunities.

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