Wiki best practices
Engaging in a wiki activity is an excellent way to build your knowledge and work with your peers to create a valuable resource that will serve you well, now and in the future. But how do you handle a situation where, for example, you disagree fundamentally with what another student has written? Do you delete their content, or add your own content with an explanation? How is a final decision reached? This document will answer these questions and more.
What is the purpose of a wiki?
Wikis allow you to work collaboratively with other students, even though you may never meet them in person and there is significant pedagogical reasoning behind using wikis (Cubric, 2007):
- Wikis provide students with a fun and easy-to-use space where they can collaborate and provide each other with feedback.
- Head Tutors and tutors are given good insight into the comprehension and progress of the student group.
- Learning and collaboration are not restricted to classrooms or “business hours”, but rather can occur when necessary.
- Continual feedback provided by other students (and ultimately a tutor or the CI) improves the learning experience.
- Wikis allow students to build reading and writing skills, but also editing; research and negotiation skills.
- Employability might be increased due to improved skills of teamwork and collaboration, even though the overall course is completed online.
What kind of tone and positioning should be used in a wiki?
Students often tend to think that their opinion is the only way of looking at a situation. This is a mindset that you need to avoid when collaborating on a wiki. When making your contribution, phrase it as a suggestion rather than as the immutable truth, and be open to edits and suggestions from others.
When editing a wiki, keep the following points general in mind:
- Do not share your personal information.
- Ensure that what you are posting is correct as far as you are aware. Refer back to the course material or other reliable resources to achieve this.
- Be friendly. In some cases, it might be best to be overly friendly; remember that tone is difficult to convey in writing, and a comment that you meant to be completely neutral, could be interpreted as sarcastic or hurtful by someone else.
- Re-read and edit your post before adding it to the wiki. Check for spelling errors and typing mistakes, as well as to ensure that you made your point clearly.
- Feel free to encourage creativity in the wiki, but remember to stay within the parameters set forward in the instructions.
- Stay on topic. Although it may be tempting to include additional resources and links, ensure that they stay on the topic at hand and add value in terms of the assignment. Do not introduce irrelevant topics.
- Be aware that the way you write can send unintended messages. For example, typing ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS makes it seem as though you are shouting at the other students. Avoid setting this tone.
- Do not edit the wiki just for the sake of editing it, and remember that the quality of your contribution will be tracked. So, if all you are doing is removing white space or putting in full stops, you may run the risk of receiving a low grade for your contribution.
Guidelines on editing
An important thing to know about wikis is that only one person can edit a wiki at a time. In other words, if you are working on the wiki, none of the other students in your group will be able to contribute. This means that you need to:
- Be mindful of how long you spend working on the wiki, and be sure to let other students have a chance to add their contribution.
Close the wiki completely when you have finished. If you keep the wiki open while not at your computer, no other students will be able to work on the content.
- Plan your contribution in advance. If you have a clear idea of what you want to add to the wiki, consider writing it offline in another document, and copy-pasting your contribution once you have a good first draft.
How do I agree with another student?
When you agree with a student, or when you feel that they have made a particularly pertinent contribution to the wiki, be sure to praise them. Everyone likes to feel appreciated, particularly in a collaborative space where compromise is an important ideal to strive towards. Leave a temporary note in the wiki to highlight your agreement with and appreciation for the contribution.
Do not forget that the other contributors to the wiki are real people with feelings and opinions. Be sure to acknowledge their good work, and be tactful when flagging any disagreements you may have or introducing a new point of view.
In addition to agreeing with other students, you might find an external resource that raises a point that you agree with. When this happens, remember to provide attribution to the source, summarise the example, and link to it (if possible).
How do I position an alternative viewpoint with other students?
The number one thing to remember here is: do not delete the work of another student unless you have a very good reason and have flagged your intention to delete their contribution.
Instead, use a temporary comment (section 7) in the wiki itself or a post on the wiki discussion forum (section 8) to introduce your differing viewpoint. Follow these three steps when doing this:
- Inquire politely about the content that you disagree with in a temporary comment that appears directly after the line or paragraph. Ensure that this is clearly situated as a temporary comment (see section 7). Note: you can also use the discussion forum for this if it is a method agreed on by your group.
If the other student does not reply in time for the due date, remove their contribution and replace it with your own, only if you are completely sure that your contribution is more correct. Other students may give their opinions on the suggested change; if the majority of them disagree with your suggestion, this may be a sign that it is incorrect.
- If the other student replies, do your best to work with them to make the correction. Work with them on the wording of the content, or consider melding your two ideas into one paragraph, if the content lends itself to this.
Remember that other students are likely to have views that differ from yours. Be open to these. If you make a mistake in your content, own up to it, and thank the person who bought it to your attention. Avoid becoming defensive and defending your position no matter what. Rather, be open to the views of others.
How do I disagree with another student?
Because wikis are asynchronous (i.e. collaboration does not happen in real time, but rather when students have time to access the document), many of the disagreements will occur in the wiki document itself through the addition of temporary comments. Some general tips:
- If you were the first one to add a contribution that disagreed with existing content, it is your responsibility to ensure that all of the temporary comments are removed once the dispute is resolved.
- If you see other students’ disagreeing about an issue, consider adding your opinion or acting as a mediator to resolve the dispute if it seems to be getting out of hand.
- If you are struggling to stay civil in a disagreement, take a break from the wiki and come back to it later when your mind has had time to clear. If you’re playing the part of a mediator, you might want to suggest that the other students take a break.
If another student disagrees with your content, then, do not ignore them. Make sure that you respond and provide justification, perhaps by referring your fellow student back to the section of the notes or the video from which you gathered your information. Remember that a student that disagrees with your opinion probably does not object to you as a person, so try not to take the comments personally.
Argue with the content and not the person who posted it. It is often tempting to use personal attacks when someone introduces an opinion that you disagree with and the situation becomes heated. Avoid this by remaining civil and focusing on the content itself, rather than insulting the person who added it.
If another student includes something hateful or hurtful in the wiki, it is best to ignore them. Some may enjoy creating conflict in their group, and paying attention to this may worsen the situation. If you respond, try to turn the topic back to the content of the wiki, and away from the person, the attack is directed at.
Using temporary comments
Temporary comments are the best way to communicate with your fellow students within the wiki itself (although your group is welcome to develop alternative methods for collaboration if you prefer). Please use the following colour-coding system to indicate what kind of comment you have left for your fellow students:
- Disagreements or intention to delete another student's work: Red
- Agreeing or praising another student's works: Green
- Raising a different viewpoint for consideration: Blue
Wiki discussion forums
Special discussion forums for each wiki group have been added to give you an additional space in which to collaborate. If you are stuck on a point, these forums could be a useful space for resolving the disagreement or clearing up the confusion. Remember to be respectful in these forums, and to follow the discussion forum rules and guidelines.
Wiki discussions are not the same as small group discussions. Wiki discussion forums differ in the following ways:
- They involve larger groups of students.
- They are not monitored by the Course Instructor or the Tutors.
- They do not count for marks or DP.
- They are only visible to the students taking part in that specific wiki.
Because only one student can work on a wiki at a time, the discussion forum could be an excellent place to decide on the distribution of work as well as who will be working on the wiki at what times.
Babb, P. (2007). Blog and wiki etiquette: Ten Commandments. Retrieved fromhttp://www.pcworld.com/article/132320/article.html
Cubric, M. (2007). Using wikis for summative and formative assessment. In Procs of REAP '07: Assessment Design for Learner Responsibility: T2 - Great Designs for Assessment, Web 2.0 pedagogic design. The University of Strathclyde.
FamilySearch. (n.d.). FamilySearch Wiki: Etiquette Guidelines. Retrieved on 10 February 2015 from https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/FamilySearch_Wiki:Etiquette_Guidelines
Murphy, S. (n.d.). Wiki etiquette for students – How to act on a wiki. Retrieved on 10 February 2015 from https://educators.pbworks.com/w/page/18697893/Wiki%20Etiquette%20for%20Students
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