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Facilitating Collaborative Knowledge Construction with Wikis: A Critical Review
Association for Educational Communications and Technology Convention (2012)
  • Yu-Hui Ching, Boise State University
  • Yu-Chang Hsu, Boise State University
Introduction: Wikis, a type of Web 2.0 applications, have been widely adopted for helping learners achieve collaborative knowledge construction. The word ‘wiki’ (from the Hawaiian language wiki wiki) is translated as ‘to hurry’, implying the capability of the application of rapid and easy authoring direct to the Web (Wheeler, Yeomans, & Wheeler, 2008). Wikis are linked webpages that are typically intended for collaborative writing or knowledge creation where users co-author and co-edit writing, exchange ideas, share artifacts, and link to the relevant websites. Wikis enable users to edit each other’s work on the same page, to track revision history made by users and to ‘roll back’ to previous versions through a ‘page history’ feature. At the end of the process, wikis themselves become the artifacts of the co-constructed knowledge. Many studies have investigated the incorporation of wikis for collaborative tasks such as writing or knowledge creation in different learning contexts. For example, pre-service teachers used wikis as a space to store and edit the work from their research exercises, and as a forum for discussion (Wheeler, Yeomans, & Wheeler, 2008). In another study, thirty-six pre-service teachers in small groups used wikis to generate a communal response to a set of standards for teachers (Vratulis & Dobson, 2008). The participants’ collaboration in the wiki environments over a ten-month period revealed the established social hierarchies and negotiation process in the group process and how the features of wikis aid the establishment. While there are promising results that this technology may help create an environment that facilitates knowledge construction, some challenges and difficulties have also been reported. A few studies found that collaborative knowledge construction was not evidenced when wikis were simply included in the collaborative tasks without specific scaffolding. Grant (2009), for example, studied a group of secondary students using wikis for collaborative work and found that there was no evidence of collaborative knowledge creation. Students in groups mainly worked individually to finish their portion of the task without engaging in idea sharing, meaning negotiation, or discussing how to link their wiki pages created individually to form coherent group wiki sites. Lin and Kelsey (2009) examined graduate students’ collaborative writing of chapters in a wikibook. This activity required students to compose three to four chapters collaboratively. Their study found that initially students hesitated to make their thinking visible to their peers through wikis, because students were unfamiliar with the wiki tool and were afraid they would mess up the writing. They were also uncomfortable sharing their thinking process with peers through the wiki. As a result, students wrote their individual portion using Microsoft Word and contributed their individual portions in the wikibook. In a sense, they used the wiki as a presentation platform rather than used it for making their thinking visible to achieve collaboration. In fact, no collaborative writing and editing happened in their first attempt of writing a chapter together. It was not until they used wikis several times did they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and drafts, or editing each other’s work to improve the quality of writing. Studies also identified difficulties of collaboration in wiki environments where learners were supposed to actively interact and communicate to exchange ideas and learning progression with each other. For example, Zorko (2009) attempted to identify factors that led to undergraduates’ positive experience of collaboration when using a wiki in a problem-based learning activity, and examined how the wiki promoted peer and student-teacher interaction. Zorko found that students did not use the wiki for communication. Instead, students preferred using Instant Messenger, email, or mobile phone to exchange ideas because those tools were an integral part of their everyday lives, and enabled immediate contact. Students only used the wiki for publishing their own work and reading other groups’ work. In another study, Karasavvidis (2010) investigated problems that students experienced while completing a wiki task. This task required students to create wiki pages and contribute to peer-created pages. Findings from their interviews suggested that the wiki afforded limited communication opportunities, and students had limited uses of wiki for their communication. Wikis with their technological features designed for collaboration are believed to make interaction and collaboration among culturally diverse and geographically dispersed learners more feasible (Larruson & Alterman, 2009). Cross-cultural collaboration can be more challenging due to language barriers, different working habits, and time zone differences, to name a few. Ertmer et al. (2011) examined students’ confidence and perceived value of using Web2.0 tools among college students from several cultures when wikis were used to facilitate cross-cultural collaboration. They found that barriers to effective wiki collaborations related to students’ difficulties managing communication and coordination aspects of the project. Research Method: In this research, we aim to identify effective strategies for designing successful learning experiences of collaborative knowledge construction in wiki-based learning environments grounded in current literature. After collecting the empirical studies on wikis for collaborative knowledge construction from the major database such as ERIC and Science of Web, we systematically examine these selected studies for best practices, and code the studies by themes such as collaborative learning group size, subject domains, educational levels of implementation, types and levels of learning outcomes, types of wikis used, and common issues and challenges. Results and Discussion: We will synthesize our findings into suggestions for designing effective learning tasks, assessments, and group process (e.g., negotiation and interaction) strategies that enhance collaborative knowledge construction and group collaboration process in wiki learning environments. We will also discuss the potential and challenges of using wikis for cross-cultural collaboration and the possible support and scaffold for cognitive and motivational aspects to help diverse learners achieve successful collaborative knowledge construction. We hope to provide useful design suggestions to educators who are interested in incorporating wikis to facilitate knowledge construction and enable successful collaboration experiences and ability. References: Ertmer, P. A. Newby, T. J., Liu, W., Tomory, A., Yu, J. H., & Lee, Y. M. (2011). Students’ confidence and perceived value for participating in cross-cultural wiki-based collaborations. Educational Technology Research & Development, 59, 213–228. Grant, L. (2009). ‘I DON’T CARE DO UR OWN PAGE!’ A case study of using wikis for collaborative work in a UL secondary school. Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), 105-117. Karasavvidis, I. (2010). Wiki uses in higher education: Exploring barriers to successful implementation. Interactive Learning Environment, 18(3), 219-231. Larruson, J. A., & Alterman, R. (2009). Wikis to support the “collaborative” part of collaborative learning. Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, 4, 371–402. Lin, H. & Kelsey, K. D. (2009). Building a networked environment in wikis: The evolving phases of collaborative learning in a wikibook project. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 40(2), 145-169. Vratulis, V., & Dobson, T. M. (2008). Social negotiations in a wiki environment: A case study with pre-service teachers. Educational Media International, 45, 285-294. Wheeler, S., Yeomans, P., & Wheeler, D. (2008) The Good, the Bad and the Wiki: Evaluating student generated content for collaborative learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39 (6), 987-995. Zorko, V. (2009). Factors affecting the way students collaborate in a wiki for English language learning. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25(5), 645–665.
Publication Date
November 1, 2012
Citation Information
Yu-Hui Ching and Yu-Chang Hsu. "Facilitating Collaborative Knowledge Construction with Wikis: A Critical Review" Association for Educational Communications and Technology Convention (2012)
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