|Take your course to the next level|
|Wikis for Exam Review|
How do you approach final exam review? Do you provide a review sheet, organize study sessions, or do some sort of review exercise with your students? Finding a review method that is comprehensive, not too time-consuming, and engaging can be difficult. Accounting for student schedules and learning styles can further complicate selecting the optimal approach to final exam review method. This month, we’re focusing on a tool that helps students to be reflective, engaged learners and reviewers working at their own pace while simultaneously creating a shared artifact. The tool? A wiki.
First, let’s be clear what we’re talking about. A wiki is:
The shining example - love it or hate it - is, of course, Wikipedia. Wikipedia’s detractors cite the open-access format and the ability of anonymous non-experts to write seemingly authoritative and potentially inaccurate entries. However, if you are using a wiki within the context of your course, you can easily limit access (both setting limits about who can see the wiki and who can write entries) and assign identifiable (at least to you) usernames. Because a wiki both tracks revisions and supports discussions, you can monitor the changes to the pages as well as initiate and support conversations about those changes.
The innovative character of a wiki is the way in which it supports collaboration across time and space. Thus, wikis are a wonderful fit for online courses and courses in which it is especially challenging for students to get together outside of class (for example, professional practicum students). In these scenarios, a wiki might solve some real logistical problems and build a sense of classroom community, all in addition to helping students get ready for an upcoming exam. And students across the disciplines are catching on! A quick web search reveals wikis in existence for pathology exams, actuarial exams, computer science exams, and nutrition exams. In some cases, the students themselves have taken the initiative to set up a wiki, absent the instructor’s support or knowledge.
With a wiki, the students are essentially building an evolving knowledge base themselves. Note that you, as the instructor and initiator of the wiki in this scenario, will need to build and maintain the “skeleton” (the topic pages) and rely on the students to add the “muscles” (content about each topic). If there are key points that should accompany each entry (say, historical significance, an image, a listing of industrial uses or common compounds, etc.) you can add those headings to each page as a guide for your students. You may also want to consider putting a sample entry on the wiki so that your students have an example of a thorough, reasonable entry and the appropriate tone for wiki entries. Students will then assume responsibility for writing and revising the entries. The wiki will track the changes, indicating what has been added or deleted on each page and which member of the group was responsible. Each page has its own accompanying discussion forum, so students can use that space to ask questions and work through confusing and conflicting ideas.
Two concerns instructors often have about wikis relate to free-riders and inaccurate information. Of course, these concerns aren’t unique to the wiki format – but they can seem heightened in this setting. First, regarding students who only read, but never participate, there are a couple of issues. Students need to feel free to make attempts at writing and editing entries, however imperfect their efforts might be. Sometimes, perceived free-riding is really just a fear of showing work to one’s peers. As the instructor, you’ll set the tone about participation, collaboration, and the goal being to learn – not to be “right” or point out that others are “wrong”. Yet, there may still be some free-riders. Because of the constantly changing nature of the information on wiki, students are likely to get out of it what they put into it. Nothing refines one’s own thinking like being forced to articulate one’s thoughts; students who participate will see benefits, regardless of the behavior of others.
Second, regarding inaccurate information, you, as the instructor, will need to clarify how you would like students to contact you about questions related to content from the wiki. Many instructors indicate that it is up to the collective body of the class to review all information. These instructors further state that nothing on the wiki should be automatically assumed to be correct, especially if this information does not comport with lessons from lecture, lab, the text, readings, etc. If students have questions, using your name in the subject of a discussion post on the discussion board attached to the page in question is a good way to draw your attention to that issue. You can then step in and offer clarification about particular issues as the students identify them.
Wikis aren’t integrated with LearningStudio, but they are something that will help your students review and organize the information that you’ve posted to your course shell and the insights that have come out in the threaded discussions. In this sense, they really are helping you and your students get the most out of your content.
If you think this sounds intriguing, but you’d like to first try out a wiki on your own, the eLearning team has a sample wiki, and we’d be glad to add you to it. Simply send an email to email@example.com requesting access. We’ll then add you to our wiki, and you can see how easy it is to add pages, informational text, and review changes.
To set up your own wiki, we suggest going to Wikispaces and registering for one of their free higher education accounts. With this account, you can set viewing and authoring to members-only; we strongly urge you to adopt these settings so that your wiki remains a private place for your class alone. Note that, like the stand-alone set-up with TurnItIn in prior years, your students will also need accounts separate from their LearningStudio accounts. You can create these accounts for your students by uploading an Excel file of (sufficiently anonymous) usernames and passwords that you’ve selected, or your students can register themselves and you can then add them to your wiki.
Wikis , if used properly, can be a great tool for class-wide, student-led exam review. If you are thinking about how to structure your final exam review – perhaps with the particular goal of giving more ownership to the students – a wiki might just be your solution.