Using wikis for collaborative learning: Assessing collaboration through contribution

Terry Judd, Gregor Kennedy, Simon Cropper


Wikis are widely promoted as collaborative writing tools and are gaining in popularity in educational settings. However, while wikis include features that are designed to facilitate collaboration, it does not necessarily follow that their use will ensure or even encourage collaborative learning behaviour. The few empirical studies that have considered this issue report equivocal findings. We assessed students collaborative behaviour based on their contributions to a wiki-based shared writing task using a variety of text and time based metrics. We found little evidence of collaboration despite adopting a learning design that was intended to support it. While overall participation was high, a relatively small proportion of students did the bulk of the work and many students' contributions were superficial. Students made little use of the wiki's commenting feature - a critical tool for contextualising and coordinating their contributions for and with others, and the majority of contributions were made very late in the task, making the possibility of extensive collaboration unlikely. These findings are discussed in relation to factors that may lead to the more successful integration of innovative, technology based learning activities into broader undergraduate curricula.

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