Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Adventures in (wiki) space

At the end of January I began teaching a final year module to undergraduate social work students on leadership, teams and motivation. I ran this for the first time last year and had some really inspiring - and inspired - final projects from students using a variety of platforms.

This year I have used Wikispaces as a unifying platform to bring together this group, and one other from a different course, who are sharing the module for the first time. I could have asked IS to build me a common learning room on the VLE, but where would be the fun in that?

I confess I am becoming a fan of the Wikispaces tool for higher education. It remains to be seen whether the students will become fans, but there is no option within the VLE for anything like this kind of interactivity. Students are contributing to discussions, signing up to create groups, and now - thanks to the "Projects" option,  each group has a private workspace within the wiki which I can monitor.

They still have the option of making their final presentation using a different platform altogether, but so far they seem happy to play with the Projects pages and are sharing and building their ideas there.

Week 1 saw many students still not signed up to the wiki, confused by it, scared of editing anything and feeling a bit out in the cold. Last week I ran an intensive IT suite session with all 70 students in 2 rooms over 2 hours and managed to get 90% signed on and relatively comfortable with the concept. There is a bit of activity going on within the Project pages now, too.

One interesting dimension to this cohort is that one of their number is out in the Australian outback at the moment. She is able to participate via the wiki of course but we have also sent her a video greeting and I am looking into Skyping a lecture. This has added strength to my argument about using on line tools for collaboration i.e. one of the main benefits is the ability to bring together "virtual" team mates.

And as the final presentation of the group project will also be virtual, this does not disadvantage two of the group members who are due to give birth round about the time the assignment is due in! (Of course we could Skype them in from the maternity ward - but even I think that may be going too far...)

So - early days yet but encouraging to see the collaboration happening before my very eyes. The trick now will be to keep an eye open for those who still feel a bit lost in (wiki)space!

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