Kolowich, S. (2010) Whither wikis? Inside Higher Education, July 14

This article takes a broad look at the use of wikis, particularly for academic scholarship/research, compared with student applications, and asks why greater use has not been made of wikis by faculty for this purpose. One reason seems to be the relative anonymity of a wiki – academics don’t get individually recognized for their contributions, which says a lot about the rewards system and culture of universities. However, there also seem to be more valid issues around ‘credibility’ and ‘authority’ of open wikis (such as Wikipedia).

Within the topic of e-learning, there are at least two wikis that I think have been very successful, but both were developed by recognized ‘experts’, at least in their initial formation, although both are openly published, i.e. anyone can read, but only ‘experts’ contribute.

The first is the Re.Vica wiki on virtual campuses. This has developed an extensive wiki on virtual campuses around the world, and provides an excellent reference source on what is happening in different countries. The other is the Penn State Online Learning Global Snapshot, where several teams of people, both from within Penn State’s World Campus team, and other interested parties, built a picture of online learning in each of six continents (North and South America have different teams). The Online Learning Global Snapshot was slightly more open to contributors, as those from outside Penn State who were interested were encouraged to contribute, without any overt selection process (as far as I know). I have found both these projects extremely valuable in getting up to the minute overviews of what’s happening in different countries regarding e-learning.

In summary, in terms of getting rapid updating and knowledge of developments in a particular academic field, wikis are probably the least well exploited yet most promising of all web 2.0 tools. There are certainly ways in which issues of credibility and authority can be addressed without losing the uniqueness of the format. I see wikis as a half-way house between individual blogs and peer-reviewed academic journals. Each has their value, but each also needs their own minimum standards and practices to ensure quality and reliability.


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