IBLC11-Abstract-Wiki supporting blended learning practices in university teaching
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16 May 2011
Author: Ms Stefania Bocconi
Blended learning offers considerable potential to meet the challenges faced by higher education institutions to provide quality courses with higher qualifications completion rates. By combining face-to-face and online strategies, blended learning model creates enhanced opportunities for teacher-student interaction, increased student engagement in learning, added flexibility in the teaching and learning environment (Vaughan, 2007).
As the acquisition of knowledge is mediated by the production of ‘artifacts’ and management of the ‘flow’ (Cornelius, 2008), online activities in a blended learning approach often include the creation of digital artifacts, particularly favouring the collaborative dimension. These strategies are usually implemented by assigning a group of students with the task of developing a written text (co-writing) based on a given argument (Trentin, 2005). Online co-writing allows students to have grater time flexibility and opportunities to practice reading and writing skills, as well as stimulating reflection, knowledge sharing and critical thinking.
In the pre-web 2.0 age, co-writing activities traditionally used interactions through forums or e-mails (e.g. circulating the semi-finished products by attaching them to messages or sharing them by means of a common repository). This process poses a number of disadvantages (eg. centralised editing, versioning) that today are partially overcome by social software (eg. Google Docs), which enables group distance collaboration although maintaining sequential text structure. Compared to other social technologies, wikis offer a variety of unique and powerful features, above all the possibility of ‘hypertextual distributed writing’. Furthermore, wikis combine the knowledge artifact and the knowledge flow into one (Cornelius, 2008).
This contribution aims to illustrate and discuss a methodology for organising co-writing via wikis in a blended university course. This approach has been developed in an Italian academic context (Trentin, 2009) and uses a mixed collaborative strategy (shared mind, division of labour) to facilitate knowledge sharing and mutual/reciprocal learning. After considering wiki’s potential outlined by several scholars, a matrix will be presented as a means for mapping uses of wikis in educational settings. The matrix cross-relates two key dimensions: uses purpose (‘process-oriented’ vs. ‘product-oriented’) and user-producer (‘students’ vs. ‘educators’). In a blended learning perspective, we will focus on the ‘process-oriented’ uses of the wiki, exploring how to organize students’ work in each development stage of the shared artifact. The methodology adopted will be illustrated in details, together with methods for evaluating individual and group’s contribution to the collaborative process.
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Trentin, G. (2009). Using a wiki to evaluate individual contribution to a collaborative learning project. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 25, 43–55.
Vaughan, N. (2007). Perspectives on Blended Learning in Higher Education. International Journal on E-Learning, 6(1), 81-94. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.