Thursday, July 23, 2009

5.3.2: Wikis, engagement and learning

By now, you may have noticed that the last few posts draw on the latest issue of AJET... Neumann & Hood (2009), in their article "The effects of using a wiki on student engagement and learning of report writing skills in a university statistics course" AJET 25(3), 382-398 make a wonderful contribution to the literature surrounding the use of wikis in HE. Significantly, the study compares an indivdual version of an assignment with a group-based (of between 4 and 6 members), wiki-facilitated version.

Neumann & Hood do an excellent job of clearly contextualising their study, and are robust and honest in their analysis of findings.Overall, while the wiki-using students reported more engagement with other students and perceived higher levels of cognitive engagement to the individual students, there was no real difference in terms of learning outcomes. However it must be pointed out that the perceived "more engagement with other students" must be understood in the context of poor overall participation from the wiki groups. Neumann & Hood also found that wiki groups tended to not complete the tasks assigned to them (probably not surprising, in that their efforts were not directly assessed). Significantly, some respondents in the wiki groups "expressed dissatisfaction with the amount of effort and participation from other members of the group" (p.395); the authors conclude that "[t]he outcomes of the present study seem to fall in between prior reports of wholehearted success... and disappointing failure" (p.395). Neumann & Hood highlight the importance of incentive for use and the variability of the student experience when wikis are applied in higher education contexts. Wikis, it seems, have their place - but in that place a pancaea will not be found.

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