Below are parts of a formal report I have written about my experience of using wiki tools as part of a wider e-learning strategy. You can read about the background to the experiment in part 1 and part 2 of this series.
Summative assessment component (30%) for Communication Skills, Level C unit on BA (Hons) Communication and Media, BA (Hons) English.
Pedagogic aim was to assess students’ ability to working effectively in a computer-mediated environment by applying interpersonal communication skills taught in the unit, in addition to fostering a professional engagement with the unit’s theoretical foundation.
Each of the seven seminar groups had a dedicated wiki section on myBU, which students used for collaboratively producing notes from the weekly lectures and set readings. Comments were used to discuss the lecture and readings with fellow students, as well as strategies for formulating the joint text.
Students were required to contribute to 8 out of 10 lecture weeks. Each student’s contribution was evaluated quantitatively (proportion of text written, number of edits, number of weeks participating) and qualitatively (accuracy, detail and self-reflexivity of final entries).
Evidence of impact
The Student Wiki Pages was an integral part in inspiring students’ commitment to learning on this unit, evidenced by:
1. Ensuring good attendance at lectures and professional attitude to learning
- The requirement for each student to contribute to a set number of weeks, meant attendance at lectures was essential.
- Attendance was regularly above 80%, despite being held at Lansdowne campus due to building works at Talbot campus.
2. Inspired student understanding of scholarly literature and engagement in lectures
- Students developed a competitive spirit about who could be the first to contribute and who would write the most each week. They came prepared and were confident in their contribution to discussion during lectures.
- Typically around 15% of students even contributed directly to their wiki during the lectures, using laptops or iPads to write and mobile phones to take pictures / record audio.
3. Facilitated electronic peer support and discussion groups
- Students used the wiki to support each other’s learning by using the collaborative text for revision, asking questions, and discussing lectures and readings.
4. Improved engagement with scholarly literature in both summative assessment components
- Weekly wiki entries were frequently around 10,000 words, often with 10-15 comments discussing relevant topics – both far exceeding expectation.
- The quality of the second assignment, an extended essays, was noticeably improved compared to 2009/10. In particular students had a much more solid grasp of conceptual vocabulary and in-depth engagement with a wider range of scholarly literature.
5. Increased grade average for students taking unit
- The overall grade distribution was significantly improved, including 13 firsts compared to none in 2009/10.
Feedback from a student retaking unit, with experience of wiki pages as both formative and summative assessment:
I also want to say how good an idea it has been to mark the wiki pages. Last year they were up and I paid no real heed to them, as they didn’t affect my grade. However this year they’ve made sure everyone turns up to lectures (which I and others didn’t last year) and will also be an integral part of the bigger assignment. This has also increased my understanding of the unit as I’ve had to do the further reading, which I clearly didn’t last year.
The Student Wiki Pages assessment encouraged students to develop active learning techniques and scholarship at the start of their degree programmes, providing a solid underpinning for their future studies. Collaboratively producing notes meant students had to be proactive and critically evaluate their own notes from the lecture and the set readings on a weekly basis. This contrasts with a passive form of study, where students superficially read only a selection of the required material, often towards the end of the unit.
Whilst part of this assessment was subject specific, i.e. facilitating students’ experimentation with computer-mediated communication in the context of the theoretical foundation of the Communication Skills unit, this was not integral to the pedagogical benefits of using wiki tools as outlined above. The Student Wiki Pages could form part of any e-learning strategy that complements a series of lectures, seminars or workshops to enhance the overall student experience.
Part 4: I will follow up this post with some more in-depth reflections soon, specifically about how to manage the complexity of this type of assignment (relating to both setting student expectations, reassuring them about ongoing performance, and managing marking).
Update 5th May 2011: Yesterday I received the Vice Chancellor’s Educational Innovation of the Year Award at Bournemouth University for this project. More on the award in Part 4 of this series. Thanks to all the students who took part in the experiment!