On using a wiki: one month’s experience

We’ve used the The Methodological Annex wiki through wikia.com for six weeks, a total of 22 articles relating to methods used in our weekly Immunology journal club. Here are some preliminary observations:

  • It takes me (as administrator) about 30-45′ each week to set up the wiki structure.  I do this to maintain a certain structure and because I have the categories in mind as I write the questions. (So far I retained administrator control over the “entry” point page that lists all the articles  and their questions.  )
  • Few students have made use of the wiki to write up their answers (which are given orally each week in a seminar following the journal club). Since TMA itself is voluntary, there is no way to require student entries to the wiki and there is so far little incentive to do so.
  • The wikia.com wiki is straightforward with standard wiki features.  There’s a minor odd feature that if you highlight a text to make a link, the wikia will replace it automatically with other text, so that you have to go back and edit it back to what you want. It should accept the highlighted text as default.
  • The chief impediment to getting students to write to the wiki I think is that it takes additional time to write up and edit a wiki.
  • A second impediment has to do with copyright issues.  Under the doctrine of fair use, it is appropriate to take tables and figures from copyrighted works for display in a one-time teaching seminar, but not for repeated use or in a stable public forum. This means that figures would have to be redrawn. In most cases, students actually use the whiteboard for diagrams- so is is non-trivial to post them to the wiki.
  • One solution to the copyright issue would be to take the wiki private, using the wiki feature of Blackboard, for example.

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