Using Wiki to Develop Communities

Our University-hosed wiki is about to be retired. This page, developed in Sept-Oct 2005 seemed work keeping. I’ve ported it here changing links to preserve the navigation. – np

The (perhaps not obvious) way to find community in MediaWiki installations (and some others) is to use the history page to see who is contributing to the article. The page provides a portfolio of the work of an ad hoc team collaborating around a topic area. Examination of the history page would show not only who contributed, but the character of their contribution. From this, one might glean ideas about how knowledgeable contributors were to the topic. By then exploring other pages edit by these people (Special:Contributions&target=user) one could learn more about the scope and character of these individuals.

In WSUWiki, there are additional, more explicit mechansims to enable users to find one another. The best developed of these is CTLT’s Morning Reading Group (MRG). Using a Category page, MRG is building pages to capture the group’s thinking about articles that are read bi-weekly. Rather than the process above where interest in a topic is inferred by edits shown on the History page, MRG members are encouraged to edit their user page to include a Category tag (for example see User:Nils peterson.

To facilitate these group-forming activities, two templates have been created, one for the Groups’ page, describing it and inviting others to join, and the other for a User’s page, declaring and describing reasons for interest in the group.

Categories in MediaWiki are essential to the operation of this system. As MRG members create or find pages of interest to the group, they tag the pages with the MRG category. This causes the pages to list in the index of the MRG page).

Student-Faculty Interaction

Another application of this strategy of users adding themselves to category pages can be seen in the work developing to faciliate more faculty-student interaction. The concept started out being called ‘Undergraduate Research,’ but came to be understood as something more general, presently its working name is Matchmaking.

The objective is to help faculty advertise ways in which they would like to interact with students in scholarship activities, and for students to find faculty (and perhaps groups of students and faculty) with shared interests and experiences. The only example implemented as of this writing is by Nils Peterson.

Other campuses have undertaken similar initiatives, using custom database solutions. WSU is exploring Wiki as its solution for two reasons:

  • Its more ad hoc, and can support data and structures that might be invented later more readily than a traditional database solution.
  • Wiki can support other group formation (in addition to Matchmaking) using the same mechanisms, allowing users to invent other purposes and groups without requiring new tools.

See also:
Using_Wikis_For_Learning and especially


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