Interactive Blackboard Tools Case Studies – Wikis

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This case study is based on and includes extracts from the Student-led Planning of Tourism and Hospitality Education: The Use of Wikis to Enhance Student Learning book chapter written by Dr Mandy Talbot (Aberystwyth Business School) and published in the Routledge Handbook of Tourism and Hospitality Education.

What tool do you use and how? 

Dr Mandy Talbot used Blackboard wikis to facilitate a student led, collaborative learning project (…) on the second year, bachelor degree module: international tourism development. (…) The module course work required students to work in small groups to identify and evaluate the tourism development strategies that were being followed in given tourist destinations and to compare these with approaches being taken elsewhere. Due to the collaborative and interactive nature of the assignment the most suitable web tool was the wiki.’

Why did you choose this tool? 

Before implementation of wikis ‘students undertook the exercise by creating and delivering a group PowerPoint presentation of 15 minutes to the class, with a further 10 minutes for questions.’ Dr Mandy Talbot changed the format of this assessment in order to:

  1. ‘Improve the cohesiveness of student group work: The wiki format provides a collaborative work space for students to develop their work’
  • ‘Provide students with more opportunity to interact with the work of other groups: The wiki format enables students to visit each other’s’ presentations over an extended time period. Wiki pages also have comment boxes which enable students to pose questions and engage in discussion on the other sites.’
  • ‘Develop student IT skills: Students will learn how to create and structure web pages’.

What learning outcomes did you want to meet / what did you want your students to learn? 

‘In order to develop students that can succeed as effective planners and managers in the area of tourism, Tribe (2002) advocates the need to develop Philosophic Practitioners. This requires that the tourism curriculum should develop both the transferable skills of students to prepare them to enter the tourism sector as well as their skills in critical thinking and reflective practice in order that they may effectively deal with the challenges presented by the industry. Students need to be provided with meaningful learning opportunities that draw on real world examples if they are to develop these skills.

The real world workplace often requires that tourism practitioners work collaboratively to achieve their goals. Collaborative learning experiences not only provide students with the opportunity to develop their group work skills but can also improve their learning. Johnson et al (2008) highlight that small groups of students working collectively on a task, maximise both their own and each other’s learning.

The overall aim of the wiki intervention detailed in this chapter was to provide a student led learning experience that would provide more opportunity for student collaboration and interaction, encourage the use of critical / higher order thinking skills (Bloom, 1956) and improve the quality of students’ work.’

How did you design the activity using this tool? 

‘In order for student centred learning activities to be effective they need to be well planned. Based on past findings highlighting students’ lack of familiarity with the use of wikis for educational purposes a well-structured induction programme was developed for this project. This provided students with the skills (wiki soft wear training and group working skills), support (wiki examples, wiki templates and online moderation) and operating environment (guidelines on plagiarism and on line etiquette) that they needed to complete the project successfully.’

What do your students think of this tool? 

‘The overall student feedback on the exercise was positive. 72% of students felt that looking at other wikis had improved the standard of their work. Despite the software challenges reported, 72% of students felt that the exercise had improved their technology skills. However 12% disagreed, highlighting the need for further IT support here. 65% of students felt that the exercise had improved their group work skills. Group work is a more difficult area to measure as any challenges working within the group can influence people’s perceptions on the development of their skills in this area.

The results show that students’ average course work scores for the module had increased 5% from the previous academic year from 55% to 60%, with students receiving an average score of 60% for both their presentations and their wikis. This finding reflects students’ perception of improved quality of work. It is probable that the greater collaboration and interaction that students had with each other’s materials through the wikis improved the quality of their work both on the wiki sites and in class presentations.’

Do you have any tips for people who want to use this tool? 

‘The main feedback from the students highlighted that further support was needed with the wiki technology. This included: more user friendly wiki software, wiki inductions sessions in an IT lab and improved IT support. Ideas to improve the project were also identified by the instructors. Some of these are exercise specific while others relate to wiki use more generally. Key points include:

  • Agreeing on the amount of content to upload before the sites go live. Not all groups uploaded adequate content to enable other groups to effectively interact with their sites.
  • Providing guidance on the number and type of wiki sites that students should interact with: for example there were 10 destination sites in the class and it wasn’t possible for students to engage effectively with all of these. However engagement will be difficult if other sites have not uploaded adequate content, which had been the case with a few sites in this project. Feedback suggests this may have been due to IT challenges and students prioritisation of time.
  • Encouraging greater interaction between sites. This can be achieved by giving students a purpose to do so. This will be dependent on the activity goal. Some ideas include: o Setting some wider questions or tasks for students to encourage ‘active’ interaction between wiki sites o Using participatory assessment methods: assign students the task of assessing each other’s sites.
  • The number of assessment methods: While the wiki exercise complemented the presentation in this activity, a wiki or a presentation may be more suitable on its own, depending on the assessment goal.’

A huge thank you to Dr Mandy Talbot for sharing this case study. If you like to learn more about wikis please take a look at the Blackboard Tools for Group Work (Blogpost 3): Wikis post and the wikis FAQs.

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