College of William and Mary Wiki


Wm-Wikis: Free Wiki Space

Most faculty members have heard of Wikipedia, if for no other reason than its somewhat controversial contribution to student research. Wikipedia has been accused of dumbing down subject matter and of yielding to the "tyranny of the masses" because of its open, shared nature. While this may be true, wikis serve many useful purposes in terms of academia that have not been fully explored. One benefit is that wiki platforms are designed to make it easy for writers to collaborate on a projects of shared interest. William and Mary offers an open platform where anyone with a William and Mary userid can create and maintain a full-featured wiki to share information on any topic of interest, ranging from television shows to focused scientific research.

After experimenting with a number of commercial and open-source products, the Technology Integration Program has purchased a "private label" site license from Wikispaces to meet the needs of our faculty, staff and administrators who need more capability or public visibility than the wiki tool in Blackboard provides. William and Mary students and faculty in Modern Language, Literary and Cultural Studies participated several extensive pilot studies, and they found the program easy to learn and powerful enough even for relatively sophisticated projects. The School of Education has also switched to using wikis for their students' electronic portfolio projects.

Features

Wikispaces sites come with all the standard features of a light weight commercial wiki. Site owners have a high degree of control over page formatting and the navigation bar, and also have a fairly complete visual editor and table editor. Wikispaces wikis support embedding most common media types, including video and audio files, and offer a fairly comprehensive tagging feature to organize information.. Wikispaces also provides a comprehensive set of widgets to include things like spreadsheets, polls, chat rooms and slide shows.

You can create multiple pages and control how they are presented using the side naviation bar, and you can upload media from class, like PowerPoints or other documents. This uploading process is fairly instantaneous, as opposed to the slow process on Blackboard. Further, it is much easier to organize content on Wikispaces sites.

Getting Started

Point your browser at http://www.wmwikis.wikispaces.net/ and click on "Make a New Space" in the upper left corner. Type in the name for your space. (Choosing the name is generally the hardest part of the process.) Decide which "mode" works best for your wiki .WikiSpace owners can control access, allowing their sites to be either open to the public or restricting access for either editing or viewing.

Support

Support for WMWikis is available through the Technology Integration Program. Gene Roche heads up the collaborative writing focus area, and is available to assist faculty members or students in integration. Gene also works with the Wikispaces staff to resolve any technical issues that come up in working with your wiki.

Caveats

There are really very few problems with WM Wikis. It is a bit less intuitive for those less-experienced with the Web, but the available help pages are quite comprehensive, and help is always available through the TIP staff.

Resources

*http://www.wikispaces.com/help+index One of the features that we liked the best about Wikispaces was the depth of their help files.