WikiSkills Handbook/The WikiSkills training approach

The WikiSkills training approach

The global vision


In order to design meaningful wiki-based activities, it is important to consider many different parameters that characterise the teaching context, such as the specific characteristics of the learning audience, the specific learning objectives, the evaluation approach, the time-space resources or the technical requirements of the games. Moreover, the step by step organization of the learning activities should be planned.
The WikiSkills approach we propose is designed with several steps, some of which being common to all training scenarios.

The first steps in setting up a training scenario is to understand as best as possible the target audience, to establish the prerequisite of the training session, to decide how to present the training session to the target audience, and to identify arguments to motivate them as well as lower their fears and address their main criticisms.

All participants will then go through a common training session providing them with basics. Those basics will essentially aim at introducing them to the wiki culture. Depending on the public and the goal of the training with regards to wiki uses, different scenarios will be possible. It is important to state that when we use the keyword wiki or wikis, it means "collaborative online web2.0 tools using wiki or wiki-alike co-editing environments".

The 4 main environments identified are :

  1. Wikipedia and sister projects of the wikimedia foundation
  2. Other open wiki-based encyclopedias
  3. Wiki specific projects for public or private uses
  4. Collaborative wiki-alike social web tools, such as : online documents, online PAD or social bookmarking

Wiki is not only a tool but a culture.

The last step of the training session will focus on the different means that can be envisioned to evaluate students. It is also very much suggested to get feedback from participants about the training session so as to bring any improvement that might be worth it.

Prerequisite & Preparation


A typical training session will start by publishing a proposition. Whatever the target audience, the proposition needs to be appealing. There are many means to do that, but some points should be kept in mind whilst preparing the proposition.

Set a pedagogical goal


There should be a pedagogical goal in mind, which is of direct interest to the trainees.
Learning "what is a wiki" is interesting, but the real need of the trainee is not to "know what a wiki is and how it works", but to know what it is useful for, so that he can identify which of his problems it will solve. A frequent need amongst candidates is also to understand when it really make sense to use a wiki rather than another tool for a very specific need he has in mind. The motivation to join the training session will be much higher if from the very start, the trainee can keep in mind what he will practically get the knowledge he intends to gain.
Whenever possible, the specific learning scenario chosen for the training session should aim to be practical and immediately benefit the trainee. For example, if the participant intends to use wikis to do some co-authoring of documents, it will be best to chose a scenario that will address this need. This can be addressed with an initial questioning of the trainee.

Mention of side benefits


The proposition should also mention side benefits of following the training session in particular when the trainee does not actually have a very specific learning goal in mind.
Examples could be typically "better employability" or "improving social skills" or "improve self-recognition by peer". Benefits should be mentioned according to the target audience of course.

Dispersing FUD


The proposition should aim at dispersing FUD (Fear, uncertainty and doubt) amongst prospective participants.
For example, when they hear the word "wiki", many participants think "Wikipedia". Whilst many enjoy the online encyclopedia, others may experience the fear that some of the editorial specificities of Wikipedia actually be general to all wikis (for example, Wikipedia is open to editing by everyone. Some people will think all wikis are open to editing by everyone. This is not true. Wikis may be private. Or wikis may be public but with restricted editing rights). It will be important to address FUD during the training session, but this can also be partly done prior to the session. One way to do that is to invite prospective participants to watch some videos tackling some issues beforehand, or read some documents prior to the training session. In short, it is important to initiate a climate of trust from the very beginning.

Adressing the time factor


The proposition should address the time factor. Some prospective participants will be hesitant to consider using a wiki by fear of "losing time".
It is important to outline that, as for many ICT tools, the initial time and energy investment is usually very positively balanced with benefits afterwards.

Aim to increase well being


WikiSkills training should increase personal well-being.
The proposition could also include the fact that whilst the wiki is by essence a collective tool, it is also a great mean to get rewards in terms of reputation, visibility and recognition by peers.

Should have ICT skills


The proposition should make it clear that a prerequisite to the session should be that the participant has a certain degree of ICT skills.
A participant still struggling in how to switch on his computer or to toggle between applications should be encourage to first focus on basic ICT skills as accepting him/her as trainee will only create frustration and will slow down the entire group. It may be possible to identify low-skilled people beforehand through an initial questioning and suggest them initial activities before the training session itself.

Awareness as netizen


In general, the proposition will be stronger if not presented only as the acquisition of technical skills but also as a mean to get better awareness as netizen
For example, the training will include elements related to author rights and responsibilities.

To summarize, the preparation step should include

  • The creation of an appealing proposition for training courses
  • The set-up of a package of resources meant to attract, inform and reassure prospective participants
  • The identification of the characteristics of the target group
  • The setup of a self-assessment questionnaire to provide participants prior to the training session

Common body - Introduction to wiki culture


As teacher/trainer, you might not have a lot of time to introduce the wiki-culture and related wiki skills.
But still : in order to gain time, it is useful to start introducing these issues with 10 to 120 minutes. Why ?
Mostly because using wiki means collaborating on the same documents, it is not only a technical skill but also a behavioural shift.
Secondly because we suggest you to make an global introduction to the entire wiki-culture, before focusing on specific scenarios, in order to plant a seed in the mind of your audience about the large potential of using wikis and other collaborative tools in various contexts.

The time spent in introducing should depend on how deep you intend to go in applying the wiki culture in your courses.
For example : if you plan to launch a new note-taking culture into your class, and ask your trainees/students to take notes collaboratively on a wiki at every session for the entire year, one or two hours at least will be useful.
If you plan to do a one shot use of wiki (such as a photo hunting), it might be less useful.
Finally, always remember the golden rule of digital fluency : learning by doing. It means that, even in the introduction, if you only stick to theory, you'll probably generate more questions and doubts than when you mix practice and theory.

List of useful elements as common body.
This list of possible pedagogical actions as introduction is provided as a market place. Each action is independent, you can chose to apply it or not, as is or adapted.
A) Present briefly the wiki culture in general (see the pedagogical framework). Topics such as :

  • what is a wiki in 5 mn
  • what wikis change in knowledge management, the changing paradigm : sharing knowledge instead of keeping it secret
  • 4 types of wiki (see scheme with wikimedia sister projects)
  • 4 types of uses of wiki (co-authoring, meetings, brainstorming, project management)
  • how using wikis impact on employability, social skills, personal well-being
  • the issue of collective author rights: the free licensing (4 fundamental freedom, 2 obligations), open licensing (some rights reserved), or exclusive/privatized information (by default when no licence is mentionned), and crossing licences options with the different types of information : functional, official statements, pieces of opinion, art & entertainment etc.

B) Facilitate a roundtable. It can be about :

  • the self-assessment of each participant level of understanding of the issues. This can be done through open comparing (everybody can see the answers of the other) or secret benchmarking (everybody can only see its position in the group, but not how the others answered namely)
  • sharing practical experiences on wikis or wiki-like projects
  • the fears associated with such practices
  • the needs and expectations of participants facing wikiculture and practical application (thus completing the self-assessment)

C) Try to have the most experienced wiki user becoming assistant of the trainer/teacher, and involved to help those less digitally fluent to feel comfortable in the first practical steps into wiki web tools. How ? First by not forgetting to make the initial diagnostic, and then by approaching them either individually or collectively to ask for help.
NB : sometimes, self assessment can be over or under evaluating. This is why the role of the trainer is one of a facilitator.

D) Practical implementation : Get trainees to create an account and briefly present themselves as author in the user page.
Example of an author page : This element is quite essential. Ideally, the participants would create that their account and edit their use page BEFORE the training starts. You can send them the instructions to do so. But sometimes it's not possible, therefore this element is mentionned here.
A possible way of applying this "implementation" scenario is to make groups of 3-6 participants, with diverse levels of understanding (see preparation and initial self-assessment), and ask the group to collectively make sure each participant of the group has an account and has been through the first editing steps.

E) Deal with FUD issues. Transversally, one useful activity to reduce possible problems of beliefs and motivation afterwards, is to include in each of the activities (presentation, roundtable, practical integration…) a brief debate or simply anticipation of what participants might feel as FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubts), such as :

  • how sharing identities publicly can reinforce peoples development and not generate more problems such as those being stolen/ abused ...
    • Answer : wiki does not mean mandatorily public editing, in can be in rings of trust. Ŵhen public, it must empower your image/reputation, such as showing your contributions into wikipedia.
  • will I lose control of quality if I use a wiki ?
    • Answer : wiki culture is only a new way of managing quality, it's not better or worse. Features/functions in wikis such as history, discussion, alerts, revoking, and last changes must be understood, appreciated and well used, it's like any culture, it has its codes. The quality of sources is also empowered by wisdom of crowds, as long as the community is large enough, mostly for encyclopedic-oriented content (example, as story-telling : the hidden but essential feature of alerting administrators when 2 people revoke each others post repetitively)
  • it will it take me more time to use a wiki.
    • Answer : yes, at the beginning, like any new complex technology, but then you will gain time by crowdsourcing your actions every time it is possible.

Some tips for the entire session (introduction as well as then in specific scenarios):

  1. When participants do not need to use computer, suggest them to close their screen, in order to get their entire attention.
  2. Organize the training room in circle, in order to break the image of ex cathedra training and empower the ideas of ring of trust, meritocratic approach and other wiki-related codes of conduct.
  3. Alternatively, have participants team by groups of 3 at a common table
  4. Use beamer also to show your own uses of wikis, instead of showing only slides.
  5. Try to make participants becoming actors of the training, have them working in groups, interview one another, review each other work etc.
  6. Test various web tools, not only mediawiki or google docs.
  7. Often rely and come back to basics, such as 4 types of wiki environments (and 4 circles of complexity), 4 types of scenarios, the essence of licensing, basic features of history/discussing/editing...

Planning a wiki-based learning scenario


Below is a guide that can be followed by teachers and trainers, to consider all before designing their wiki-based activities. It aims at facilitating teachers’ process of designing their own wiki-based learning activities. It provides them with guidance and stimulates reflections on the necessary elements to be defined.

Title of the scenario Fill in
Keywords describing the topic of the scenario
Targeted educational sector:
  • primary and secondary education
  • higher education
  • professional training
  • adult training
Learners' special characteristicse.g. students:
  • with information accessibility specific needs (deaf, blind...)
  • from rural areas
  • detached from the labor market
  • with exquisite digital skills
Learning subject/ field e.g.
  • Wikipedia
  • English
  • Physics
Specific educational objectivese.g. make students acquire:
  • writing skills
  • basic knowledge on Roman toponyms and the Celtic culture
  • source criticism
  • cooperation skills
Narrative/sequential description of the learning activities

(Important! Could be a long text)

Learning resourcesinvolved e.g.
  • books
  • online resource like wiki site to acquire knowledge from, e.g. Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, Ekopedia, Minecraftwiki
  • search engines
Wiki application to create content

Which wiki software do the students use to create content, that is, writing and collaborating? Wiki software could for example mean:

  • Stand-alone wiki application like: MediaWiki, DokuWiki, FosWiki, XWiki
  • Wikifarm application like: Wikispaces, PBWorks, Wikidot, Referata, Wikia
Other ICT applications involvede.g. standard computing programs like
  • spreadsheets
  • graphics software
Infrastructure / equipment e.g.
  • Internet connection
  • microphone
  • camera
Prerequisite competencese.g. to be familiar with
  • English writing
  • linear algebra
Evaluation approach e.g.
  • peer-to-peer assessment
  • test (teacher evaluate)
  • revision tracking on the wiki
  • group assessment
Typical learning time e.g.
  • How many sessions?
  • How long sessions?
Temporal mod
  • "Synchronous interaction" and / or "Asynchronous interaction"
Typical learning location e.g.
  • Classroom with computers
  • Classroom without computers
  • Outside the classroom. Where?
  • At home

Evaluation strategy


Few courses are implemented without an evaluation in mind. WikiSkills' Pedagogical Framework tries to put teachers and trainers in situation to use wiki tools and wiki culture as an innovative approach in their teaching practices, so to enable them to create learning environments interesting and engaging for their students. The evaluation framework can focus on the following dimensions:

a. The wiki key competencies  : To define aspects to be evaluated for the wiki key competences and the collaborative learning processes, we listed a set of 10 competencies :

  1. Creativity and innovation
  2. Critical thinking, problem solving, decision making
  3. Learning to learn
  4. Communication
  5. Collaboration
  6. Information literacy :
  7. ICT literacy
  8. Citizenship, local and global
  9. Life and career
  10. Personal and social responsibility

b. The collaborative learning : The wiki-based learning scenarios will provide to students a context for working collaboratively in order to achieve a common learning task. The WikiSkills approach will promote connectivist learning strategies and co-construction behaviours, through which students will learn by connecting with each other and with technology.
This dimension will be evaluated merged with the first one, but as the most important wiki key competences, it worth to be shown separated as dimension.

Figure 2: dimensions to be evaluated

c. The scenario-based approach : wiki-based learning activities should be perceived as embedded in a learning scenario that takes into account the different parameters of the teaching / learning context. While planning their learning activities, teachers should take into account the specific characteristics of the learning audience, the specific learning objectives, the evaluation approach, the time-space resources and the technical requirements.

d. The virtual community of practices : Close to the previous dimension, the VCoP aspect evaluation aims at analysing from the behaviours of the groups to the relationships of mutual engagement that enable them to learn from each other and to work together.

In the basis of this specification, the learning scenarios create by teachers and trainers may be evaluated by these aspects :

  1. Connection with the curriculum
  2. Adaptation of the pedagogical objectives to the profile of the group of students
  3. Integration of the wiki in the planning of the educational activity
  4. Detailed planning of the pedagogical evaluation of students
  5. Planning of the necessary resources to conduct the educational activity
  6. Sustainability of the scenario

Getting feedback


Last, any training session implemented with the WikiSkills training approach should aim at improving over time. Specific attention should be given after the training session is over to collect and analyse feedback from all parties. A post-mortem may be done in various ways depending on the situation. For example, feedback may be implemented in a very simple and quick way by finishing the session with a short time allowing students to provide feedback by voice. This is in particular appropriate for short term training sessions (eg, a day), for adults in small groups. Another solution might be to set up a quick questionnaire (online poll), situation suitable when time runs short and when students may feel more comfortable with an anonymous feedback. Yet another option may be to collect feedback... on a wiki, making feedback an actual implementation of the wiki tool.