Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Wikis supporting authentic, collaborative activities: lessons in usability

By Pete Thomas, David King, Shailey Minocha and Josie Taylor


The Open University delivers distance learning to its students. Traditionally, its students work independently of each other. Looking to enhance their students learning, two postgraduate courses have introduced authentic, collaborative activities. This is easier to achieve now because of the availability of wikis: a lightweight, web-based collaborative authoring environment. This paper examines the effect of the wikis’ functionality on the students’ use of the tool, and the consequences for the students’ engagement with the activities and learning opportunities. This is a relatively large scale study involving 56 wikis produced by over 250 students. The data was drawn from the two courses using a variety of methods. A qualitative inductive analysis was used to look for emergent themes. These were validated by cross referencing, to match recorded comments with wiki content. We found that the limited functionality of wikis influenced how students engaged with the collaborative activities. While all groups were able to collaboratively author the documents required for assessment, they were not always produced in the way intended by the course teams. This meant the expected benefits of collaborative learning were not always realised. This paper will be of interest to academics aspiring to employ wikis on their courses and to practitioners who wish to realise the potential of wikis in facilitating information sharing and fostering collaboration within teams

Topics: T Technology (General), L Education (General)
Year: 2008
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (2008). D igital Technologies and Their Role in Achieving Our Ambitions for Education . Institute of Education,
  2. (2008). Digital Technologies and Their Role in Achieving Our Ambitions for Education. Institute of Education,
  3. (2004). Educational Wikis: features and selection criteria. The International Review of Research
  4. (2008). from
  5. (2008). Professional Wikis ,
  6. (2008). Professional Wikis,
  7. (2004). Retrieved February 29, 2008, from
  8. (2008). Retrieved February 29, 2008, from WhyDoesntWikiDoHtml. Retrieved
  9. (2007). Student Project Collaboration using Wikis. doi
  10. (2005). Teaching with Tiki. doi
  11. (2001). The wiki way: Quick collaboration on the web ,
  12. (2001). The wiki way: Quick collaboration on the web,
  13. (2007). Wiki-Based Stakeholder Participation in Requirements Engineering, doi
  14. (2005). Wikis in teaching and assessment: the M/Cyclopedia project. doi
  15. (2003). XSDoc: an Extensible Wiki-based Infrastructure for Framework Documentation.

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.