Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Wikis as learning tools

In yesterday's Online Learning News and Reviews newsletter, (unfortunately not posted to the internet yet) Chris McGrath, co-creator of ThoughtFarmer provides some interesting insights into how business can establish wikis as a collaborative learning tool. His company provides assistance in establishing wiki-inspired enterprise collaboration platforms. He offers the following nuggets on getting a wiki started and generating participation.
  1. Getting Started
    • Choose a wiki platform that IT will approve. "Will your IT department allow company data to be stored off-site? Can you use open-source software?" The IT department of one of McGrath's clients, for example, required Windows-based software that could be installed inside the corporate firewall.
    • Choose a wiki platform that suits the technical aptitude of your users. "Many wikis use 'wiki mark-up,' a kind of language that allows users to add formatting and links to their pages. Technical users love it, but business users often find it intimidating."
    • What's the relationship between your wiki and your intranet? "If your wiki 'is' your intranet, you'll want it to support a broad range of features -- like a home page, news, and an employee directory."

  2. Generating Participation
    • Establish an information framework. "A wiki starts as a blank slate. To get it going, you'll need to create a logical information hierarchy and seed it with information."
    • Get senior people to take the lead. "If members of the senior management team use the wiki, others will quickly follow."
    • Signal users when pages change. "Provide an alert mechanism that signals users when certain pages change. This keeps the discussion going when a wiki page gets interesting."
For companies like the one I work for this could be a new source of revenue for two reasons: 1) the software used for establishing wikis is new and most IT departments are two swamped with the day in and day out problems related to company networks to learn how to set up and maintain a wiki. We could contract to provide this service similar to how we provide assistance establishing an LMS. 2) Wikis are generally populated with procedures and best practices that are inevitably buried in the heads of best practitioners as tribal knowledge. Getting these subject matter experts to put this information down in writing is often difficult for a variety of reasons, just as we develop elearning courses based on subject matter interviews and written documentation, so too could we provide initial assistanc in populating the wiki.

Just a thought for the day.

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