Using Wikis and Blogs to enhance teaching and learning experience
School of Engineering and The Built Environment
The aim of teaching was to provide students with practical experience of applying engineering project management skills and competence in the use of computer based project management tools. The activity made up one of the five learning outcomes of the module “Management for Engineers 1(MEC 018105)”. The students were studying part time and had a two-hour practical session once a week. In practical sessions, students were give software (MS Project 2007) demonstrations using a projector. The Word files of the demonstration steps with the practical exercises were uploaded on the wiki (http://mec08105practical.pbworks.com/w/page/8760845/FrontPage). It helped students in assessing the lectures online at home and at their work place. Online lecture notes also helped students in completing the practice exercises. Students were asked to create their individual wikis and upload their work on it. Second, blogs were used for the students’ group work of presenting a poster. The exercise framed one of the major elements of the continuous assessment. Two groups of three and four students were formed. Each student was required to make their contribution to the group work. Each group was assigned a blog and only group members were allowed to post the message on it. The other group members could read and add a comment if they want. The blogs helped students in collaborating online, although they were working at different places in Scotland. Blog posts helped group members to see their contribution to the group work as well as overall progress of the group work. As a tutor, it was easy for me to evaluate the students' work and provide them with timely feedback online.
I think the learning activity was successful in providing students with a sense of open learning environment and students had control over their online learning space. They took ownership of their learning and actively took part in the learning. The online storage of their course work may also act as an achievement. It will also be useful for students in life long learning.
In the beginning, students were not confident in using wikis in their studies. Demonstrations on how to create a wiki and upload files were useful. Students were hesitant about how to present their work on wiki. In a class of seven students, four students created their wiki and presented their practice work through it. I think issues of non participation in such activities can be overcome by designing learning activities to promote collaborative learning and active participation in the learning. At first, learning activities may be designed to make students familiar with the learning tool. Later, these tools should be embedded in the learning activity. I found a need to provide technology support along with study support. Providing support through blogs and wikis was more effective and also served as a resource for future teaching. In the group work of poster presentation, students were divided into two groups of three and four. All the students reflected their contribution to their group blog. On comparing the individual activity of wiki creation with that of collaborative activity of blog contributions, I found that collaborative activity was more successful. For instance, on blogs, student participation was 100% compared to 57% in individual activity of wiki creation. I think that initially, collaborative learning may be used while introducing educational technology tools in learning. How this activity can be used by colleagues: I think this activity may be used by adopting a blended teaching approach (in person and online teaching). For instance, tutors may use WebCT‘s discussion board in place of a blog for online reflection. Secondly, for teaching part-time students where time, location, accessibility and communication are important factors which might affect the learning experience. For instance, for part-time students, online collaborative learning activities may be designed using wikis. It will give students more flexibility to actively participate in the learning. The activity will also be useful for designing learning activities for online learning modules.
It was my decision to use blogs and wikis in teaching. I made this decision as students were studying part-time and had a two-hour practical session per week. Therefore, the Web 2.0 tools helped me in having a better control over the students' learning experience. It was possible for me to keep track of the students’ learning progress on the asynchronus online platforms. In addition, it provided students with the flexibility to study at their own time and place. I did not take student feedback and have provided the screen shots of the students' active online participation and reflection on their work on blogs and wikis. I have also provided the link to the online material in the file attached.
1. http://mec08105practical.pbworks.com/w/page/8760845/FrontPage 2. http://mec08105.pbworks.com/w/page/8760822/Poster-Presentation
01 September 2008