The use of a wiki to facilitate collaborative learning in a South African physiotherapy department

14 Dec 2012

The dominant form of teaching in higher education remains the lecture, even though evidence suggests that it alone is inadequate to facilitate the development of the higher order thinking skills required in clinical practice. The use of wikis may have a role to play in facilitating collaborative learning practices that are important for professional development. This descriptive survey evaluated the use of a wiki for a collaborative learning activity within small groups of undergraduate physiotherapy students in a South African university. Students participated in a wiki-based assignment and were then surveyed using open- and closed-ended questions to determine their perceptions and experiences of the process. The results indicate that although a wiki can be used to develop relevant content, there were significant challenges in its implementation. These included a poor understanding by students of how to work effectively in groups, a lack of physical and epistemological access to the internet, and the need for adequate preparation and support. Some features of the wiki were found to have an impact on the quality of the work produced, including the use of Discussion pages, peer review, and the public nature of the wiki. The conclusion is that wikis may have a role to play in collaborative groupwork, but that that students need to be adequately prepared and supported throughout the process.