This guide is based upon a comparable guide by the University of Helsinki.
Introduction to Wikis
1. What Is a Wiki?
Wikis are simple webpages, on which users can easily add and edit content in addition
to reading it. The only necessary application for doing this is a browser. This is why wikis
are a handy tool for people working collaboratively. There are several kinds of wikis in use
at the moment, but they all have the following features in common:
- Openness of access: which can be limited when necessary
- They can be used collaboratively: many people can produce content
- Simplicity: there is no need for separate applications or special skills
- Easiness of networking: it is easy to create new pages and to link to them
2. Who Uses Wikis?
Wikis have been used since 1995. Anyone interested in them has had access to them because
they are so easy to use. No special skills are needed. Because of their simplicity, wikis are
also a very flexible tool. They have been used in different situations and in the last few
years also in places of higher education. Wikis are especially suitable for groups of people
collaborating to gradually produce and edit information. Wikis can be used in this way for
studying, teaching, research or management.
3. How Does a Wiki Work?
A wiki is made up of single wiki pages. The word "wiki" usually refers to:
- a larger entity formed by several wiki pages
- a specific wiki service, in which some of the numerous wiki applications have been installed
on a server either for public or limited use.
- Wiki pages can be read, like any other webpages, by accessing the page's www-address with a browser
- To edit a wiki page, the user only needs to click the Edit button located on each page. The
content of the page will open in a text editor in the browser.
- In addition to the simple wiki tools, easy-to-use editors are usually available for editing
the text. This is why no knowledge of html or other such skills are needed.
- Clicking Save in the text editor updates the edited page back to the server and the new version of the page
is immediately available for reading and re-editing.
- In addition to editing the existing wiki pages, a user can create new pages and create links to them.
- Wikis usually contain a varying number of other features such as commenting on pages, adding tags,
search functions, ordering RSS-feeds and the ability to create personal user pages.
4. Why Should I Use a Wiki?
Wikis are beneficiary especially when a group of people want to create and edit information collaboratively.
- For example: a wiki is a good tool for drafting and editing the agenda of a meeting beforehand.
- During the meeting a memo of the meeting can then be directly updated into the wiki and all the participants can
correct or add to the memo afterwards if necessary.
Images, charts and other material can easily be added on to a wiki page as attachment files. The
contents of a wiki page can, when necessary, be moved into a word processor for further editing as well.
Wikis have many benefits when compared to other cooperative systems:
- All content is always updated and available to all through an Internet connection.
- All changes can easily be traced back and any earlier version of any page can be restored whenever necessary.
- Wiki pages are edited using simple techniques, which makes the basic editing of the text (bold, topics, links etc.) easy.
- Wiki pages can easily be linked to one another.
- All content is automatically ready to be published online.
5. What Are the Downsides of Wikis?
Openness is the strongest side of wikis, but it is simultaneously a potential source of problems.
- Open wikis are voulnerable to vandalism and distribution of inappropriate content. Fortunately,
instead of surveillance, user priviledges can be limited eg. so that users have to be logged in in order to edit pages.
- Wikis are often produced collaboratively, and this may result in disorganised wiki pages with content
of varying quality. Often it is therefore necessary to agree upon a user who will take the responsibility
of maintaining the wiki space created so that it stays clear and updated.
- Collaboratively produced material may result in disagreements over copyright issues. Before producing
material it is useful to agree upon the copyrights to the material and to inform others, who may participate
in producing the material, of what has been agreed.
6. In What Direction Are Wikis Developing?
Information can be produced and edited in new ways with wikis. More extensive changes can only be seen in
a few years time. Even now, though, examples like Wikipedia make it clear that wikis can be used not only as a way
of creating new kinds of contents, but as a way of creating new kinds of social networks.
Many wiki softwares offer highly developed features, with which they can replace many existing tools for
collaborative work and publishing online. Hopefully these new features will not eliminate the simplicity and
handiness of wikis, as these are their most important qualities.
7. How Do Wikis Affect Teaching and Learning?
In addition to teaching and research, wikis especially well support a student and network oriented way of learning.
For instance, a teacher may give students the rights to edit and refine materials and lists of links used on a course.
Taking this approach a step further, students may independently produce the material in the wiki. On the other hand it may not be
at all necessary to work collaboratively on wikis: they have also been successfully used for example as tools for making
and publishing personal portfolios.
8. wiki.oulu.fi - the Basics of the Wiki service
- The wiki has a vast amount of material open to anyone.
- Logging in is always necessary for editing pages.
- Some of the material has been restricted so that it is available for only a small group of people, and other users
do not have access even to read it.
IT-services are responsible for the upkeep of the wiki service and for the duties of the main user.
- The upkeep of wiki spaces will be delegated to the person in charge of each administrative unit.
- The wiki system will be integrated with the general user administration of the university as much as is possible. An eye is
kept on possible connections between the wiki system and the learning environment.
- A wiki space of the service will be created and updated, and the service will be introduced in various forums
and functions regarding the university's education technology.
- Education on how to use the wiki will be organised if necessary.