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David King

Earlier research

My MSc dissertation, A Qualitative Analysis of the Efficacy of E-Learning to Teach Transferable Skills to Technical Undergraduates, highlighted the increasing use of various forms of technology, especially online collaboration tools, to introduce students to key transferable skills, namely team working and written communication skills. However, there was relatively little exploitation of the same technology to enable students to consolidate their experience. Though the tutors left space in their courses for reflection, generally technology was not used to support the reflection even though it was used to support the learning activities the students were to reflect on. The prime reason for this apparent missed opportunity was the technical problem of establishing a suitable environment.

Wanting to expore this conclusion further, led me to my PhD research, An investigation into the role of a wiki in supporting collaborative learning activities, for wikis lower the technical barriers for the creation of a collaborative environment. This was a large-scale empirical study drawing on the output of 56 wikis produced by almost 240 students over three Open University course presentations. The wikis enabled all student groups to author collaboratively the documents required by their courses. Writing the documents benefited the students because it prompted discussion and personal reflection; both of which many students reported as enhancing their learning. The students particularly valued the wiki’s role as a central repository that helped them achieve these two benefits. The research shows that wikis can support collaborative activities among students and lead to enhanced learning opportunities. The key findings suggest that a wiki’s simplicity enabled students to engage easily with the collaborative learning activities. However, a wiki’s lack of inherent structure hindered their progress until they had worked out how to organise their use of the wiki.