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January 8, 2007

Course Wikis

Geoff McGovern, in a comment, proposes the use of a Wiki as an adjunct to discussions in a law school class.

A Wiki sounds like a great idea. I think Jonathan Zittrain and John Palfrey at Harvard may have employed them for classes.

But here's the basic logistical question--how would one set one up? And how do you avoid being overrun by spam? Do you limit participation to enrolled students only?

I'd consider setting one up for my "Is International Law Democratic?" seminar this term.

Anupam Chander

January 8, 2007 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink


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Yes, I'm using a wiki right now at the link indicated in the URL box. It works really well. I find they're best deployed in conjunction with an introduction to Wikipedia, so people get a sense of the norms and culture around their use rather than just the tool in a vacuum. Ours is open to the world, and some Wikipedians (and others) have dropped by. As yet no spambots. Once the spambots find it, we'll have to close contributions to only registered users, and moderate registration requests from the world.

Posted by: Jonathan Zittrain | Jan 8, 2007 9:18:21 PM

The wiki that I use is restricted to university email accounts, so the spam problem is nonexistent. Yet even if the wiki was open to the world, or used open registration--and this comment comes from participating in another class' wiki, Nesson's CyberOne--the same norms that govern and filter content on Wikipedia carry over to course wikis as well. Errant comments get erased and replaced with more salient material.

The one caution concerns organization: wikis get complicated and crowded. Information can be hard to find, particularly for new users. But I've found that this kink works itself out in true wiki style--by the users themselves.

Posted by: Geoff McGovern | Jan 9, 2007 9:40:52 AM

I do recommend that, when you first set up the wiki, that you architect the space as you initially envision it working, even if your goal, as Geoff suggests, is to let the students take it over. For example, you might set up a set of pages and headers where you expect information to sort out. Since you are, presumably, the content expert, at least in the beginning of the course your ability to lay out a logical organizational structure will be far superior to the students'.

I think you'll find that different students will play different roles -- some adding serious content, others editing it, others doing the organizational work. Since the foundation of a wiki is the first -- the content -- preloading the wiki with organizational structure is a crucial jumpstart.

Posted by: Gene Koo | Jan 9, 2007 10:59:20 AM

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