Several weeks into the semester, I was explaining the function of the wiki to my colleagues in the TIP Seminar after which they raised some sceptical questions: How could I be sure that the macro students were not merely going through the motions using the wiki? How could I know if only a few students were actually contributing while the rest were free riding? Fair questions.
Shortly thereafter, I gave a brief survey to the class on their use of the wiki. Here are the questions and responses:
1. I read the wiki outside of class on a regular basis.
Answers: 1 = No, 3 = Sometimes, 5 = All the time. Mean Response: 3.3
2. I contribute to the wiki on a regular basis (e.g. add something new, edit something there already). Mean Response: 2.3
3. When you write your chapter analyses, do you generally get the material, or are you just going thru the motions (e.g. writing down what the book says)?
Answers: 1 = just go thru the motions, 5 = really get it. Mean Response: 3.3
The survey questions aren’t perfect, but I wanted something quick. The surveys were semi-anonymous–I gave credit for submitting the responses, but didn’t match any names with responses. I don’t know that the students answered honestly, but they didn’t have a great incentive to be dishonest. The responses to question 2 approximately matched the actual frequency of posts to the wiki so I took that as a sign in favor of validity.
More interesting, though, was the survey I gave last week after the midterm exam. On this one, I asked four questions:
1. I used the wiki to study for the midterm exam.
Answers: 1 = Not at all, 5 = A Great Deal. Mean Response = 4.3
2. Prior to the exam I used the wiki to study the course material.
Mean Response = 3.3
3. Prior to the exam I used the wiki to present my ideas about the course material.
Mean Response = 2.4
4. What other reasons do you have for using the wiki.
Twenty-two of thirty-one students who submitted the survey answered number four. Not surprisingly, the most popular response was “to get the points for wiki participation.” Still, only eight students gave that response.
Three students said “to help understand the chapters in the text.”
Three others responded “To see what other students think about the chapters.”
Three respondents listed “To identify possible exam questions.”
Two students indicated that the wiki was their primary source of information about the course material.
Three students left unique responses:
* To procrastinate,
* To browse through classmates’ personal pages,
* To clean up and organize the wiki.
One student commented “I don’t always trust the wiki, b/c [it’s] not always consistent.
What conclusions have I drawn from these responses? Primarily, that the class seems to have bought into the wiki as an important source of information about course content, a source that needs to be studied prior to exams.