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

Department

Introduction
Despite evidence that learning is social and emerges during interactions between people,
the dominant form of teaching today is the lecture. The use of social software like wikis
may provide a more collaborative teaching and learning experience in which active
participation facilitates the internalisation of knowledge and development of critical
thinking. Wikis allow the creation of webpages by users who have little or no knowledge of
HTML and have features that encourage collaboration. The aim of this study was to
determine if a wiki could be used by physiotherapy students to facilitate collaborative
learning.

Methods
The study took place in a South African university physiotherapy department in 2009. A
cross-sectional, mixed method design was used to evaluate students' attitudes and
experiences after completing a wiki-based assignment as part of an Applied Physiotherapy
module. Students were then surveyed using a self-developed questionnaire. Permission to
conduct the survey was obtained from the head of the department, and ethical
considerations applicable to the study of human subjects adhered to.

Results
Access to the internet was a challenge, with fewer than half able to work from home. Two
thirds of the class did not know what a wiki was, and only one student had ever edited one.
68% of participants agreed that their group had produced content that helped them to
better understand their topic, but 30% were uncertain whether the wiki-based nature of the
assignment helped with this. Many agreed that the peer review encouraged them to
conduct more research than if they had been working alone. Only 30% of students agreed
that the wiki was good for group assignments, with 57% saying that use of the wiki did not
encourage them to work with others. In addition, many students reported being anxious at
the outset, having little or no experience using wikis.

Discussion and conclusion


A lack of communication was highlighted as one reason that students did not enjoy
working in groups, which indicated a poor understanding as to how the wiki could also be
used as a communication platform. Educators should be aware of the challenges
associated with the lack of internet access that is characteristic of students in developing
countries.

References
Lundin, R. W. (2008). Teaching with Wikis: Toward a Networked Pedagogy. Computers
and Composition, 25, 432-448

Ramanau, R. & Geng, F. (2009). Researching the use of Wiki's to facilitate group work.
Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 1:2620-2626

Keywords
collaborative learning, physiotherapy, social media, wikis