C. Cunningham, G.O. Donoghue

University College Dublin (IRELAND)
Project objectives:
To explore the use of wikis in the development of key health professional skills including critical appraisal of literature, collaborative work, use of technology, peer discussion and reflective practice.

10 groups of 5 students in Year 3 of their BSc Physiotherapy programme each created and contributed to a Wiki (Blackboard) regarding exercise for a specific pathology (eg. obesity) over a 12 week university semester. Simultaneously students contributed to an online reflective journal based on their Wiki experience. Reflective online journal data were coded and analysed for common themes. Grades were awarded for both Wikis and diaries using specific criteria related to the module’s learning objectives.

Students produced a number of creative, user - friendly Wikis which demonstrated a strong ability to appraise and summarise literature regarding the pathology-specific exercise topics. These will act as a readily accessible information and knowledge resource for their professional careers. In comparison with previous written assignments, Wiki content included more novel material and students wrote for an audience rather than an examiner only. Students’ comfort and skill with the use of a new technology showed good development over the course of the semester.
The online reflective journals mapped the progressive experiences of an undergraduate cohort with social media and reflect the learning experience. Common themes which emerged from the students’ journal data are outlined below and have been grouped into categories

Positive Group experiences:
• Learned from others
• Learned to delegate
• Learned to compromise
• The need for a group leader was identified

Negative Group experiences:
• Frustrated by a lack of contribution from some group members and their lack of ambition to achieve a good grade

Wiki as a tool:
• Wiki content will act as a useful and readily accessible resource for professional practice as opposed to writing an essay
• Concerns regarding wiki-recorded participation levels and their accuracy in reflecting the workload of individuals
• Frustration with software eg. having difficulty with formatting
• Students expressed a reluctance to edit others work as didn’t feel expert in the topic area and didn’t wish to offend so many students continued to meet in person to agree changes rather than communicating via the Wiki only

The Wiki proved to be a successful learning tool with students reporting the value of appraising and summarising literature for the Wiki in a way that mirrors professional practice. Wikis led to collaborative creativity and development of team skills important for professionals. Given many students’ unease with editing the work of others whom they know, strategies to facilitate a stronger online community where constructive editing is viewed as positive are required.

The introduction of the wiki has led to a modular transformation and enabled an assessment re-design. Overall students engaged well with the process and learning objectives were met. Any negative feedback was based on group dynamic and software issues, the latter which may be remedied via the use of alternative Wiki software. The student reflections on the overall ’Wiki experience’ should inform others wishing to introduce wikis into their professional programme.