I'd like to explore the potential of wikis as a way to encourage informal learning and wondered if anyone's tried these yet? There are countless examples of organisations who've used these successfully externally to generate ideas from the general public or specialists who happen to have taken an interest but has anyone tried them internally? I think they have enormous potential for sharing best practice, innovation, breaking down organisational barriers, signalling a cultural shift towards informal learning that better suits our working environment today plus the added bonus of being light on resources. Any general thoughts as well as experiences of using wikis welcome!
I agree there is enormous potential in using wikis. The main barriers I encounter in trying to champion their use is lack of familiarity with what they actually are and an assumption that it will just be too difficult to get the hang of using. I'm trying to imagine how long it was before e-mail became accepted in this organisation! I often hear it said that sending an e-mail now is pointless because it's just another e-mail in a groaning inbox but offering a wiki or a blog as an alternative to picking up info, which doesn't necessarily oblige one to respond, doesn't seem to hit home. The cultural shift isn't happening so quickly here as it seems to be in other organisations!
Based on how I've used Wikis so far, here's my advice:-
1. Choose the first knowledge domain carefully - keep it tightly focused initially and make the domain something that's critical to the organisation but not well thought-through. That way you can demonstrate the power of collaboration.
2. Once you've identified the domain, then identify (and get the buy-in of) a knowledge champion. I'd rather have a great knowledge champion with a sub-optimal domain than the other way round!
3. Work with the knowledge champion to create the structure for the domain; I use the BBC web site as an example of good structure. The important point to note is that the structure doesn't have to be mutually exclusive (e.g on the BBC web site, content can be under both regions (World, UK, England etc) as well as topic (Business, Politics, Education etc)).
4. Make sure the structure is targeted at both the knowledgeable user and also the novice - that means keep the descriptors intuitive and avoid technical detail as far as possible!
5. Identify which roles individuals using the wiki will perform - knowledge champion(s), knowledge contributors, knowledge users - NB people perform different roles in different domains.
6. Set expectations - Rome wasn't built in a day!
7. Work with the champion/ challenger approach - whatever's on the wiki is right and is the champion, unless someone else knows better in which case it's the challenger until the knowledge champion rules it in or out!
Hope that helps
I have been trying to champion using wiki's since last years LT within my org and slowly but surely I'm getting there, at least my team have heard of a wiki now and know what one is. Two wiki's I have used are Peanet Butter (which is changing it's name) and the wiki that we now use within our org which is Confluence. They are a great source for informal learning but challenges we have faced are (editing especially) - is access due to platforms. Getting people to check the wiki on a regular basis has been a problem so make sure that the content is something your team / learners /departments can relate to and will use at first and watch it develop from there. Agree with all the comments above. Up keep is the important one for me and if at first you don't succeed try again
I love the idea of a wiki but confess that I have thus far failed to get one that works in the workplace. The last time I tried was for the purpose of developing personae or fictitious archetypes to serve as our hypothetical user audience for design purposes. We discussed the whole concept in a stakeholders'/focus group workshop where we brainstormed the personae. We came up with some properly rounded, imperfect, three dimensional people. I sourced some suitable images and created a wiki, which I then invited the stakeholders to edit. Even though the wiki was closed to everyone outside of the group, suddenly seeing it writing was more than one or two of the stakeholders could stand. They immediately edited the personae to make them more politically correct and, in so doing, watered them down so much as to be unremarkable and unhelpful as a resource. Somehow, it was okay to talk about it, but not to put it online... even in a protected space.
In another example, users for some reason identified one person as being the one who should do all the editing. Instead of editing content themselves, they sent strongly worded emails to this person, demanding that she make the changes. No amount of explanation of encouragement could get them to do it.
The reality is that a huge percentage of our user population is so accustomed to being disempowered that they are not ready to embrace an empowering collaborative solution. However, this is no reason to give up. It is a reason to come up with creative ways to get people on board!
From my experience it may be good to explore different technologies to support the learning process, but it should not direct your eLearning design. Some other questions you may want to couple with your investigation on wikis could include:
> What kind of learning and communications do you expect with the eLearning event?
> What kind of outcomes or deliverables may result from the online learning experience?
This may or may not steer you to wikis. Taking a blended approach to the pedagogy and media types and tools may give you the mix of communication and collaboration needed for your objectives. Sometimes text only media may not serve your needs. I may suggest a system that has several tools together like the Elgg open source social network system.
Thanks for posting this query Jo, Wikis are something that I've been trying to drive into our organisation for the past 6 months, mainly to reduce the number of emails generated when a team try to jointly create any learning content / communication texts etc. Wikis make it so much easier than multiple attachments making the rounds.
After trial and error with a number of different services, our team likes Zoho Wiki the best, as it is just like using word (and it's free).
So far, we have set temporary Wikis up to collaborate on a technical glossay for a IT Training project, jointly drafted a series of communications regarding learning @ work day, and we have just started to use it for meeting agendas/action planning.
In the long term, we'd like to integrate the Zoho Wiki into our Intranet, (or develop another internally) but our first toes in the Wiki water have been very well received so far.
I think motivation is also a factor; people have to want to do the wiki for it to be successful. I ran a trial one with our IT Trainers, who loved it (now having to do a business case...snore!) because they're already writing manuals, glossaries and processes that need constantly updating so a wiki makes sense. I think a win in that respect would highlight the use to other bits of the organisation, but I guess time will tell...
A big problem we will face when rolling our permissions to users is this one, pointed out by Karen
The reality is that a huge percentage of our user population is so accustomed to being disempowered that they are not ready to embrace an empowering collaborative solution.
I am in the process of introducing a wiki in our organisation. It's taken 18 months to get the organisation to "bite" & I'm very conscious that management are watching carefully to see if it takes off. Although there is widespread support amongst staff for the idea, I'm not convinced this will translate into active participation. As others have noted, my guess is that success will depend on the motivation of a few key active participants.
With that in mind, I have targetted interested parties in each department to act as catalysts for adding content and encouraging others to access the wiki. It's early in the porcess for me, but I wonder if the most successful wikis in corporate environments may be those which develop sponstaneously, from the bottom up?
My advice, Keith, is "be careful"; you need a clear structure of:-
* Domain Champion
And this structure applies to each domain. So the wiki needs to be structured in terms of domains - and who plays what role within each domain (NB a champion of one domain can be a contributor in another and a user in another domain!). And you can still keep it "spontaneous, bottom up" within this structure as long as people know their roles - it just needs a bit of facilitation!
There are two problems if the structure's weak:-
1. People can't find their way around - and lose interest; and
2. You get rubbish on there - and it loses it's credibility.
And try to position everything as champion/ challenger; what's up there at any point in time is champion - unless anyone knows better - in which case what they think is challenger until the domain champion has ruled that it should be the new champion.
We are using them and have been very sucessful we have the tag wiki thought leaders internally now! Information Design is key especially if you are using them to house standards etc we spent a long time thinking through this side of things before launching. Also don't worry if you think people are not contributing remember and take heart from the 90:9:1 rule. 90% will look and learn, 9% will contribute a little and 1% will account for most of the activity. If you are worried get some stats on page hits
We have some great uses of Wiki's as part of managing a team. As an example, a group of Sales Managers regularly issue documents on which they need to agree - this was previously done by email and took up to 5 days to collate responses. It's done within a day now using a wiki. Team meeting minutes also on this wiki with actions being update when completed.It has gained a lot of traction in this part of our organisation.
Sorry for the radio silence, I was on a career break travelling in africa for a few months but back now and fully into all things e-learning!
Thanks for your helpful posts so far. I'm particularly encouraged by the 90:9:1 rule ;-)
To update you on how far we've got....we're building a customised moodle at the moment which will include wiki functionality but we're heading that area "communities of practice" so it doesn't put people off with technological language and is more relevant to learners (i.e. charity sector terminology, self explanatory title). Each division/function will have their own, which will be subdivided thereafter by workstream. To help them take off this is what we're doing, in no particular order:
1. Consulting with our library service colleagues on the finer details of organising/ordering/clearly labelling over the coming weeks - they've all done librarianship and manage the content of our intranet so we figured they'd be the best people to advise. We're hoping this will also help with consistency - if users are able to navigate their way round our intranet they should be able to do so in the communities of practice too if the same rules apply.
2. Activities to promote/launch the moodle: on learning at work day in May; roadshows around launch date; internal comms channels; director briefings; strategy papers - the benefits of the 'communities of practice' as well as practical examples of how these have worked successfully elsewhere will be covered in these sessions
3. Focus on supporting one division/function to create, moderate and establish a really excellent wiki that links to their corporate objectives. We've chosen our function of early adopters - our bright and sparky fundraisers!
4. Track and monitor the impact and benefits of above
5. Construct a case study based on above to demonstrate their business impact, circulate to other functions/divisions
6. Sumbit proposals for each function's training plan that includes the online solutions they could deploy to achieve their corporate objectives - communities of practice may be in there but so will lots of other things
7. We're considering the champion idea but it's been used so many times before it feel a bit tired and would probably receive little interest. Resources dictate that we will need moderators from each community though - all thoughts on how to engage would be very welcome! However I suspect it will be down to us in L&D do demonstrate their value first….
I hope this was a useful update, all comment, suggestion welcome!