I'm glad I tried your 30-day free trial. I got a good sense of what the product was capable of, and have been very impressed with Wikispaces.
— Fred Martin, Associate Professor in Computer Science
University of Massachusetts Lowell
A Wiki Easy Enough for Anyone
Fred Martin is an Associate Professor in Computer Science at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He began using wikis years ago in his programming classes and loved them.
What I found most compelling about a wiki were the times when students actually contributed and authored their own content. Everyone could see what others in the class were doing, could critique and give suggestions, and could learn from one another.
As he got more excited about the collaborative aspects of wikis, he was encouraged by his department chair to find a wiki option for the entire university. He was using an open source platform at the time, which required knowledge of wikitext and code. While this worked for his computer science students, he needed to find a wiki suitable for non-technical people as well.
Based on the recommendation of a colleague, he began using Wikispaces Campus. He signed up for the 30-day free trial and liked the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor. He could edit his wiki - formatting text, adding media such as videos and calendars, and creating links - simply and easily. He decided Wikispaces was a wiki that faculty and students could all learn to use.
Customization and Security
Another concern for Fred was having a wiki site that would be recognizably UMass Lowell's. He wanted the site to be secure, branded for the university, and accessible to faculty who were new to creating wikis. Fred began exploring how Wikispaces Campus could be implemented and customized. Branding the site was easy. Fred loved the ability to set the look for any wiki his colleagues would create, quickly building a unified look and feel for the entire site. And, using Wikispaces custom domain option, people wouldn't have to leave UMass Lowell's own domain to visit their wikis at www.wiki.uml.edu.
As he built his new wiki site, Fred wanted the barrier to entry to be low enough for non-technical users to join while ensuring that his site remained secure. He decided to make his site public. Any professor could go to the site, learn about the project, and see how others were using wikis, all without even creating an account. Security was implemented by Fred approving all user accounts on the site before they became active. When a professor wanted to begin building a wiki, Fred ensured that the individual was university faculty, staff, or a student before granting them membership. They could then create their private or protected wiki on the site. Fred had a fully operational and customized wiki option for UMass Lowell.
An Active Wiki Site with Exceptional Support
Since UMass Lowell created their Campus in early 2008, Fred and his colleagues have held three professional development workshops for their faculty and staff peers. The trainings have helped introduce faculty to the basics of wikis and how they can be used in the classroom. With these trainings, wiki usage has doubled each semester and professors are now incorporating wikis into their teaching in a variety of ways:
- teachers post weekly discussion questions for their students to answer
- students write compositions for other students to read and comment on
- students in independent tutorials create their own directed study material on a topic of interest
- students upload course work and final projects to their individual pages on course wikis
Fred loves seeing all the activity on his site and the collaborative learning that is happening across the university. Classroom work is made available so students can learn from one another. Students who are interested in specific topics have a place to post their research and build a knowledge database for future students. Fred has also appreciated the support he has received from the Wikispaces team.
I have always received great support from everyone at Wikispaces and am impressed by the constant improvements and new features they bring to the site.
Wikispaces has been a great addition to UMass Lowell and Fred looks forward to it continuing to foster engaged and effective classroom activity.
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