As a nurse researcher exploring resilience in undergraduate nursing students, I have learned the importance of student engagement and sense of community within the academic learning environment. The literature is brimming with evidence to support faculty-student engagement and sense of community as valuable tools in reducing nursing student stress and promoting academic success and career longevity. Along with these priorities, we are striving to enhance critical thinking skills, which require critical reflection and dialogue. Nurse educators often find it difficult to achieve these goals within the confines of their learning environment, especially when teaching online or when face-to-face contact is limited.
I have found wikis to be very beneficial in meeting these needs, as well as providing additional unanticipated benefits. If you are not familiar with wikis, don’t despair, you are not alone.
A wiki is simply a collaborative website allowing users to edit and contribute information in an asynchronous environment. Many of my students have never been exposed to the use of a wiki outside of Wikipedia. Fortunately, wikis are easy to use and integrate into the learning process.
My experience with wikis has included various student groups in nursing (traditional BSN, RN BSN, and MSN) and has been very positive, enjoyable, and dynamic. I have used the wikis to create vibrant and engaging class discussions, provide opportunities for student introductions (including photos of students, their families, hobbies, pets, etc.), post student presentations and photos of classroom activities (e.g. concept maps, groups whiteboard activities, guest lecturers, etc.), and to provide a collaborative space for scheduling meetings with students, sign-ups for presentations, interactive study guides, and posting of additional course resources (e.g. videos, links to documents/media, etc.).
Wikis have also been useful as a faculty member to share information from conferences, workshops, and as a collaborative meeting site. There are several good wiki sites available to educators, many with free or reduced rates.
As with many social media sites, the administrator is provided with multiple security options which allows you to create a private space for you and your students.
Reflection and Dialogue
As previously noted, one of the challenges we have as nurse educators is to promote critical thinking in our students. Whether teaching in an online environment or a face-to-face traditional classroom, the use of a wiki allows the discussion to continue beyond the classroom, promoting reflection and dialogue.
In my classes, student groups rotate the responsibility of providing a weekly summary for every class meeting. I have been pleasantly surprised at the self-direction taken and the creativity demonstrated to provide their peers with meaningful summaries and supplemental resources to course content.
The weekly summaries have also proven beneficial for me as a source of formative evaluation. I am able to identify any areas of confusion or incorrect interpretations of content, as well as any content not addressed. This affords me the opportunity to make corrections in a timely manner before moving on to new content.
A Handy Study Guide
Another valuable benefit of the wiki is the ability for students to collectively contribute to course notes and exam reviews. Students are asked to use the wiki as a collaborative “study guide” and to contribute information from the readings, class discussions, and independent learning. Again, I am able to monitor this and redirect as necessary. This has contributed to increased dialogue about subject matter and reflective reasoning that has greatly enhanced the learning process.
The continued discussion and interaction among faculty and students enhances engagement and sense of community. As the wiki evolves, so does the community. Wikis are similar to our children. All wikis are unique; their individual personalities develop over time as they grow; and they require our attention and participation in their development. I have found the use of wikis to be a great illustration of situated learning theory.
In the beginning, I take the role of expert and guide students into more active participant roles. As they become more confident in their abilities, I begin to move outward to become more of an observer as the students become the leaders of the wiki’s development. By the end of the course, the wiki has evolved into a unique representation of the class community.
I encourage you to try the wiki in your own learning environment in nursing. Think outside the box and be creative! As nurse educators, it is best to encourage your students to take ownership of its creation and become actively involved in the development of their learning community. I would love to hear of your experiences with wikis and invite you to contact me if you have any questions or suggestions. Happy Wikiing