Using Open Education Resources (OERs) in Blended Teaching: Is it worth it?

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Paper notes

  • This page has been accessed over 20,000 times, and is still regularly being accessed - see list following (a lot but not all by me!!) if you want to help me out I would love to have some more input. It will also allow me to demonstrate how crowd sourcing can be used to develop a research paper the wiki way. (don't be afraid!!)
    • 2011: May 14 (250); May 29 (317);June 1 (400); June 15 (787); July 19 (847); December 14 (1,541)
    • 2014: Mar 28 (19,897), May 8 (20,116)
  • Note if we want to encourage the creation of OE Research we must have papers cited. So if you do use this for your research could you add a link to your paper on the page, and/or cite either this article or the CITRENZ paper.
  • If you do refer to this page in your research can you cite as
  • If this was operating as a wiki page with author collaboration the citing would look more like
  • Page has been used as the background resource for:
    • Verhaart, M. (2011) Using Open Education Resources (OERs) in Blended Teaching: Is it worth it?. In S. Mann & M. Verhaart (Eds.) Proceedings of the 2nd Annual Conference of the Computing and Information Technology Research and Education of New Zealand Conference (Incorporating the 24th National Advisory Committee on Computing Qualifications Conference), Rotorua, New Zealand, July 5-8. pp.263-272, (
  • Please use -~~~~ if you add comments so I can track the effectiveness of using WikiResearcher
Note: If you are reading this and have other challenges/benefits or would like to add a comment I would be really pleased to have this added. If you can't figure out how to add a comment to the wiki researcher page add one on my user page at WikiEducator (I have created a space for you - ) or if you prefer adding a blog comment use my blog link

visitors (that's you)

As mentioned earlier, many people seem to be visiting this page. I would really like to get some idea of who is looking and why (hopefully this will lead to another paper!). If you could I would love you to add your user id (use -~~~~ ) with a brief comment. I have put one example to get you started)

If you have an Open Access account you can use it to login to WikiResearcher. If you are a wikieducator user you can link your wikiresearcher page to your wikieducator one.

  • Michael Verhaart 08:56, 29 May 2011 (UTC) New Zealand. Interested to see if collaboration on WikiResearcher can be done.

Other notes

While building the paper it was quite time consuming referencing WikiEducator pages - must ask Jim T if he can add the Cite this page extension. This really helps with page reuse as authors can provide proper attribution to the pages they modify.

  • use: WikiEducator (big E) ,Wikiversity (Lowercase v), MediaWiki (CamelCase)


The Open Education Resource (OER) movement is gaining traction in New Zealand, notably Otago Polytechnic, and by some prominent institutions overseas. Using a wiki framework is a common way to develop OERs, notably wikieducator and wikiversity.

This paper looks at the benefits and challenges of using a wiki as a tool for developing OERs. The discussion is based on a case study where a personal OER has been developed and used to deliver content in a blended teaching and learning environment. OER and the OER movement is covered briefly, and how wikis are an important tool to facilitate the construction of the OER. Using the case study wiki the benefits and challenges of using a wiki for developing OER are discussed, and whether the use of wikis in a blended teaching environment is worth it.

Key words

Open Education Resources (OER), WikiEducator, virtualMV Wiki, wiki, MediaWiki, advantages, disadvantages, benefits, challenges, blended teaching


Since 2008, the author of the paper constructed and delivered teaching and learning content using a MediaWiki based wiki, called the virtualMVwiki (vMVwiki). This follows from an action research project used in support of a Ph.D. thesis, (Verhaart, 2008)[1] where the ability to supplement teaching content with student knowledge was explored.

The wiki is in the public domain (, so is accessible by not only students but anyone on the Internet. A user identifier is required for editing and adding content, however, there is no restriction as to who can create one. The term used for content of this nature is "Open Education Resource" (OER).

Previous papers by the author have explored how the wiki has been used to manage and deliver the content, and how social media could be included. This paper takes a different track and looks at the research question "is adopting wiki technology to produce and deliver teaching and learning content worth it?"

The paper will briefly background OER and the use of wikis for OER. This will be followed a discussion of the challenges and benefits of using an OER wiki based on observations from the case study wiki, and supported in part by findings from others, in an attempt to provide a balanced answer to the research question.

Brief literature review

Delivering content in a manner where the resources are open to the world to both share and modify is a daunting concept, particularly in a "knowledge is power" and "competitive" environment. From an individual's perspective the content they develop may provide security in tenure, due to the exclusiveness of those resources. However, due to the widespread availability of the Internet, there is a significant movement where resources are being developed collaboratively and shared globally which requires a shift in thinking for educators developing content.

According to the (OECD, 2007[2]) report "Giving Knowledge for Free",

"Higher education is facing a number of challenges: globalisation, an aging society, growing competition between higher educational institutions both nationally and internationally, and rapid technological development. OER is itself one of these challenges, but may also be a sound strategy for individual institutions to meet them. The trend towards sharing software programmes (open source software) and research outcomes (open access publishing) is already so strong that it is generally thought of as a movement. It is now complemented by the trend towards sharing learning resources – the open educational resources movement."

In a report to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Atkins, Seely Brown, and Hammond, (2007)[3] describe Open educational resources (OER) as:

"teaching, learning and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials or techniques used to support access to knowledge.

In 2001, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced the release of nearly all its courses on the internet for free access. As the number of institutions offering free or open courseware increased, UNESCO organized the 1st Global OER Forum in 2002 where the term Open Educational Resources (OER) was adopted. (Open Educational Resources, 2011)[4]

OER includes learning content (courses, lesson plans and learning objects), tools (software supporting development, management and re-use of content) and implementation resources (the intellectual property licences that promote open licensing and other principles of best practice)."(OECD, 2007[2]; Open educational resources, 2011[5])

Copyright and ownership is an important aspect of OER. A short paper by Barbara Chow, Director of Education Program at The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation on "Copyright and the development and re-use of OER" is being used as a resource for the UNESCO / COL international discussion forum on "Taking OER beyond the OER community" (Chow, 2010)[6]. An interesting point is raised in the paper is from a quote by Wayne Macintosh that "in our research, we have no issue with sharing and building on the ideas of others, yet in our teaching there is a perception that we must lock our teaching materials behind restrictive copyright regimes that minimise sharing."

OERs are normally "protected" using Creative commons licences (refer to The CC licenses (2011) [7] for a discussion on the various types). A second issue is, which Creative Commons (CC) attribution to apply? In the paper "Open Educational Resources and Creative Commons Licensing (2009)[8], "for an OER the recommended licence is, the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY) license. Only the CC BY license endows OER with all of the fundamental attributes (e.g., freedom to share and combine resources while giving the author credit) that are important for resources that comprise a global learning commons.

Wiki technology is a common way to deliver OER Content. Many of the principal OER repositories including WikiEducator and Wikiversity use a wiki framework utilising the mediaWiki engine developed for Wikipedia The anatomy of a Mediawiki wiki is shown in Figure 1.

Coined in 1995 by Ward Cunningham, wiki means quick in Hawaiian (Louridas, 2006)[9]. “Wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser. Wiki supports hyperlinks and has a simple text syntax for creating new pages and crosslinks between internal pages on the fly” (Leuf & Cunningham, 2002)[10].

Figure 1: Anatomy of a Mediawiki wiki (Source: CC SA BY)

I have one small suggestion re the anatomy of a mediawiki diagram - I think you need to include a reference to the discussion page – I know we don’t utilise it at vMVWiki, but its actually well used elsewhere and is very powerful in allowing contributors/moderators to comment on the resource or content page. As a quick example, theres a small but interesting historical discussion on Martin Dougiamas’s wikipedia page regarding his worthiness of inclusion - and WikiEducator have developed it quite well with a threaded discussion extension.--Steph 06:59, 4 June 2011 (UTC)This is now added to the diagram - thanks --Michael Verhaart 10:09, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

Two notable repositories being Wikiversity and WikiEducator.

WikiEducator was initiated in 2006 by Wayne Mackintosh, and later that year financial assistance was obtained from the Commonwealth of Learning (COL). WikiEducator is a collaborative global community project working towards a free version of the education curriculum by 2015 (WikiEducator:about, 2011[11]; WikiEducator, 2010, August 26)[12]). “WikiEducator is a global community resource, based at Otago Polytechnic, with servers hosted by Athabasca University (WikiEducator:Main Page, 2011[13]).

Wikiversity is a Wikimedia Foundation project devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education from pre-school to university, including professional training and informal learning” (Wikiversity:Main Page, 2011[14]). On December 8, 2009 the Home Page indicated there were 11,705 learning resources, and by the end of May, 2011 this had risen to 15,855.

Based on the adoption of the wiki by the organisations mentioned, as a tool for knowledge creation and management, research into its suitability as a candidate to extend the "The virtual Me: A knowledge acquisition framework" (Verhaart, 2009[15]) was undertaken. A Mediawiki based wiki, coined vmvWiki ( ) was used to develop teaching and learning content for papers for undergraduate degree and diploma programmes.

Who creates the content?

In Wikipedia's case Priedhorsky et. al (2007)[16] comments "that issue of who (i.e., what types of editors) contributes Wikipedia’s content is a matter of some dispute. Jimmy Wales, one of the founders of Wikipedia, has stated that “2% of the users do 75% of the work” , while Swartz has argued that the work is more distributed". The analysis conducted in the paper (Priedhorsky et al., 2007[16])indicated that "The top 10% of editors by number of edits contributed 86% of the persistent word view's (PWVs), and top 0.1% contributed 44% – nearly half!"

Case study

Since 2008 the vMVwiki has been used to deliver teaching and learning to Diploma and undergraduate students, in a New Zealand Institute of Technology, and has been discussed in papers presented to the Distance Education Association of New Zealand (DEANZ) (Verhaart, 2010a[17]) and Computing and Information Technology Research and Education of New Zealand (CITRENZ) (Verhaart, 2010b[18]) Conferences. The actual wiki was used to deliver the presentation, rather than the more usual Microsoft PowerPoint delivery.

The following discussion outlines some of the challenges and benefits found from the use of the case study wiki, plus some observations made by others.

Challenges in using a wiki for teaching and learning

Technology issues

Delivering content in the cloud

This has probably been the most difficult of all problems to deal with. After doing an upgrade on MediaWiki, vMVwiki experienced significant technical issues, with the site crashing on a MySQL table and frequently timing out. Contacting the web host has included remedies such as restarting IIS. Trying to resolve the problems has been frustrating both as author and for the students, due to lack of access.

Breaking through institutional firewalls

There is a considerable wealth of very useful content available on external sites such as YouTube and SlideShare. Unfortunately in many institutes block selected sites (such as YouTube), so this content is not available when students are in a face-to-face delivery mode. Remedies include instructing students to view the content "at home" or where possible a link to a downloadable version needs to be added. This is possible for original or creative Commons content, but not for content from sites (such as, YouTube or SlideShare).

Spam and vandalism

One significant issue for using wiki technology is vandalism. Priedhorsky, et al (2007)[16] cite Vi´egas et al.(2004) categorise vandalism as follows: Misinformation, Mass delete (removal of the content of a page), Partial delete, Offensive, Spam and Nonsense (e.g. "Kilroy was here").

In 2013 this became a significant issue in my virtualMV wiki, and took the form of a new account is created, a new disconnected page is generated and the spam placed onto the page. Occasionally, this migrated to vandalising actual content pages including the main page,and unfortunately is a significant time waster. While not difficult to catch, either by checking recent changes, or having an RSS feed from recent changes, the vMVwiki has been fortunate in that one of the users is assisting in this. In May 2011 for the vMVwiki there was well over 100 new accounts that were manually disabled. Introducing two spam controls seems to have had little effect so further controls are being investigated. The difficulty is balancing the ease of editing by genuine users, while making it difficult to prevent the vandalism of the spammers.

The problem is not confined to the vMVwiki, with other wikis also dealing with the issue. Despite filters and other measures, manual removal of offending pages seems to be a common way of dealing with them. For the vMVwiki it is a nuisance but manageable. As an example, reviewing the User IP and user names that have been blocked on one day ; Wikipedia ( ) blocked over 500 (May 31, 2011); over 1,050 (June 22, 2014), WikiEducator ( ) over 20 (May 31, 2011, and 35 in May 8, 2014). Unfortunately my privately hosted virtualMVwiki ( ) escalated to a point where with more than 10 spam accounts being created each day, the maintenance of the site was more time consuming than the adding of content, so new user creation has been disabled. Some were automatically detected, but many have been manually blocked. Interestingly the pages that these accounts created were text dense and did not seem to serve any purpose. Over a period of a few months the database went from around 200MB to over 2GB, and the performance of the database is now unacceptable for teaching. Interestingly, the spam appears to be human entered as several blocking systems were put in place. These included an email confirmation and special questions that needed to be answered before editing could take place, and actual gMail accounts were being created. An example of a text dense spam page is shown in Figure 2. (I would love to know what the purpose of adding this page was as it contains no hyperlinks to anywhere - Anybody got any ideas )

Figure 2. WikiSpam: An example of a text dense mindless addition to the wiki. Click to enlarge

Continual re-editing

From a technology view each time a wiki page is edited a before image is created. With a lot of small edits (as was the case with developing this paper) over 200 individual copies of the paper are stored in the database. While essentially text is stored which doesn't require significant storage, in a large wiki this could be an issue.

Upgrading MediaWiki

The process of upgrading MediaWiki is overly complex. Indeed in the instances where the wiki was upgraded a significant knowledge in both changing PHP code and Database table structure changes was required. The upgrade wound up using a "plunge" method where the new php code was copied over the old code with th hope that it would work successfully. Indeed reviewing the version that WikiEducator is currently using shows this is a significant issue for them and anecdotally the issue of customised php coding means the upgrade could potentially cause failure in the extensions.

Content and context issues

Including external content

One of the benefits of OERs is that they can be re-used or re-mixed into your own content. One way to do this in MediaWiki is by using the iFrame insertion. While this has many advantages, including handling the issue of copyright, there have been instances where the linked page has been removed, or the page has become protected (this happens in some of the news feeds where the content is made available free for a short time, then archived and accessed via a payment system).

Further, some inserted pages include large page headers and significant advertising, so all you see is a banner ad rather than the content.

Another issue is that control over updates and deletions is lost. Several times content that has been embedded has been removed (e.g. SlideShare, and YouTube), and in some cases the way they are accessed was changed.

In a the google Groups WikiEducator Discussion forum on Connected media Wayne Mackintosh (2014, Mar 24)[19] identifies iFrame and Connected media issues as follows:

  • The Kaltura extension is no longer supported - in the early day's Kaltura were responsive in keeping things operational in Mediawiki, but this no longer seems to be a priority. So we can no longer use Kaltura.
  • It is possible to upload videos to the Wikimedia Commons in free file formats and embed within WikiEducator which meets all our requirements for free cultural works approved licensing. This works well for videos of general interest, but not ideal for video material which is too specific, for example an video introduction for a WikiEducator course which is not hosted within the Wikimedia projects. I don't think it's ethical to use the free hosting services of the Wikimedia Foundation for initiatives which are out of scope with the Wikimedia family of projects.
  • While free file formats are our preferred solution, there is a difficult challenge - namely users whose freedoms have been compromised through no fault of their own. The practice where some employers lock down desktop machines restricting the users freedom to download the codecs to play free file format videos is sadly widespread. While respecting freedom of choice - we do not wish to deny any educator or learner from viewing video material.
  • Previously, the no-cost BlipTV service offered a valuable prototype solution. Users could upload free-file formats, tag videos with CC licenses, and BlipTV would automatically mirror a copy of the file on the Internet Archive. However, the support for providing copies on the Internet Archive discontinued, followed by BlipTV stopping their free hosting service. This highlights the risks for an OER community using "no-cost" corporate services. (In fact today I've been uploading replacements to legacy BlipTV hosted videos from the first meeting of the OERu. Unnecessary waste of productive time :-()
  • Now that YouTube provides for CC-BY licensing - that solves one historical challenge of why we have not supported the embedding of Youtube video. However, YouTube does not support the CC-BY-SA license which may be the preferred choice for pro-freedom WikiEducators. Furthermore, to the best of my knowledge, there is no reliable mechanism to restrict embedded advertisements. The WikiEducator community is committed to providing an advertising free website, and this has been a core value since our inception.
  • Vimeo has provided a useful prototype solution, particularly for OERu partners. Vimeo supports creative commons licenses, open file format video for download and an easy pathway for WikiEducators to embed video in the wiki. The challenge for OERu partners is that the terms of service of the no-cost version of Vimeo restricts commercial use. So for OERu partners who will be offering assessment for credit on a fee for service basis cannot use the no-cost Vimeo service. In the case of OERu courses, our partners have funded their own Pro-accounts on Vimeo to ensure that we do not breach the terms of service.
  • At a technical level, the OER Foundation could host video material on our servers (including server side conversion service for those who are unable to upload video in free file formats.) However, as a small non-profit Foundation -- we do not have the funding to cover these costs at this time.

Content out of context

As users have a wide range of abilities, an issue that surfaced in earlier iterations of the virtualME knowledge framework (before the wiki) was the problem of content out of context. For example, where should content be added if there is no wiki page? In the vMVwiki there has not been a noticeable problem, however, this could also mean students have not added an entry rather than placing the content in the wrong context. To some extent this is addressed through the individual user pages. A user survey could be conducted to determine the extent of this.

Having incomplete content

As a wiki allows for continuous editing, there is a temptation to create a filler or starter page. The effect of this was seen on the wikiversity page on "Intermediate JavaScript" ( ), this has now been completed. This can be problematic when students are expecting content but find the page incomplete. However, this could also be seen as an opportunity for students and users to add this content.

Content continually changing

From a learner perspective this can create frustration issues, especially for those students who prefer to print the content. This was noticed when the virtualMVwiki server was unavailable for a few days and students reverted to the backup server copy. Content that had recently been added was not available causing postings to the class discussion forum to ask for the updated content.

Content of varying quality

As adding content requires the use of wiki markup, and can be edited by anyone with a userid, the skill levels of the authors (users) can determine not only the reliability of the content but the way it is presented. Templates can be used to assist in this but authors need to be skilled in their use.

Sourcing content and digital rights

One big issue is constructing the content and managing digital rights. Fortunately there are repositories of Open Content such as Wikimedia commons ( ) that can provide a wealth of images. As the content is placed in the public domain rather than restricted to an educators presentation slides (like PowerPoint) much more care needs to be taken. For the teaching vMVwiki much more attention to citing has been done, than probably would have been done if presented in a closed format. This is also observable in Wikipedia where the citings/references play an important part.

OER is normally distributed using a Creative Commons licence. There are many to choose from , however in order to satisfy the OER the two licences are CC-BY-SA and CC-SA.

Authoring issues

Learning wikicode

One of the strengths (and weaknesses) of Mediawiki is the necessity to use wiki-code. The advantage is that it is text based so easily edited in any web browser, however the cryptic syntax does take a little getting used to.

This can be enhanced through the use of templates, for example to standardise headers and footers, and constructs such as boxes.

Understanding pedagogical structure

In environments such as WikiEducator, the framework to display the content relies heavily on using templates. For someone starting out this is a significant barrier.

Facilitator/developer/designer issues

Development time

Developing content in a wiki takes a significant amount of time. Unlike a self contained presentation tool, where templates are used to provide professional looking presentations, where text fonts are easily changed, multimedia effects added, and media inserted directly, a wiki requires building the content in wiki-markup, uploading images separately and changing formatting manually.

Loss of income

Nancy George posted the following comment to the OER University (OERu) discussion forum "Universities are also pressuring their academics to bring income into the institution to help them survive; therefore, I find it improbable that they are going to give their blessing to their faculty to develop learning materials that could earn the institution money and then give relinquish the right to that money." There has been significant discussion on this in the OERu discussion forum during May 2011.

Losing control of personal content

This is a more complex issue as it involves a philosophical concept which is very personal. A course on "Open content licensing 4 educators" run by Wikieducator (OCL4Ed, 2011)[20] considers it in one way as "Is teaching a vocation or profession?". The discussion can be found on the Wikieducator page "Educators care: Why open matters?" ( )

A sticking point for many authors is the Non-commercial attribution, where another person is able to take the work and modify it in a commercial setting. For a detailed discussion refer to Erik Möller's (2007)[21]discussion "The Case for Free Use: Reasons Not to Use a Creative Commons -NC License" ( )

Student issues

Reluctance to edit

While the concept of adding and editing content by users of the site is the cornerstone of a wiki, actually getting users to actively change the content as opposed to passively viewing the content remains a challenge.

One of the students sent me the following comments "I have some thoughts about student contributions to the wiki – barriers, perceived or otherwise. As a student, your wiki is referred to as Michaels Wiki, straight away setting a defining line in regards to ownership. I also think its a lot harder as a young person to realise that as a pupil you also may have something to contribute, we come from years of schooling where its teacher/learner with set roles. So to make that move from student receiver to student contributor is a big step. Getting the students to contribute as part of an assessment – excellent idea :) . "

The final comment, that is, encouraging student participation by including it as an assessable item is often discussed in the context of participation in discussion forums. Some studies further suggest that the level of engagement in discussion forums can be moderated by factors such as teacher’s involvement and possibility of receiving course credits ( (Garrison et al., 1999, 2001, 2003], (Guzdial & Turns, 2000) and (Taradi & Taradi, 2004) cited in Chenga, Paréa, Collimoreb, & Joordensa (2011)[22]). This has been demonstrated in the virtualMV wiki where classes when comparing contributions from students with and without assessment requirements. As a side effect, once students gain confidence in adding to the wiki they are more likely to add content.

Knowledge of the use of Web based technologies is required

As the content is delivered on a web platform students must be competent at using web technologies to access the content. This includes have Internet access of a suitable quality to display the content. The vMVwiki has primarily been used for Information Technology students, and students in other learning domains could have difficulty in navigating the web technologies required.

Ability to read and process screen based content

Not all users are comfortable with reading content on-screen, and indeed in some instances students have produced complete hard copies of the content. From a personal perspective the author has found that dual monitors make the task of reading on-screen content significantly easier, and has observed a trend among colleagues to having dual-monitors.

Benefits of using a wiki

Given that a wiki provides many challenges, what are some of the benefits?

Technology benefits

Content is available

As a wiki is cloud based, as long as you have access to the internet the content/teaching resource is available. When used to deliver content in a computer laboratory, students can have the content on their screens while following the projected presentation. This is particularly useful where students find it hard to see over/around other students or have difficulty reading the projected image.

Content is browser based

There are many advantages here. One of the design features of MediaWiki is that it performs well in most browsers. As it is browser based issues such as media compatibility are addressed by the browser, rather than what is installed on a local PC (as is the case for a CD/DVD based multimedia presentation). The text editor is fairly basic which has the advantage that changes to content can be done easily inside the browser. Open Office and Microsoft provide add-ons so that you can work offline, however it is preferable with the wiki to work on the live system.

Content can be viewed on many devices

As the number of device types increases and includes Personal Computers, Pad based computers (like Apple iPad), and mobile devices (such as smart phones), the ability to present content on all of these devices becomes more important. As Mediawiki is browser based effectively any device running a browser and linked to the Internet is capable of accessing the content. MediaWiki also allows for a variety of stylesheets and has a Mobile style sheet extension. This can be seen when accessing Wikipedia on a smartphone.

Content and context benefits

Content changes are tracked

Probably the most significant benefit is that all changes in a wiki are recorded and if necessary can be reverted back. This is a major distinguishing factor between using a wiki for content generation and other platforms (such as Moodle).

Content is always up to date

As the content is stored in one place and can be updated directly as it is cloud based, students are always presented with the latest version of the content. During lectures the content can be updated in real time (There are instances where corrections are made while content is being presented).

Another benefit is that the content can be used in many contexts. For example, resizing graphics is important when discussing web page performance, multimedia construction, and inclusion in Office documents.

Content may be re-used

As the content is in the public domain and for an OER usually comes with a Creative Commons licence (BY-SA) the content may be reused by other organisations and even translated into other languages. In Taiwan, the Opensource Opencourse Prototype System (OOPS) is translating OER courseware into Chinese, and is also an Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Open Coursesware (MIT OCW) official translation affiliate [23]. The Open Learning Network (OLnet)[24] is undertaking research in the use and reuse of open learning content.

Content may be shared

If templates have been used effectively these enable to content to be shared efficiently. Symply adding the template code will insert the content at the required place in the wiki page.

Linked content can be used

Using MediaWiki allows media from the public wikicommons ( ) to be linked, providing a access to this huge resource. While it is possible to add an extension to Media wiki to allow for external media to be displayed, policy issues often prevent this. For example, in WikiEducator the use of iFrames is unavailable, as is inserting YouTube Videos. A comment by Wayne Macintosh elsewhere in this document outlines the reasons.

Student issues

There are many benefits that students can gain through the use of a wiki. Guth (2007)[25] identified several pedagogical benefits;

Collective authoring: critical reading and responsible writing

As the wiki entry is open to the peers and potentially the world this encourages a high quality of work.

Collective ownership of work

Encourages the concept of sharing personal knowledge. However In Lund and Smordal’s (2006 cited by Guth (2007)[25] ) wiki experience, “learners did not immediately embrace any notion of collective ownership or epistemology but continued a practice where the institutionally cultivated individual ownership persisted.”

Writing as a process and knowledge sharing over time

Guth (2007)[25]identified that this has two advantages: first, it facilitates writing as a process rather than a product and, second, it promotes the continued use of a wiki in different contexts.

Benefits of publishing online

Guth (2007)[25] also identified that wikis give students the opportunity to focus on issues such as referencing online sources and considering copyright issues of the multi-media content (e.g. images).

Students are familiar with the environment

As the content is delivered in an environment similar to wikipedia most students have used this interface.

Students can take ownership

Effective learning engages the students. As they are able to add and modify the content students can contribute in a real way to the material being displayed.

Students have a built in personal note system

It is easy to add personal notes to the wiki via the personal user page which is accessible from every page.

Prepares students for Web 2.0 technologies

For students that wish to, having exposure to the wiki way, means they will develop skills that can be used on other public wikis, and can participate in major international projects such as WikiEducator, Wikiversity and Wikipedia.

Promotion tool

Content in a Public wiki is openly available wiki so this provides a marketing platform for the institution. "The educational experience at an institution is more than the consumption of educational materials, so students who are inclined to enroll in university are not disinclined to enroll because they can access materials freely." (Mary Lou Forward, 2011, OERu discussion forum)

Do students actually use the wiki as a wiki?

A student commented as follows "One of the attractions of using a wiki is that anyone with the necessary permissions can modify content on any page. Until we understand how to change content this is often a barrier to actually changing the content". As such the small assessment items have been built into the papers, where students are asked to change or add something to the wiki - even if it is done away from the main wiki on their user page.

A related issue is will students continue to contribute and develop a wiki community. In one case, a student regularly sent an email notifying spam. Eventually they were given administrator access. This student took things a stage further and started categorising pages (which was a good thing) and even created a page "Help wanted" link on the Navigation bar which connected to a page containing links to pages started but needing work.

Another recent development was a group of students creating a page to manage a Web Application Development project (WAD) ( . The page was begun, but replaced with the Open Source Project Management tool, Redmine ( ), that managed the processes and documents.

Student feedback

Informally, feedback from students has been very positive. In a recent (May 2011) survey where 18 students in an Undergraduate degree Advanced Multimedia class were asked to give feedback, none commented that the wiki hindered their learning and 3 highlighted the wiki when answering the question "What aspects of the lecturer’s approach best helped your learning?".

One of the students also provided the following feedback:

"Its easier for us oldies to think in terms of collaboration and contribution as we have had years of workplace experience behind us where you need to do exactly that to get anywhere. So for me, although initially the idea of actually writing something and putting it into the wiki for everyone to see was a scary thought, (the technology or learning wikitext not the problem) once that was overcome, it did achieve several things:

  1. A chance to give something back :)
  2. Enhanced my own retention by reworking and creating from the stuff I was learning
  3. Personal space – building an online portfolio – you never know when it might come in handy and if whats in there happens to be useful for others...thats good too
  4. Tidy up of categories – hope it helps the next bunch of kids to find their way around easier (Still only 1/2 way to where it could be in terms of navigation ;-) )"

Future work

Investigations into using wikis as a way to manage open teaching and learning content is still in the early stages, and there are many opportunities for future research. Looking empirically at whether students actually find this useful and comparing wiki techniques to others, as well as finding best practice case studies. As the wiki paradigm evolves, considering how it can be applied to other situations, such as, WikiResearcher to develop research papers.

Feedback from a past student who has continued to assist with the wiki, was that somehow a community needs to be developed. They also indicated soliciting the help of students is problematic as they are essentially transient, that is they do a paper and move on. For a wiki "editing by others has to become part of the culture for it to continue to evolve, otherwise there is no point, you can't do it on your own, and it's too big a job. It is already bigger than what is taught but wouldn’t it be cool to have that community of skilled users contributing and keeping it up to date without losing sight of its primary teaching/learning purpose and commitment to OER?" Future work could involve how to establish a wiki community, whether this means areas need to under the control of an individual or group, whether editorial control is necessary, as is the case for Wikipedia, and personal ownership.

As a follow up it would be useful to survey others using wikis to deliver content to compare their experiences to those of the author of this paper. This could be useful in developing a framework for content delivery using wikis.


As the Open Education resource movement expands and gains traction, more educators are going to be confronted with the prospect of considering technologies to distribute their content, the wiki way is one such technology. This paper looked at the challenges of using a wiki for teaching and learning and the perceived benefits based on a Case study of a teaching and learning wiki that has been in use for four years.

So, to answer the research question "is adopting wiki technology to produce and deliver teaching and learning content worth it?". From a personal perspective there have been both significant challenges and benefits, and on balance neither comes out a clear leader. The time to develop and maintain the content the wiki way is probably greater than just developing in a presentation tool like PowerPoint, with considerations like the wiki markup, difficulties in presenting, restrictions in interactivity. However, the ability to modify on the fly, having content available wherever there is an internet connection, allowing students as well as others the opportunity to add or edit the content is also very appealing.

As an aside, this paper was developed in WikiResearcher ( ), in an attempt to see whether research papers could be successfully built using a wiki. Feedback during the construction was only received from two others, both colleagues. A post was put onto the Wikieducator discussion forum, and to date no comments have been received, however, there have been viewers of the page. Was it worth it?

Links (not for paper but for examples in a presentation)

OER globally


Block list


Resuse of OLC


This paper was constructed using wikiresearcher ( ) I would like to acknowledge the assistance of the following people

If you have added / amended the page could you add your "handle" below using Your name -~~~~ ; e.g.

  • Michael Verhaart -Michael Verhaart 23:56, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
  • Stephanie Day and Joyce Seitzinger from Eastern Institute of Technology, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Some basic analytics to see who visits this page
In order to help me track visitors I have added a Clustrmap (Started Dec 14, 2011 already 1,554 hits)


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Adding potential references here:

Citations and papers relevant to this page

  1. Brown, E. (2011) 5 steps to using open access in the classroom 11 9 2011. Retrieved from
  2. Verhaart, M. (2010) Using Web 2.0 in teaching and learning: A wiki case study. In S. Mann & M. Verhaart (Eds.) Proceedings of the 1st Annual Conference of the Computing and Information Technology Research and Education of New Zealand Conference (Incorporating the 23rd National Advisory Committee on Computing Qualifications Conference), Dunedin, New Zealand, July 6-9. pp.275-284. ( ). Double blind peer review. 51% acceptance from initial submissions
  3. Verhaart, M. (2010) Media Wiki technology in teaching and learning. Distance Education Association of New Zealand (DEANZ) 2010 Conference. April 25-28, 2010 Wellington, New Zealand (
  4. Verhaart, M. (2011) Using Open Education Resources (OERs) in Blended Teaching: Is it worth it?. In S. Mann & M. Verhaart (Eds.) Proceedings of the 2nd Annual Conference of the Computing and Information Technology Research and Education of New Zealand Conference (Incorporating the 24th National Advisory Committee on Computing Qualifications Conference), Rotorua, New Zealand, July 5-8. pp.263-272. ( ). Double blind peer review.