In speaking with language faculty here at the LRC, we often field this question. Sometimes the answer is clear-cut, but there are often “grey areas”, depending on the goals of a collaborative writing project. One place to start is getting a clear idea of how the two models differ, and how they are similar. This fictitious debate humorously frames a broad comparison of the two paradigms.
What’s the Difference?
In outlining an overview of the two tools, the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching has provided a wonderful comparative resource, excerpted below. For a richer overview of the two models, see their linked sites for further reading.
What is a wiki?
A wiki is “a collaborative tool that allows students to contribute and modify one or more pages of course related materials.” Wikis are collaborative in nature and facilitate community-building within a course. Essentially, a wiki is a web page with an open-editing system.
When to use a wiki
Wikis are ideal for group projects that emphasize collaboration and editing. Some common uses include:
- Mini research projects in which the wiki serves as documentation of student work
- Collaborative annotated bibliographies where students add summaries and critiques about course-related readings
- Compiling a manual or glossary of useful terms or concepts related to the course, or even a guide to a major course concept
- Maintaining a collection of links where the instructor and students can post, comment, group or classify links relevant to the course
- Building an online repository of course documents where instructors and students can post relevant documents
- Creating e-portfolios of student work
Wikis work best when individual authorship is less important than the outcome that is created. Also, wikis are most appropriate for content that doesn’t need to be protected from accidental editing.
What is a Blog?
Essentially, a blog is a personal journal published on the web consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first. Blogs are usually written by one individual (though occasionally by a small group) and are often themed on a single subject. Many blogs provide commentary and some function as diaries; both types typically combine words, images and links to other online information. An important part of a post is the ability for readers to leave a comment.
When to use a blog
Blogging can be incorporated into the classroom in many different ways. Here are some of the most common:
- Create a course blog in which you (as the instructor) blogs the content and ask students to comment on your posts before class. You can then use the blog post as a discussion starter. For instance, did someone have an insightful comment? Did you repeatedly see the same question popping up? Share these (and the blog post) to get class conversations started.
- Create a group blog for the students in your course. Via the blog, students will be able to ideas from class, share resources with one another, and draw in outside participants (if you allow them to).
- Require each student to set-up and maintain his or her own blog. This can be a great way to facilitate student journaling, with journal entries either kept private, shared with just the instructor, or shared more widely.
- Individual blogs can be used to scaffold a project or paper. For instance, Post 1 could be a list of potential topics; post 2, 2-3 primary sources on a chosen topic; post 3, a research proposal; post 4, a progress report; post 5, a draft of a section of the paper. The benefit of having students do this on a blog is that you can put them into peer editing groups and students can give one another feedback online.
- Create a course blog that serves as a ‘hub’ which aggregates individual student blogs into one centralized space. On this blog, you could also provide course information such as the syllabus, the schedule, posts about assignments, handouts, and course discussions.
Wikis in the Language Classroom
See this short video demonstrating the use of a wiki to analyze and reflect on poetry.
Blogging 101 – What is a blog?
See this video describing what a blog is and how they work.
As you now know, the LRC’s blog is a blog because it lists entries chronologically, and it enables discussion via a comments feature.
Getting Started at Columbia
Columbia offers a number of blog and wiki services that are readily available and easy to use!
- To get started with Wikispaces, see the CCNMTL’s “Introduction to Columbia Wikispaces“.
- To get started with EdBlogs, see the CCNMTL’s “Introduction to EdBlogs @ Columbia“.
If you’d like to further discuss using blogs and wikis in your Columbia language course, feel free to contact us and we’d love to talk over your objectives and the solutions available to you.