What are blogs and wikis?
Blogs and wikis are just websites, but they are typically much more collaborative in design and purpose. They both provide "easy, quick" online publishing venues or writing spaces, many free. They differ from traditional websites in two primary ways:
- They typically encourage non-hosts/non-owners to post. Blogs and wikis are publishing platforms that encourage conversation and contribution, rather than being sites to just broadcast information. Wikis and blogs were among the earliest Web 2.0 platforms that encouraged publishing by anyone, anytime, anywhere. This movement has made Web 2.0 distinctive from Web 1.0, which was about spreading information versus encouraging collective contribution to knowledge bases. Blogs, wikis, and the increasingly diverse universe of publishing platforms have recently been associated with the term "connected learner."
- They typically use a WYSIWYG publishing toolbar. What this means is that publishing is easy...a "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" toolbar makes it simple to add and format text and other content (e.g., links). Ease of use promotes participation, changing the focus on encouraging users' contributions.
How do blogs and wikis compare?
Both venues typically engage large or small groups of contributors, making them ready venues for publishing and discussing content. What are they? In a nutshell:
Common blog/wiki similarities and differences are summarized in the table below. To get a bird's eye view of a "typical" blog, check out Michael M. Grant's Viral Notebook blog and his parallel Viral Notebook Resource Wiki. By reviewing these companion pieces authored the same host, you will see how the two platforms differ but complement each other.
- A wiki is a collaborative website allowing easy addition, removal, and editing of content. Wikipedia, the online open-community encyclopedia, is perhaps the most well known of these knowledge sharing sites; sites with which you may be familiar include The Full Wiki, Wikiversity, and Wikibooks. In wikis, collaborators are typically able to add significant pieces of content, not just comments.
- Like a wiki, a blog is a website where users have varying rights to post, change, and remove content. Some blogs are collaborative, but many are the "mouthpieces" of their host(s). In many blogs, contributors have defined rights for commenting, rather than for initiating new content. Blog and wiki tools vary in their look and feel; the host will have choices of tools, regardless of whether the tool is a blog or a wiki format. Bottom line, either format may suit instructors' collaboration and communication needs; for this reason, it is important that the instructional/collaboration purpose(s) guide decisions about choice of platform.
| Blog Features
| Wiki Features
|Often a "mouthpiece" for the authors/ hosts, with regular updates made by the host/owner. Popular because they are easy publishing venues and give ready "voice" to author(s) and - in some cases - contributors. May involve one or many contributors, but typically there is a smaller subset of "hosts" or "owners," with a targeted group of either "private" or "public" participants (who are invited to view and/or comment).
||An online space for multiple authors/contributors to publish content. Contributors must typically be members of the wiki, vetted by the wiki owner/host. Often, the end result of a wiki is a synthesized product or collection of contributions.
|Contributions by participants are typically made in response to hosts'/owners' posts.
||Contributions are typically made by several or all group members, to craft content. There may be design features that determine the areas where certain users may add content.
|Participants may have different levels of editing rights. In most platforms, contributions may be moderated (screened) prior to allowing them to become public.
||Participants may have different levels of editing rights. In most platforms, contributions may be moderated (screened) prior to allowing them to become public.
|Typically relatively brief text entries, but may include images, multimedia, external links, and - if the platform allows - downloadable attachments. Posts often appear in reverse chronological order.
||Often dominated by text entries, but may include images, multimedia, external links, and downloadable attachments. Content may be structured much like a website, or may have elements that look and act like blogs. Some wikis have pages consisting primarily of series of links to external resources. Content is added based on the design features established by the site, instead of on chronological order.
|Discussion formats are iconic even for the novice, making posting easy for both hosts and contributors. However, because of this ease, publishing tools may be limited.
||Hosts establish both structure and publishing conventions that make sense for the collaborative work being done on the site.
| May be more difficult to use for groups to generate final "products," as compared to the typical wiki flexible format.
||Lend themselves to compiling varied content, such as collaborative projects and collections of contributors' work.
What are the benefits of using blogs and wikis?
Some of the immediate benefits of using blogs and wikis are summarized below:
- Anyone (registered or unregistered, if unrestricted) can add, edit or delete content; membership may be wide open or restricted, based on the host's purpose.
- Built-in tools give the host (and participants) easy ways to keep track of what has been changed and by whom.
- Users do not need to know HTML in order to apply styles to text or add and edit content. In most cases, simple syntax structure is used, paired with toolbars that look and feel like those in commonly-used word processing software.
- In most platforms, earlier versions of a page may be viewed and reinstated when needed; this is a benefit, when a user inadvertently writes over prior content.
- Either may be time-specific, or may live online "forever" (or as long as the host wishes).
- The space becomes a ready record of discussions, contributions, and other activity.
- The learning curve is relatively brief, with lots of flexibility to integrate in a variety of courses and for multiple purposes.
Blogs and Wikis in Teaching and Learning
Just a few of the benefits of using blogs and wikis are summarized below.
- Blog/wiki postings may augment or replace face-to-face sessions, be used in hybrid/blended learning, flipped classrooms, and/or in online instruction. Depending on the context and the writing expectations, either venue may address or complement any number of learning goals (across disciplines). Because contributions are easily published and tracked, they provide ready vehicles for students and faculty to (a) assist in building instructional content; (b) track contributions; and (c) clarify understandings. In other words, the class, team, or group may "own" the content, versus a typical "one-way street" of students relying on instructors for all content. Instructors may serve as a coach on the side or facilitator, empowering students to collaborate. Some faculty think of these platforms as ways to make course content dynamic, since updating can be responsive to discussions, emerging news and trends, and other updates.
- Blogs and wikis are often tools recommended for building learning communities, where knowledge-building responsibilities are shared. Hand-in-hand with shared knowledge-building is the notion of authenticity; we are hopeful that students will think, "If I am writing to an audience of my peers, other experts, or the general public, my motivation will be greater, to hone my own thoughts and written product." Frequent course applications have been to support collaborative notetaking and build alternative course texts. For example, consider this Wikibook, built collaboratively by a graduate course members on the TPACK Model.
- These spaces serve as "artifacts" of learning, and may be used as formal or informal ePortfolios of work and learning. Once published, they are available for review, revisiting, and modification. They may also facilitate peer review of course colleagues' work, thus stretching the reflective nature of portfolios.
Because thinking and products are published - and because the posts are easily accessed via a unique URLs - it is easy to restrict or extend the pool of reviewers/contributors. For example, blogs and wikis may be private to a class group initially (i.e., to build content); the venue may later extend rights to other classes/groups, to experts in the field, or to the general public.
- Many Learning Management Systems (LMSs) have built-in discussion board/forums; some even have blog and wiki tools. The benefit of using the LMS-embedded tools is clearly that grading and feedback is more easily tied to the LMS gradebook. Unfortunately, some LMSs tools have "archaic" look and feel; and - more important - make it practically impossible to open the venue to a larger non-course audience, if desired. Using more mainstream tools can protect group privacy (if desired), introduce students to smart use of social media, and - if desired - be inclusive of non-course members, to enhance authenticity.
- With the expansion of web-based publishing options, there has been some popularity of "portable wikis." As reported by Tech Republic, these tools support one-page collaborative publishing spaces, and are often open-source applications hosted by individuals or groups, rather than being web-based. Thinking broadly, there are multiple collaborative one-page web-based publishing spaces that serve this purpose. They facilitate focused writing and curation, and can be linked to create multi-page products, if desired. Such venues offer a solid start-up option for novice adopters, and can be used as a focal point for time-limited or topic-specific collaborative work. As with any blog or wiki, most single-page platforms offer public, private, or member-only participation. A major advantage is that - since these are single-page collaborative documents - a wiki of this type is easily backed up and downloaded. Dr. Mark Wagner has compiled a comparison of typical wikis and blogs with this option.
- Finally, think: "Writing, writing, writing!" Both platforms empower students, faculty, and collaboration teams to write, edit, polish, and publish to a more authentic audience than simply submitting a paper. Because both platforms facilitate thinking, collaboration, and revision, there are formative opportunities to build skills and evaluate performance. In his 2 Cents Worth Blog, David Warlick wrote: "Weblogs are about reading and writing. Literacy is about reading and writing. Blogging equals literacy. How rarely does an aspect of how we live and work plug so perfectly into how we teach and learn?"
To learn the "basics" about the features of blogs and wikis, please explore some of the resources below.
To explore potential uses of blogs and wikis, check out these one or more of the following start-up resources.
For more information, use this link to go to the Blogs and Wikis section of the TOEP Resource Library.
Choose either Option 1 or 2 below, depending on your current knowledge/practice and interest. After exploring, write a reflective post about your experience, sharing it in our TOEP Google+ Community. If you choose Option 2, please consider sharing a link to your newly created blog or wiki within your post. Your reflection may include: What did you find interesting? How might these options apply to your own course(s), instruction, research, and/or other work? Do you have advice for others, based on your own experience?
Option 1: Explore educational wikis and blogs
This option involves reviewing existing educational wikis and blogs, to (a) get ideas about how higher ed faculty and staff are using these tools; and (b) to expand your own "toolbox" of resources. To locate blogs/wikis that are pertinent to your own interests and academic practice, explore at least one link from each category below. Particularly in Column 3, you will find tools to customize your search and/or to generate dynamic "feeds," storing them online for easy access; these tools help you efficiently "curate" dynamic web content from blogs, wikis, and other sites. Note that some of the tools that you have explored elsewhere on the TOEP site may lead you to blogs and wikis of interest (e.g., via Twitter). Blogs/wikis may also be discovered through social media; information about/from leaders in your field; conference content; and professional organizations.
Option 2: Publish your own wiki or blog
For this discovery exercise, please use one of the web-based tools listed below, to create your own wiki or blog. Each listed tool has a free service (and may also have premium options); alternatively, choose another tool that you locate at WikiMatrix
or elsewhere. Your goal may be to assist a group of colleagues who may be co-authoring a paper, grant proposal, or project; to facilitate your students' building course content; or to extend your own voice, in a new learning community.
The services marked with an asterisk also host one or more mobile apps. In addition, please know that this compilation does not include wiki/blog applications that you can download and host on your own.
Complete the badge request form to earn your TOEP Blogs and Wikis Badge. To earn this badge, complete the Discovery Exercise above. You will need to include a URL of the blog or wiki that is relevant to you in instruction (as completed in option 1 of the Discovery Exercise above or the URL of the blog or wiki you created or shared in option 2).
What Does the Research Say?
*Note: Access to the research articles may require logging into your campus' library system or you may request an article through Inter Library Loan (ILL).
Avci, U., & Askar, P. (2012). The comparison of the opinions of the university students on the usage of blog and wiki for their courses.
Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 15(2), 194-205.
Cheng, G. & Chau,J. (2011). A comparative sudy of using blogs and wikis for collaborative knowledge construction. International Journal of Instructional Media, 38(1), 71-78
Farmer, B., Yue, A., & Brooks, C. (2008). Using blogging for higher order learning in large cohort university teaching: A case study.
Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 24(2), 123-136.
Gehringer, E.F. (2008). Assessing students’ wiki contributions. In Proceedings of the 2008 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition.
American Society for Engineering Education.
Additional research information is available in the Blogs and Wikis section of the TOEP Resource Library.