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TWiki Success Story of Tecnologico de Monterrey

Tecnologico de Monterrey is a multicampus private university in Mexico with a large virtual university section for satellite and online courses. We have been using Twiki for student collaboration and student projects in several courses since January 2001. I mention two of them here:

  1. One of the problems of traditional discussion forums is how to mine-out useful knowledge out of the hundreds of messages that students produce in a course. In one graduate course in the Learning Organizations area, we use hypernews discussion forums for student collaboration; however, rotating "knowledge management" teams summarize discussions and upload the summaries to twiki. Later on, other students analyze and update these summaries directly in twiki, with the only requirement that they must improve what they find. These summaries have become so useful that they are routinely used to improve course material.
  2. In another management course, the students become co-authors of a book that they collaboratively produce using twiki. This editorial project takes place during the whole course. Actually, the web pages of the course look like the intranet of a fictious web publishing company called Madison Webley.

    The first part of the book, "Theory", was partially written by the professor in twiki; afterwards, 60 students working independently at the same time were required to complete it by adding examples and researching new material. For the second part of the book, "applications", a twiki page was used to brainstorm ideas for the content. A student-led editorial committee classified ideas to produce chapter titles; then, student teams wrote each chapter in twiki. Each chapter had an associated discussion page for chapter reviews by other students. Another twiki page was used for students to self-appoint to teams, and more twiki pages for personal student reflections. This is the resulting twiki e-book (in Spanish). In a second version of Madison Webley, 5-person student teams build diverse digital products such as e-books, tutorials, web sites and so on. They use twiki for their project portals that hold project documentation, evolving results and student and team reflections.

Twiki has some great features for educational uses. The version system is essential to recover previous versions of accidentally damaged pages; it also makes easy to track what changes were made by each student. The implementation has proved to be extremely reliable -not a single crash or malfunctioning during this time.

We are currently researching the different patterns of group collaboration that emerge when using twiki rather than discussion forums. In a face to face meeting, whiteboards are used to temporarily "store" group ideas; for asynchronous collaboration, twiki can be seen as a sort of asynchronous whiteboard that can store the evolving state of the discussion as well as intermediate and final documents. Users seem to coordinate themselves efficiently around well-designed shared documents, rather than through dialog. If you know of any research papers about wiki servers, I would appreciate to know about them. Here are a couple about the courses mentioned above:

Icaza, J.I. 2000. Colaboración y construcción de conocimiento mediante el uso de un Wiki Server (Collaboration and knowledge construction using a wiki server). Paper writtten in Spanish. Memorias del XVIII Intercambio de experiencias en educación. ITESM campus Monterrey 2000. http://copernico.mty.itesm.mx/~jicaza/papers/HVCTwikiPaperCrgd.htm, accessed June 2004.

Icaza, J.I., Y. Heredia & O.M. Borch. Project-oriented immersion learning: builiding digital products for a cyberspace publishing house. Technical Report CIETE04-01, ITESM Campus Monterrey. http://copernico.mty.itesm.mx/~jicaza/papers/POLMadisonFinal.doc. Accessed June 2004

-- JoseI - 08 Jul 2003. Updated June 2004 (Added in a new paper)

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Topic revision: r5 - 2010-07-04 - PeterThoeny
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