How to Make Wikis Part of Your Training Program

The Hows and Whys of WikisWith the Encyclopedia Britannica abandoning its 244-year-old printed version in response to the dominance of Wikipedia, and Britain's education minister calling for a "wiki approach" to designing the curriculum for schools, wikis deserve a role in employee training and learning. But where, and how to start? Here's a quick overview.

The case for wikis

You're probably familiar with the concept generally, but to be clear, the eLearning Coach offers a simple definition: "A wiki is a collaborative website that collects and organizes content, created and revised by its users."

The thought of allowing students to do the work of creating authoritative materials rather than experts can seem troubling. But Connie Malamed, the expert behind The eLearning Coach, stresses that Wikis work because they're cheap and community-building. Gove, the British education minister, has explained that as great as experts are, within complex organizations knowledge is often distributed widely and unevenly.

"I believe the dispersed wisdom of the best teachers in this country and globally will be better than any bureaucracy's attempts to freeze in time and for all time the best way of teaching," he said of the appeal of a wiki curriculum. And no doubt what's true of teachers and bureaucrats is also true of employees and managers in many companies. A wiki is a simple machine for vacuuming up dispersed knowledge and making it accessible to all.

Getting started

So you're convinced you're missing the boat by not fully utilizing wikis. How do you get started? Malamed helpfully offers a basic crash course in wikis for L&D pros, including a list of their advantages, suggested software to get you going, examples of successful wikis and a list of further reading for those looking for a deep dive into the subject. Malamed also offers basic tips to ensure your wiki is successful:

  • Ensure the goal of the wiki is clear, then communicate it to your organization.
  • Determine who the users will be.
  • Ensure there is a moderator/editor who can make suer contributions fit the goal and format.
  • Provide clear instructions on how to use a wiki and how to contribute to it.
  • Promote a culture of friendly collaboration in the wiki.

But despite her extensive list of resources, The eLearning Coach has far from the most complete wiki-related resource guide online. Tony Karrer, CEO of TechEmpower, has compiled a humongous list of 60 resources on wikis and learning, ranging from case studies and comparisons between blogs and wikis, to tricks to drive adoption. Meanwhile, here at the Daily Mindflash, we've laid out the case that the future of training is "wikification" as organizations move towards more collaboration and less formality. That should keep even the most ravenous consumer of wiki-related content satisfied for awhile.

Are there any wiki and learning related questions you haven't found adequately answered online?

More: Create Your Own Kahn Academy for Training

London-based Jessica Stillman blogs about generational issues and trends in the workforce for Inc.comGigaOM and Brazen Careerist.

Image used under Creative Commons by Flickr user wonderferret. 

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