SCSU posted grades for the fall semester today online. I’m very happy to say that I passed my first class. Yeah! I now have 3 credits – only 33 more to go!!! I’m busy trying to get ready for my next class – ILS 503 Foundations of Librarianship. The class doesn’t start until January 29th, but I’m trying to get through the majority of the textbook before then.
My first class has been over for a couple of weeks – and I’ve had some time to reflect upon the whole experience – the first class in my MLS program and my first online class. Before taking the class, I was a bit unsure about what to expect from a distance education class. Admittedly, I worry about everything – especially schoolwork. I think I tend to believe that my grade will be based on the number of hours of self-flagellation I put myself through. So on top of my usual worries about starting a new program, I spent hours obsessing about what an online class would be like – would it be too easy? would it be too difficult? would there be any social interaction? how would I be able to figure out what the professor wanted? would I have the dedication and discipline needed to complete the class? how would the quality of the class be? how would others view a distance MLS?
I think I have mentioned before in this blog that I found the class to be a really rewarding experience. In addition to being worried about the online experience, I was a bit unsure about the actual class – Introduction to Information Science and Technology – and whether the material would be challenging. In my work, I am a head of library systems at a small academic library – and I am no stranger to information or technology. In fact, it is my job to be the most knowledgeable person about technology in the library. So, when I first opened the textbook and read the sections on how to connect to the internet, how to buy a computer etc., I wondered about the actual class material. Would it all be this basic? Fortunately, it wasn’t. I really feel as if I learned quite a bit. The professor gave us choices in assignments so that we could choose projects that would challenge us. This was one of the reasons that I chose to do a wiki project – I was interested in wikis, but had no experience with them at all. Additionally, the web search exercise was fascinating – and I learned so much even though I have used search engines extensively for several years. All in all, the class made me look at several things in a whole new light – and that is worth its weight in gold (or the cost of tuition)!!
Apart from the actual content of the class, I also really enjoyed the online format. The threaded discussion took the place of classroom discussion – and I was actually suprised at how much social interaction the discussions promoted. People’s personalities really shined through their posts. Also, in a traditional classroom, one cannot take classes with people in New England, Hawaii, and the Czech Republic (and assorted other places). It was an eye opening experience. The only difficult part of the online class was being able to read what the professor expected in terms of coursework. Well, I guess it wasn’t difficult just very different. In a traditional class, there is human contact – and I guess that I have always relied upon that as a means to read the professor. Pouring through documents, email and discussion posts didn’t give me confidence that I was writing my paper the right way or carrying out my project the right way. I was incredibly nervous about what material would be on the final. However, now that I look back, I was right about what the professor wanted – I was just second guessing myself because I didn’t feel confident about taking an online class. Hopefully, I will be a bit more comfortable next semester!!!!
WooHoo!! I just passed in my final for my class. It feels wonderful to be done for the semester!!! All in all, it was an interesting exam. I was so incredibly nervous about the exam because I found it very difficult to study for. Without traditional classroom lectures, it was difficult to see and judge what the professor felt was important. I have always been a big note taker – feeling as if lectures give me a clue to what the professor finds key to the class. In an online class, there aren’t any traditional notes and that left me a bit stymied. Fortunately, the test was ok. I don’t think I “aced” it, but I don’t think I’m in danger of failing either – and I can be really happy with that – for tonight atleast. Now, I can go unwind a bit before Thanksgiving. YEAH!!!!!
Wikipedia defines a Wiki as a web site that allows any number of users to add content and any other users to edit that content. This makes a Wiki an inherently collaborative tool best used by groups. In order for a Wiki to be successful, there must be a need for a group to collaborate on a specific project – and possibly a need for the group to edit each other’s work. This may be one reason why Wikis as class project may not work as well – a class Wiki project does not fill a collaborative need on the part of the class. Ideally, the collaborative need to comes first – then the idea that a Wiki could facilitate the group communication.
The Wiki project is now at an end. It was a great learning experience – even though the project itself was not as successful as I would have liked. However, I have learned a great deal about Wikis and how they could be used. They have some great potential as library tools. I can envision library staff projects, library instruction collaborative tools and even a great resource for the library community to give feedback to library staff.
Yesterday, I sent out a final email to everyone in my class asking if anyone else had any interest in participating in my wiki project. I don’t expect any other participants, however. I was a bit disappointed with the lack of interest in the project – since only two of my classmates wanted to take part. Yet, I do understand the lack of interest. A wiki is a collaborative tool that people use for a specific purpose. In order for it to work well, a whole community must feel a need to collaborate. A wiki that is imposed upon people is bound to fail. I very much appreciate the fact that two people were willing to participate. A big thank you to them!
(Process took place between September 1st and 5th)
After doing some general research on wikis, I then started doing more in depth research about specific wiki hosting sites where I could have my wiki hosted. First, I compiled a list of my requirments:
- I want a service that will host a wiki. I do not have the capabilities to use software that I download and install on a server.
- I want to be able to create specific accounts for classmates to use. I do not want the general public to be able to edit the pages that I create. I need 20 user accounts. I don’t mind that the wiki be a public space, I simply want to control who can edit it.
- I want the ability to create private pages.
- I want the solution to be low to no cost.
- I would like a system that seems easy to use in order to encourage participation among my classmates.
- I want an advertisement free wiki.
With these needs in mind, I looked at several different wiki hosting services – including Socialtext, Wikispaces, Jotspot, Seed Wiki, Atlassian and EditMe.
- Socialtext – This software is a collaborative tool aimed at businesses. There is 30 day trial that is free. However, 30 days is not enough. An account costs $30.00 per month – a price that is too steep for a class project. It has some nice features like being able to email new pages to the wiki. This service would not be appropriate for a class project.
- Wikispaces – This wiki farm seems to aimed at the general public. It is a free service, but has advertisements on the pages. There is no way to set up page security or create individual accounts. This would not meet my needs.
- Jotspot – This service has a free hosting service. However, there can only be 5 named users and 20 pages. I’m not sure the 20 pages would be a problem, but 5 users isn’t enough to create accounts for the entire class. The free package does allow the administrator to create public and/or private pages. The editor is WYSIWYG. For $9.00 a month, one can have 20 users and 250 pages. This option would suffice for the project. Jotspot is a possibility.
- Seed Wiki – This service has free wiki hosting service. One can invite as many members as needed. However, no wiki can be restricted to members nor can member collaboration be tracked. This service has a traditional wiki look and feel with categories. For $9.95 a month, one can password any wikis for private use. However, in order to track user participation, one has to buy the $19.99 a month package. This is another good possibility for my wiki project.
- Atlassian – This wiki farm has options aimed at peronsal wikis. However, to use this software, one downloads it and installs the program on a local computer. Additionally, access is only for two registered users. This is not really appropriate for my project.
- Editme – This wiki farm is a hosted service. There is no free service. For $4.95 a month, one gets 25MB of storage (more than enough), as many users as needed, 10 days of backup and tracking of user changes. There are some other nice features – a variety of css templates, rss feeds, any person can comments on pages. I like the look and feel of this system – although it doens’t necessarily look like traditional wikis.
I very quickly decided upon Editme for my wiki. I figured $4.95 was a small price to pay for the features that I wanted. The setup procedure was quite painless – and within a few seconds I had my very own wiki.
One of the assignments for ILS501 – Introduction to Information Science and Technology was a menu project where we were able to choose from several different menu options. As I have mentioned before, I decided to do a wiki project. I decided to try to create a wiki for classmates to post results of their web search exercise. With that decision made – and an ok from the professor, my next step was to research different wiki software.
Reading about WikisWeb Sites
Using a Wiki for Documentation and Collaborative Authoring – http://www.llrx.com/features/librarywikis.htm – by Michael AngelesWiki: What is a Wiki? – http://wiki.org/wiki.cgi?WhatIsWiki – a brief description of the wiki with some links detailing the Wiki’s history
What is a Wiki? – http://www.usemod.com/cgi-bin/wiki.pl?WhatIsaWiki – another site defining wikis with some questions and answers
Should Wikis be a part of your KM Inititative? – http://excitedutterances.blogspot.com/2005/09/should-wikis-be-part-of-your-km.html – an interesting article about wikis from the excited utterances blog – http://excitedutterances.blogspot.com/
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Lamb, Brian. Wide Open Spaces: Wikis, Ready or Not. Educause Review. September/October 2004; 39(5); – http://www.educause.edu/pub/er/erm04/erm0452.asp?bhcp=1 – accessed 11/9/05.
Lipczynska, Sonya. Power to the People: the Case for Wikipedia. Reference Reviews. 2005; 19(2); 6-7.
Mattison D. Quickiwiki, swiki, twiki, zwiki and the plone wars. Searcher. 2003; 11(4):32.
McKiernan, Gerry. Wikimedia Worlds Part I: Wikipedia. Library Hi Tech News. 2005; 8; 46-54.
Rubenking, Neil J. Wiki Tools, PC Magazine. 12/30/2005 – http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1401071,00.asp – access 11/9/05.