We sponsored a full day PreConference workshop on Distance Education Research sponsored by the Canadian Institute for Distance Education Research CIDER at the Canadian Association for Distance Education (CADE) and AMTEC conference held last week in Montreal. Most of the presentations are online at the CIDER site, but I wanted to discuss the use of PBWIKI to facilitate the workshop participant evaluation.

Unlike like a good adult educator, I had not gotten my act together to create and photocopy the traditional exit survey. However, I did have the email addresses of the registered participants, so I very quickly (maybe 20 minutes max.) set up a site (cidereval.pbwiki.com) at the free PBWIKI site and typed in 4 questions (the usual, what did you like, best, least, suggestions for next year) and invited reflection on the use of the WIKI for this evaluation.

I chose to make the site visible to others (check it out) but restricted editing capabilitity to those who had participated in the workshop. We had a very small learning curve as we learned (thanks Elizabeth Murphy) to place a line with single space between comments. This allowed each unique comment to each question to appear in a separate text book- looks very smart.

There are three obvious advantages to using a WIKI for this purpose.

  1. Ease of creation and administration, lack of cost and saving of trees
  2. Using the WIKI benefits not just the organizers, but the participants as well. Everyone gets to read the reactions of others and comment on them. The visibility allows participants to gauge their perceptions against those of others. This auto validation serves to enhance the reflective nature of the evaluation, forcing participants to not only present their own reactions but judge those reactions in comparison to those of others – questioning any discreancies.
  3. Finally, the process is efficient for all participants as they don’t need to write what has already been posted, but rather can expand, contrast, discuss or illustrate thier own perceptions.

Of course I didn’t get the usual means from Likert scales assessing each presentation nor a sense of how many people actually edited or just read the evaluations, but that data seems to not really add much value to my plans for enhancing next year’s conference.

So the ease of use, extremely low cost (thanks PKWIKI) coupled with metacognitive nature of the reflection seems to make WIKI’s a very useful tool for this application.