Falcon School District 49 is interested in increased stakeholder collaboration. Wikis provide a structure for collaborative document design and editing, and user learning through associations. They allow authorized contributors to introduce revisions to a document, where each version is collaboratively tracked and examined. As ideas and data are edited, prior versions are retained for a later reference. Instead of passing document changes through email or hardcopies, wiki users collaborate simultaneously. District 49’s communications department will engage with the district's community in the wiki, supported by district leadership.
District 49's community wiki is a collaborative solution for an improved enrollment, school and district guide. The goal is to develop a comprehensive review of everything District 49 offers, including school overviews, course descriptions and staff, volunteer and alumni profiles. The wiki is a platform for educating the district's community, and encouraging partnerships in developing a deeper understanding of the district's services. While educators focus on student learning, it's important for school communicators to facilitate powerful ways in which to help their families learn more about their children's opportunities. In many ways, they're educators, too. The more tools a school district uses to help eliminate assumptions and ambiguities, the more its patrons and stakeholders can support its educational services, and feel involved in public education.
Participants in this project are encouraged to consider and define how people, programs and activities fit into a system, a public education system. Wikis use links to make associations between topics. There are various issues related to semantics, such as those who prefer "educator" over "teacher," or "instructor." The wiki compels everyone to consider the difference, and how each might be defined for and by a community also trying to understand the difference.
The wiki allows anyone to add or edit an article, but each version is tracked and examined prior to publishing. Everything is powered by the same software used by Wikipedia. What's more, the Semantic MediaWiki extension creates a framework for a data structure that aligns with what futurists envision for Web 3.0.
The Wiki Way
Wiki technology supports the idea of customer-centricity, as a compliment to customer relationship management systems. The latter captures information defined by the organization rather than the customer. On the other hand, Wikis, like online forums, blogs and other forms of participatory media, present a powerful-yet-lightweight and grassroots tool for collecting customer insights and openly facilitating consumer information sharing. Blogs promote first-person story telling and forums offer consumer engagement in a question-and-answer format. Wikis are much different. They present a medium for collaborative, topic-based writing and editing. An organization or its patrons can post a topic that permits unrestricted modifications by others. Over time, topics may be of great quality because they capture the input of both customer and organization insiders. Wikis generally adhere to 11 principals, which, when followed, lead to open and incremental contributions and a serendipitous knowledge exchange:
- If a page is found to be incomplete or poorly organized, any reader can edit it as he or she sees fit.
- Pages can cite other pages, including pages that have not been written yet.
- The structure and text content of the site is open to editing and evolution.
- A small number of text conventions will provide access to the most useful page markup.
- The mechanisms of editing and organizing are the same as those of writing so that any writer is automatically an editor and organizer.
- The formatted output will suggest the input required to reproduce it (e.g., location of the page).
- Page names will be drawn from a flat space so that no additional context is required to interpret them.
- Pages will be titled with sufficient precision to avoid most name clashes, typically by forming noun phrases.
- Interpretable - even if undesirable - behavior is preferred to error messages.
- Activity within the site can be watched and reviewed by any other visitor to the site.
- Duplication can be discouraged or removed by finding and citing similar or related content.
There are several challenges in the way of productive patron engagement in a wiki environment. For example, the ability to edit pages without special authorization makes an organization vulnerable to website defacing, destruction of intellectual property and general chaos. For customer-centricity, Wiki management mustn't focus on higher levels of customer engagement, but high levels of constructive customer engagement. In a case study about Novell's Cool Solutions Wiki, the issue of uneasiness regarding unfavorable input is addressed: "Our view is if [the product] isn't good, then fix it. Don't suppress the opinion".
Wikis must be facilitated with a focus on systemic improvements, not individual . Like factories, there exists a resource allocation problem, where the processing power of machines is analogous to the contribution quality of wiki contributors. Wiki success isn't defined by simply producing articles (products) but through maximizing quality. To that end, specific wiki articles must be routinely presented to people of a relevant knowledge set, like pairing machines to the manufacturing of the most appropriate products. When presented the right content at the right time, these machines of quality passionately improve the explanation of a topic, such as a special education teacher helping to define inclusion or assistive technology.
There are four complexities for the problem of optimizing for system-level quality: 1) Uncertainty in resource availability, 2) Uncertainty in resource capacity, 3) Uncertainty in task availability and state (what defines "quality" is not fixed and will evolve with the system) and 4) Need for sequenced, chain allocation (multiple knowledge sets might be needed to make one article "quality"). These constraints require many infrastructure decisions, including both intra- and inter-system variables. The first three may be addressed by a purposeful presentation on the wiki's main page and global sidebar, and ensuring the proper location of relevant links across all articles. Moreover, offline coordination with right people may be critical, which leads to the final issue of distributed knowledge. Potential wiki contributors may be encouraged to collaborate by delivering to them an easy-to-find list of pages identified as needing improvement, or expansion. The MediaWiki FlaggedRevs extension imparts a comprehensive review and rating process for managing article quality.
Wiki content must be verifiable. Verifiability means that people reading and editing articles can check that the information comes from a reliable source. Content is determined by previously published information or District 49 officials and historians, rather than the beliefs or experiences of one person. Even if you're sure something is true, it must be verifiable. When reliable sources disagree, present what the various sources say, give each side its due weight, and maintain a neutral point of view. All quotations, and any material where verifiability has been challenged or is likely to be challenged, must include an inline citation that directly supports the material. Any material that needs a source but does not have one may be removed. Articles must also avoid copyright violations.
In general, there are six key aspects to a usable system, each with unique methods of measurement.
- Easy for new users to learn how to use. Learnability can be measured by observing how quickly a user can complete a task for the first time. If users are unable to complete the task, the system may be considered unlearnable. This aspect is critical for novice users.
- Easy for new users to remember how to use. Memorability can be measured by observing how quickly a user can complete a task for the first and comparing that with how quickly the user can complete the same task afterward. If the time required to complete the task does not decrease after continued use, the system may be considered unmemorable. This aspect is critical for infrequent users.
- Fast to use. Efficiency can be measured by observing how quickly a user can complete a task after learning it. If the time required to complete the task is unacceptable for the user's productivity needs or attention span the system may be considered inefficient. This aspect is critical for expert users.
- Difficult to use improperly. Failure resistance can be measured by observing frequency of user error while performing a task. If user error is observed to be common, the system may be considered prone to failure.
- Easy to recover from improper use. How forgiving a system is can be measured by observing how frequently user errors are recovered from. If unrecoverable user errors are found the system may be considered unforgiving. Users' ability to learn how to recover from an error is also a factor in the perception of the system being unforgiving.
- Enjoyable to use. Satisfaction can be measured by observing a users's willingness to repeat a task. If users are uninterested or unwilling to repeat a task, the system may be considered unsatisfying to use.
- Boldness and links
- Uploading and adding images
- Talk pages
- Citing sources (part 1)
- Citing sources (part 2)
While the district routinely takes the opportunity to coordinate collaboration, foster productive discussion and develop meaningful dialogue, there's an expectation of a culture based on respectful interactions within participatory media platforms. Everyone is expected to support guidelines that promote mutual respect when participating on District 49, and all, interactive platforms. Contributions on district platforms that may be challenged or removed include:
- Bully, intimidate or harass.
- Contain content that is hate speech, threatening or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.
- Include anything that is unlawful, misleading, malicious or discriminatory.
Content producers should refer to District 49's style guide, and editors must. When adopting style guides, organizations commit to ensuring consistency and discipline in writing, while limiting confusion. They offer a way to communicate with a set of standards, which are made available across an organization. District 49 mostly follows the Associated Press Stylebook, along with some localized references.
- Wagner, C., & Majchrzak, A. (2007). Enabling Customer-Centricity Using Wikis and the Wiki Way. Journal of Management Information Systems, 23(3) pp. 17-43
- Lykourentzou, I., Vergados, D. J., & Naudet, Y. (2013). Improving Wiki article quality through crowd coordination: a resource allocation approach. International Journal on Semantic Web and Information Systems, 9(3), pp. 105-125.