What is a Wiki?

A Wiki is a web site that allows easy creation and editing interlinked web pages via a web browser. A wiki is a collection of connected web-pages that can be easily changed and extended by different people. The most popular Wiki is Wikipedia that provides an encyclopaedia to which everybody can contribute by adding, extending and connecting articles.

Ward Cunningham indicated that a "Wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser. Wiki supports hyperlinks and has a simple text syntax for creating new pages and crosslinks between internal pages on the fly. Wiki is unusual among group communication mechanisms in that it allows the organization of contributions to be edited in addition to the content itself. Like many simple concepts, 'open editing' has some profound and subtle effects on Wiki usage. Allowing everyday users to create and edit any page in a Web site is exciting in that it encourages democratic use of the Web and promotes content composition by nontechnical users." [What Is Wiki]

The term Wiki has its roots in the Hawaiian language and means "fast" or "quick". Sometimes you will also find the terms "WikiWiki" or "WikiWeb" for the same type of tool.

Wikis are typically powered by wiki software (such as wikispaces) and are used
  • to create collaborative websites,
  • to power community websites,
  • for personal note taking,
  • in corporate intranets, and
  • in knowledge management systems.
[Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia]

History of Wikis - the WikiWikiWeb

The concept of Wikis has been first thought by the software developer Ward Cunningham who implemented the WikiWikiWeb (1995). The system was strongly influenced by Apple's HyperCard system. Similar to HyperCard, the software allowed creating complex hypertexts, quickly.

Characteristics of Wikis

"Wiki unto others as you would have them wiki unto you"

Collaborative Writing

Interesting questions

  • What is the educational potential of using a wiki?
  • How to use a wiki in Teacher Education and Teacher Training? (Application fields)

Application scenarios in education

The Wiki-Authors have the responsibility over the content of the wiki. This means that the learners can create, connect, change, and remove information on a wiki. Therefore, it is crucially important to define the following points.
  • the precise tasks of all participants.
  • the topics to be covered by the Wiki
  • the expectation on what the participants need to deliver (quality, amount).
  • the deadlines for completing the wiki-tasks

It is also important to explain the rules of collaborating. This is necessary in order to support learners to work together as well as to minimize potential frustration. It needs to be well understood by all participants that the Wiki contents are a result of collaboration an cooperation. This has specific demands for all participants.

Possible application scenarios are:
  • to process complex or comprehensive topics.
  • to support group work.
  • to stimulate collaborative learning.
  • process centred writing of complex documents such as project reports or seminar essays.
  • to provide resources for a course.
  • to collect question and answers for a given topic.

An example of Wiki usage for groupwork
  • Course participants (students) are devided into small groups. Each group has to give a presentation to one of the course topics.
  • A few days before presentation the group creates a Wiki page, which contains the summary of the presentation including structure and core statements. It gives an opportunity for other course participants to get an overview of the future presentation and to prepare questions for the following discussion.
  • After the presentation the Wiki page should be updated by respective group in order to incorporate relevant discussion results.

Tools and services

Wikispaces, PB Wiki, Wetpaint, MoinMoinWiki, MediaWiki, dokuwiki
WikiMatrix (compare Wiki services)

How a Wiki works

Wiki - Video Tutorial



Augar, N., Raitman, R., & Zhou, W. (2004). Teaching and learning online with wikis. In Beyond the comfort zone.

Leuf, B. & Cunningham, W. (2001). The Wiki Way. Addison-Weley Longman.

Majchrzak, A., Wagner, C., & Yates, D. (2006). Corporate wiki users: results of a survey, Symposium on Wikis.

Lind Infeld, D. & Adams, W. C. (2013). Wikipedia as a Tool for Teaching Policy Analysis and Improving Public Policy Content Online. Journal of Public Affairs Education / JPAE. 19 (3), 445-459.

Roth, A., Davis, R., & Carver, B. (2013, May 27). Assigning Wikipedia editing: Triangulation toward understanding university student engagement. First Monday. 18 (6). Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4340/3687


Cunningham, Ward. What is a Wiki.
Compare Wiki Services at WikiMatrix and find the Wiki that match your personal needs.
Wikipedia: Wikipedia im Bildungswesen. n. d. In Wikipedia - Die freie Enzyklop├Ądie. Retrieved June 18, 2014 from