Open Dialogues: Using wiki pages to advance student-created knowledge

By abigail saxton posted on April 17th, 2018

Students in the Faculty of Forestry are no strangers to producing engaging content surrounding natural resources management — the medium is changing though.

Janette Bulkan, Assistant Professor for Indigenous Studies in the Faculty of Forestry, is initiating student-led projects on the UBC Wiki, an open-source platform, to facilitate students as producers of knowledge. What started as a pilot project for graduate students in 2016 has now expanded to three of Bulkan’s courses.

With the technical support of CTLT, the project gives students a concentrated platform to create and develop their own research within a broad range of topics.

For Anthony Pica, a second-year natural resources conservation student, the project is an opportunity to create credible, publishable work as an undergraduate. Pica’s group project, focusing on the legislative practices and rights of sharks in Canada and the U.S., is one of many pages initiated by undergraduate students in Bulkan’s Conservation 200 course.

Now, there are more than 140 wiki pages since the project’s inception.

The multifaceted projects require students to not only work together, but to also develop the self confidence to do research and have something to say, Bulkan said.

“It’s immediately accessible — so if someone is searching on Google for a particular topic and they come across one of these pages, they are going to get trustworthy information with references that can allow them to explore further,” Bulkan said. “I know for the students’ themselves, they can add it to their CVs and they’re very proud of that work.”

But, creating a wiki page of this calibre is not without its challenges, Pica said.

“It’s very critical that we do it accurately, we credit all sources that we take from, and that we also input our own ideas,” he said.

Students also bolster their intellectual prowess as they learn and develop the skills to conduct research, work collaboratively and be active creators of content, Bulkan said — important skills for any consumer of knowledge in the modern world.

The students’ response to the wiki project has been generally positive, Bulkan said, knowing they will be contributing to future generations of learners at UBC.

“I think it’s more beneficial than just doing a term paper or an exam and handing it in,” said Kennedy Thomson, a second-year forest resource management student. “It keeps the learning going.”

Wiki pages