E-learning technology was integrated into the classroom this semester for a group of students learning about higher education organization and governance at the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education. As part of a semester-long group project, 16 graduate students in an educational leadership class—Governance, Policy, and Administration—collectively elected to strengthen their leadership skills and learn about organizational structure and process in higher education by creating their own Wiki.
"Students had the opportunity to really 'own' this project by devising their own product, scope, and organizational structure," said Andrew Wall, assistant professor, educational leadership, Warner School of Education. "Interestingly, in response to a broad assignment with no parameters, students chose the integration of technology as their final product. The use of Wiki technology, a democratic way of collaborating, allowed students to operate in a collaborative workspace, and at the same time, utilize technology to improve their learning experience and leadership skills, and provide structure and organization that will ultimately prepare them to be effective leaders in higher education."
A Wiki is a fully editable Web site that is an effective tool for collaboration in an online environment. As a Wiki, the individual class members and instructor have control over the content. The Wiki also tracks changes and can display changes so that individual contributions can be monitored.
The Wiki, which was initially created to be a Lexicon, evolved to have a life beyond the confines of the course. Students created the final Wiki to include a lexicon of terminologies, list of suggested readings, companion guide to Organization & Governance in Higher Education, listserv for people interested in the course, biographies of students, and a list of organizations for higher education. (To view the Wiki, visit: http://warner-wiki.ur.rochester.edu/hedlexicon/index.php?title=Main_Page.)
"The Wiki has opened up a new level of communication and learning for students and professors in higher education," added Wall. "It allows users to collaboratively construct and share meaningful knowledge that serves as a resourceful tool for current and future leaders. I believe this will be a paradigm for other higher education classes."
Throughout the duration of the project, students opted to use digital technology as their means of communicating. Students took advantage of WebCT (Web Course Tools), Google Groups, traditional e-mail, and the Wiki, which allowed them to successfully deliver a product without physically meeting outside of class.
"The most important aspect of the project is that we worked together to successfully produce one, significant tangible product that we're all very proud of," said Michelle Frechette Ames, Warner student and Wiki project manager. "We accomplished this by using technology as an effective learning tool and by tapping into students' interests, expertise, and strengths to ensure that each student played an important role in the process."
The Warner School's Educational Leadership programs in Higher Education prepare students for a variety of leadership and administrative positions at post-secondary institutions, government, and organizations that work with and for colleges and universities. Among the Higher Education graduates from the Warner School of Education are deans, admission officers, development officers, facilities managers, financial aid officers, library administrators, and other student services staff.