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Need a Wiki for Your Course? Choose the Confluence Wiki!

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For some faculty, the use of wiki software during a class can provide a easy way for students to quickly develop content that can be easily edited, updated, or modified during the term. Students can obtain practical experience in creating online documentation on a myriad of topics.

Purdue supports two wiki platforms – Confluence Wiki and the Blackboard Wiki. While the Blackboard Wiki is a part of the overall Blackboard Learn course management system, the Confluence Wiki is a stand-alone system.

One of the key advantages of the Confluence Wiki over Blackboard’s Wiki tool is that the Confluence Wiki can be opened to the world beyond Purdue. Faculty can show student work through making their course’s wiki available for read-only access to anyone inside or outside of Purdue. Additionally, faculty can invite in colleagues from other institutions to interact with students within Confluence.

Confluence wikis are also not limited to a specific academic term. Faculty can create a Confluence wiki where students over several years can all add knowledge to the same wiki space. This can serve as a record of what students were learning about and focusing on during a specific term.

Confluence wikis created specifically for classes do keep track of what students are enrolled in the class. Currently enrolled students will enjoy the ability to create and edit pages within Confluence, and enrollment information is updated once daily. Students who withdraw from the course will lose their access privileges to the wiki, but any content they have added will be retained.

Furthermore, with a Confluence space (a specific site within Confluence), individual pages can be restricted to editing by certain users, while remaining open for all in the course to view. For example, if a group of students is assigned a topic, a new page for the topic can be created and only that group of students given access to edit the page. All other students can be given permission to continue to see the page, but they won’t be able to make changes.

The look and feel of Confluence is also similar to other wikis, and with options to add page sections and split individual sections into columns, Confluence provides more page formatting options than Blackboard, although it is easier to add multimedia content within the Blackboard Wiki. Confluence can also create a dynamic table of contents for individual Confluence pages to assist with navigation if the page includes a large amount of content.

One final advantage that the Confluence wiki has over the Blackboard Wiki is the ability to create a hierarchy of pages. Each space has a main page, but a tree of pages can be built from the main page, allowing for the creation of a series of child pages that exist in the hierarchy directly under the main page, and then each child page can have a series of sub-pages branching off of it. In the Blackboard Wiki, while there is a main page, there is no ability to create a hierarchy of pages.

The Blackboard Wiki does enjoy two advantages over the Confluence Wiki. First, the Blackboard Wiki is located within a course, so there is no need for a student to go to another website to complete assignments. The second advantage is that wikis in Blackboard can be integrated with the Grade Center, so grading of wiki assignments can be done completely within Blackboard Learn.

If you are interested in using the Confluence Wiki for your course, you can learn more about Confluence at http://www.itap.purdue.edu/learning/tools/confluence, and you can set up a space in Confluence automatically by going to the self-service application located at http://www.purdue.edu/apps/Confluence. If you would like to receive training for you and/or your students, please contact us at tlt-consulting@purdue.edu.

Brett Creech
Educational Technologist


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