W&M Summer in Prague 2011

GBST390 -- European Integration: Historical, Cultural, and Political Perspectives


Podcast: Wiki Writing in Prague
Prague 2011 Students outside St. Mary's Basilica, Kraków, Poland

Class Notes (Instructor)
  • Class Discussions and links
  • Also framing pages, bios, etc.

Paper Assignment
  • 2500 words on topic of choice
  • Half completed and posted by mid-term
  • I commented publicly on the wiki (ex: Monahan)
  • Students had to contribute (defined broadly) to at least one other student’s paper
  • Some linked to others’ pages (ex: Kveselis)
  • Practical note: Students learned about at least one other topic without taking 2 days for presenting
The main assignment for the course was created solely on the wiki. For this assignment, students
wrote a 2500 word “paper” on a topic of their choosing related to the course topic. Rather than
submitting a stand-alone document for the professor’s eyes only, students drafted their essays on the wiki
throughout the semester, and sought feedback from others in the class as they developed their work.
Each student was asked to contribute (defined broadly) to at least one other student’s essay. There was a wide
range of topics that came together well aground the course theme and highlighted students’ diverse interests,
collaborative capacity, and interdisciplinary understanding.
Excursions Assignment
  • Students in groups of 2-3
  • Connect one of our field excursions to in class discussions/readings
  • Encouraged students to use their personal experiences, photos, reflections
  • Allowed students to integrate our class work, our shared experience on trips, and their personal ideas
Each student was also part of a two-or-three person group that created a wiki page summarizing the main
learning points of one of our field experiences, and connecting the excursion to our course material. This
assignment encouraged students to integrate their experiences on the excursions with course readings,
personal reflections, and classroom discussions.


Using a wiki as the core of our course assignments was an excellent way to get students engaged in each other’s work, despite initial reluctance to share work-in-progress or offer suggestions to peers. Due to the requirement for students to contribute to one other student’s essay, I knew that students were reading and learning about (at least) one other topic. From a time management perspective, the wiki collaboration allowed me to preserve valuable class time for discussion, rather than a series of one-directional student presentations. I was impressed to see some of the students draw closer connections and link to other students’ work (e.g., for more information on X, see Mary’s essay here...).

For the group-written field excursion pages, I intentionally encouraged the students to include personal reflections. They readily incorporated their own photos, journal entries, etc. in a way that allowed them to connect their lived experiences to the course material in a very dynamic way. As a teacher, it was interesting for me to see how the students interpreted the field experiences, and how they linked our travels to in-class work.

As college teaching and learning increasingly ventures beyond the four walls of the traditional classroom, educators need strategies to guide students in integrating experiences, knowledge, and identities. The wiki format allows students to quite literally link disparate information and cross boundaries more easily in ways that are not possible in more traditional, non-networked assignments such as stand-alone research papers, or individual PowerPoint presentations. Although the example course was in the context of a study abroad, the pedagogical approaches and technological tools can be applied in a wide variety of higher education settings, both classroom-based and experiential.