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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) - The Eckerd College Faculty Wiki

The Wiki Wiki buses of the Honolulu International Airport gave their name to wiki web sites. Wiki means fast or quick in Hawai'ian.

Wiki - General Information

What is a wiki?

A wiki is a special type of web site consisting of a collection of pages that visitors can easily modify. Some wikis are open for modification by any visitor, others are more restricted, like this one.

What are some wiki benefits?

  • Zero software costs (The software, called WikiMedia, is free.)
  • The software is "open source" so it can be modifed without patent infringement.
  • Wiki pages load quickly.
  • Users results are immediately posted.
  • The wiki lay-out (interface) is reasonably familiar to students.
  • The wiki learning curve is nearly flat for everyone.
  • Wiki results can be seen by the outside world, unlike most EC academic web materials.
  • Wiki usage can engender public confidence by showing that we are sufficiently tech-savvy to use this, and other, technology in an evacuation scenario.

Why is a wiki more open than WebCT?

In brief, WebCT is a commercial product but the wiki software, WikiMedia, is not. That suggests that for the foreseeable future WebCT is likely to remain more expensive than WikiMedia, and to offer less accessibility to the software's underlying computer code.

The general spirit of WikiMedia is openness (the programming code is free and transparent as is the product it creates). This is supposed to lead to stronger community spirit in the "user world" and, hopefully, in classrooms. Many of us have tried to emphasize "peer learning", "community pedagogy", "active learning", and so forth. WikiMedia is a tool to help facilitate those practices.

Here is the Wikipedia page that describes the "Open Source Movement".

What assignments are suited for a wiki? For WebCT?


Envision an assignment where students work together (e.g., a class journal, a group presentation, a group paper, a class summary sheet), and are required to submit one community product for a grade. A wiki can help the professor evaluate individual contributions since each one is "stamped" by the software with a date and time, the contributer's name, and the changes made. Professors can monitor the progress of a student, or student group, by simply viewing the relevant history pages.

A wiki is also good as a "blog", as an informal discussion area, or as a picture and article repository. It can be a class community pad, which is shaped or molded by the students under the professor's direction. It is a "work in progress".

An example assignment

A small group is told to go to the Palm Hammock and to examine the plant and animal life there over a 24 hour period. Their assignment is to detail on a wiki page their results (including a journal and a finalized product). Their peers examine those results and comment on the discussion page before class begins, offering suggestions for improvement.

There are some other ideas and examples here.


WebCT is a more-structured discussion/assignment medium. It is designed specifically for the classroom, with features like grade storage, email options, chat, and so forth. It is well suited for most traditional assignments.

So this is just like Wikipedia?

No. Wikipedia is both an on-line encyclopedia and the world's largest wiki, with over two million articles in English alone. It is a free-edit encyclopedia, with the associated pros and cons that that carries. Wikipedia has detractors among some academics as there is no uniform system of peer review of articles by experts. Also, Wikipedia and other wikis can suffer from vandalism. Wikipedia can, however, serve as a good initial resource on a subject. The next time you search on the web for a person, place, or thing, add "Wiki" to your search request. There probably will be a Wikipedia article already written to get you started.

The Eckerd College Faculty Wiki is not an encyclopedia and, because of its controls, should have no anonymous vandalism. It is hoped that all users will monitor this wiki as we strive for the highest ideals of an academic community, where ideas are freely discussed and reflected upon.

What the Eckerd Faculty Wiki has in common with Wikipedia is the software, called MediaWiki, that is used to run both sites.

So then it's like Wookipedia?

No, that's the wiki for Star Wars fanatics.

Eckerd College Faculty Wiki

Can I contribute to this faculty wiki?

Yes, you can edit any page on this site and create new pages if you are a professor. If you have taught a course at Eckerd recently, you should already be listed as a user. If you can't log in, email Steve Weppner to get a user account. The list of current users is here.

Can my course be added to this wiki page?

Well maybe not this particular web page. However, your course can certainly be added to this wiki (set of web pages). Just email Steve Weppner with the course(s) you want included. Please use the course catalog format (e.g., WH181-003). A link for your course will be created (see examples in sidebar at left), and students on your official roster will be granted "student users" access. Each student's Eckerd email username and password will get him/her into the system.

OK, I have my main course page. How do I create new pages?

The easiest way is to use the box at the left to search for the title of the new page you want to create. If a page with that title does not exist, the wiki software will ask if you want to create one. Assuming your answer is "yes", keep in mind that the page name for a course should begin with the official course number, followed by a title. Here are two examples: WH181-003:Truth, HI324G-001:Research on Tribes.

Can I add users and students to my course page?

Yes. A professor can add anybody to a page by using Special:Userlogin. If you add someone remember that you also must give them Special:Userrights to edit your course page(s). You must enter the username and add your class to their user account. It is recommended that user accounts be given to only the Eckerd circle (students, faculty, PEL, ASPEC) and the occasional outside emissary. Remember that all "outsiders" can read this wiki, they just cannot edit it. Current users and their courses can be found at Special:Listusers.

(Note: Adding users and user rights isn't as hard as it sounds. Hudsonrl 11:36, 2 September 2006 (EDT))

What permissions do professors, students, and outsiders have?

Outside access to this site is a bit more restricted than for most WikiMedia pages. Everyone can read pages on this site, and students can edit their course pages and the help page, as well as add pictures. Professors can do much more. They can contribute to this page (corect mi mispelings), add to the help page, and even edit other faculty member's pages. Every change is logged with the name of the person who made the change. (Click on the "history" tab at the top of this page to see a list of edits.) This tracking of changes can contribute to a sense of personal responsibility for the wiki and can also help with the grading of projects.

You mean students can edit my office hours and grading policy?

Yes they can. However, each of your pages has a "protect" tab at the top to prevent student editing. Just log in, hit the "protect" tab, click on "professors only", and then click on the "confirm" button. After that, only devious professors can change that particular page. -- It is worth remembering that the author and content of every change is recorded, and that professors have the ability to instantly "roll back" a page to its previous version using the "history" tab. This means that if you do not turn on the protect feature, then you can still quickly find and undo undesirable changes.

Why is "student editing" the default?

The strength of a wiki lies in community publishing. Eckerd's ITS department already has provided places to store syllabi and post assignments (read-only documents). It's great to have those documents linked or copied here, but to use a wiki at its best is to design assignments where a team effort is tested and utilised. That's why student editing of course pages is turned on by default.

Can I have something different than the defaults?

Sure. After your course is added to this wiki, you can give students more access (the ability to create, move, and protect pages) or less access (no pictures, only minor edits, etc.). If you don't want the outside world to look in, that can be arranged too. Right now all this is done by contacting Steve Weppner.

The design for your course pages can also be changed from the default by using different templates that can be found on the web. The default template is rather empty so that it can be customized to personal specifications. As an example, you can create a very simple template to show your name, the date, and the time by typing four tildes (~~~~). Like this: -- Weppnesp 18:21, 29 August 2006 (EDT). A simple tutorial to using user defined templates can be found here.

Other Concerns

Is there a faculty-only page?

There are a few areas that are for faculty. The Community Portal is an area for committees, groups, and internal documents (you can find it at the bottom of the sidebar to the left). If you are interested in having an area for the faculty, staff, collegium, or discipline contact Steve Weppner.

Can I use math formulas and Greek letters?

Here's your answer:

\nabla \cdot {\vec  {E}}={\frac  {1}{\epsilon _{0}}}\rho \;\;\;\;\;\;\;\;\nabla \times {\vec  {E}}=-{\frac  {\partial {{\vec  {B}}}}{\partial t}}\;\;\;\;\;\;\;\nabla \cdot {\vec  {B}}=0\;\;\;\;\;\;\;\nabla \times {\vec  {B}}=\mu _{0}{\vec  {J}}+\mu _{0}\epsilon _{0}{\frac  {\partial {{\vec  {E}}}}{\partial t}}

Beautiful, right? The above was created with LaTeX-like commands, for which help is available here.

You can also add formulas and such by first creating them in your own software, saving them as image files, and then uploading them here. (And yes we know that some people prefer formulae to formulas.)

Other Extensions

This Wiki also has Poem, Flash, Java, and Reference extensions which allow users to embed more complicated media into a page. For a complete list of installed extensions see Special:Version.

Is this a fad like educational TV or the new math?

Don't count on it being a fad. Wiki producers already are targeting the corporate world's internal networks. US government agencies, such as NASA, are investigating wiki use for long-distance collaborations among scientists. Wiki skills carry value.

Wait! You're a professor. Does Eckerd ITS know about this?

This was originally Reggie Hudson's idea. He sought help from ITS, and Chris Price became his consultant. Recently Reggie concluded that to make a wiki work in the classroom he would need to have restricted access to the class pages. Since it was already Autumn Term (mid-August, 2006) and ITS was extraordinarily busy, Steve Weppner volunteered to "add" appropriate controls to make the wiki useful in an academic setting. Steve believes that he has achieved that. (He specifically modified the open source code which controls the program, and is more than happy to share this modification with any other academic institution.) While doing all of this, Steve was in contact with Bill Junkin and Chris Price, who donated space for the wiki and helped connect it to the Eckerd system. More recently, Bill Junkin has added all faculty as users.

Steve does not intend to be the wiki system administrator forever, but during this trial process he is more then willing to assume that role. He, and others, are excited about the technology and only wish it would have been ready sooner!