A review of the effectiveness of using a wiki to support educational projects internationally at undergraduate and postgraduate levels

This project will be presented at the ER-WCPT conference in Liverpool, UK on the 11 November 2016.

A wiki based website has been used to facilitate over 40 educational and continuing professional development projects within universities, health services and professional organisations. Using this innovative method to support learning has enabled collaborative development and sharing of professional knowledge and resulted in the engagement of physiotherapists and students internationally. In addition it contributes to the development of key skills for this new digital age.

Using a wiki for educational and professional development activities through content development, advances subject matter related knowledge and also generic skills such as digital authoring, critical appraisal, referencing and collaboration skills. In addition the created content becomes a valuable resource open to be used by clinicians and students around the world. A comprehensive review of these educational projects was completed to explore the effectiveness and issues involved, identify themes and also lessons for future improvement of this approach. The wiki website used provides a platform for international collaboration in the development of educational materials that are then shared openly. In these educational projects, selected website pages are written or updated as an assignment by an individual or by a group, as part of their university education or as a CPD event.  Individual project reviews and anecdotal evidence have been gathered since 2009. To further evaluate project outcomes formal data was gathered by questionnaire to current educational project leaders. These surveys were followed by interviews with selected respondents to investigate identified themes. In addition website data analytics have been used to quantify the use of selected resources created during these projects. Developing content in an open professional wiki is seen as a positive way to contribute to the physiotherapy profession by participants. Many enjoy working to build the resources, are motivated by the activity and achieve higher grades as a result. Project leads report seeing increased technical and critical appraisal skills in their participants as well as meeting their own project specific objective. Consequently many of these content development projects have been repeated annually over a number of years.

Appropriately accessing professional knowledge online is a new key skill for the professional in this digital age. This review identifies how taking part in content development projects in a community wiki can develop aspects of this key skill. It also demonstrates how universities and professional organisations can benefit from using an open wiki. Increasing technical support in the initial stages of these projects has been identified as a method for improving outcomes. The impact of increasing the development and use of an open, collaborative wiki for sharing physiotherapy related information could be enormous. It has the potential to benefit both the educational project participants while also supporting a more unified, evidence based approach to patient care internationally, particularly supporting those in less well resourced countries who commonly struggle to access up to date information.