Forums and wikis as tools for online collaborative learning: a comparative study

  • Michele Biasutti Pensa MultiMedia Editore


The current paper consists of a comparative study of forums and wikis as tools for online collaborative learning. The comparison was developed considering the data gathered during a collaborative experience in an asynchronous e-learning environment. The activities consisted of forum discussions and designing a project in a wiki environment and lasted five weeks. The research method included both qualitative and quantitative analyses. The qualitative aspects were assessed using an open-ended questionnaire for collecting the participant perspective about the functionality of the collaborative tools. A quantitative comparison of forums and wikis was conducted applying a coding scheme based on the following categories: (1) inferencing, (2) producing, (3) developing, (4) evaluating, (5) summarizing, (6) organizing, and (7) supporting. Results provided evidence of the different processes during the forums and wikis activities: processes of inferencing, evaluating, organizing and supporting were more relevant in forum discussions while wikis generated mainly processes of producing and developing. Different
purposes have been emerged: forums were valuable for sharing ideas and discussing, while wikis were worthwhile for developing a common collaborative document. Moreover, the perceived time involved in performing the activities was different: while wikis required more time and were more difficult to use than forums, forums were easier to access than wikis.
As a conclusion it is not possible to define a superiority of a tool than another because each tool has his own features and aims. Forums and wikis have complementary functions and should be organized to complete each other for scaffolding students’ selfregulated strategies and learning. The results are discussed in the context of selecting properly the tools during planning collaborative online activities.