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Education 2.0

When you were in university didn't you ever wish that you could design your own tests or grade your own papers. Now you can.

When you were in university didn't you ever wish that you could design your own tests or grade your own papers. Now you can. Get ready for education, Web 2.0 style.

Gerald  Kane, assistant professor of information systems. at the Carrol School of Management in Boston College has been running his class, Computers in Management, off of a Wiki from SocialText. The Wiki serves as a hub pulling together Facebook, del.icio.us, and news posts from a RSS feed into a single location. Students turn to the Wiki for assignments and reading lists.

But Kane gone far further than just using the Wiki as a glorified chalk board. He's structured the class around open collaboration principles. Students evaluate one another's projects. They recommend questions for exams (which Kane filters) and in general help offload much of the administration from Kane enabling him to focus on curriculum development and enriching the student experience in class.

"I have to cede a certain amount of control of the class to the students," he says, "At first it was very scary, but it has worked out reasonably well, " says Kane.

While experiences, like Kane's, have great applicabiltiy for the education market there are also poiginant lessons for any business. Fostering adoption of a wiki isn't organic or natural, says Kane, and left to their own devices wikis can often stagnate or steer of in wildly unproductive areas. The right organizational structure needs to be put into place that encourages adoption. In Kane's case, for example, he uses a carrot and a stick; the carrot is additional points that can be earned by the quality of posts as rated by other students and the stick is the threat of lower grades if participation is insufficient.

Business can do much the same. Project leaders attempting to use Wiki need to define clear objectives for the group, establish the right incentives, and then step out of the process enabling the group to take over. Slight adjustments and corrections will be needed at different times, but "The crowd really is wise,"says Kane. "If you create the appropriate collaborative environment."