Wiki Collaborative Writing Tool: Does anonymity help in writing better comments and feedbacks?

Posted: October 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

The conversation in the class around the Wiki collaborative writing tools made me think if the anonymity of users would help in creating a better environment for collaborative writing and leaving feedback in online forums and collaborative writing websites. The problem with anonymity is that people might not take as much responsibility in their feedbacks or modifying other people’s work. For example, if in a Wiki even one person modifies the other colleagues’ or classmates’ work without proper understanding of the original materials, or erases a big chunk of others’ work by mistake, it can create a lot of tension in the space and it also would be hard to track down.

Additionally, if it is not clear who has written and changed which section, the students might lose their motivation in contributing properly in the project. Having their names appearing under their work and comments, in either digital or non-digital contexts, would be motivational for the students to put a lot of effort in the material presented to the public, or to their classmates and instructor. On the other hand, however, the ability of leaving feedbacks anonymously would make it easier for the students and colleagues to voice their opinion towards each other’s works. Many times both a classroom and in virtual environments, people are so worried of offending their colleagues by their comments that they cannot give each other easily constructive criticism and their feedback turn out very vague and somehow censored.

Now the question is from which option in practice the students would benefit more. Which one in action would create a more democratic atmosphere and friendly, respectful and inspirational space for expression for the students? Does it help if the students are anonymous to each other, but the instructor can see the real names in his/her account? What are the advantages and disadvantages of creating such a dynamic in that space? How would that work in graduate classes or in online collaborative projects between a few colleagues in various (either academic or non-academic) institutions?

  1. dmchun says:

    Sahar, all of your posts have been thoughtful and reflective, and a common thread throughout seems to be that instructors must design instructional materials and requirements carefully and appropriately, taking into consideration the many differences among our learners. In other words there is no “one size that fits all.” You have also made some interesting musings trying to look at pedagogical practices from different perspectives, e.g., the advantages and disadvantages of anonymity of users in a collaborative writing exercise, how things differ in academic vs. non-academic institutions, etc.

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