One of my favourite jobs each year is evaluating innovative practice in engineering education for the Engineering Subject Centre’s Teaching Award. This year one of the innovations I am evaluating is “Examopedia” where students can work collaboratively on a wiki to solve past exam questions. Examopedia is the work of Manish Malik and his students at the University of Portsmouth. It uses a University of Portsmouth installation of twiki as a platform, where Manish puts the questions from a past exam; students then put their answers to these questions onto the wiki, suggesting alternatives or amendments if an answer has already been posted. Manish can intervene to point out if the answer is being developed has any problems, or to confirm that it is OK.

Working through past papers is a common form of exam revision in engineering, the idea of Examopedia is that students can work together during what can be a stressful and isolating phase of their course. You’ll have to wait for me to finish the evaluation for a full consideration of how well it succeeds, but I think I can safely say that it is appreciated by many of those who really made use of it, and several of those who didn’t use it wish they had.

Currently there’s lot of interest in Open Educational Resources, and so I got to thinking about how, given the will, could Examopedia work as an example of OER. It strikes me that Examopedia works on three levels, all of which are worth replicating:

  1. the content level, where it makes past paper questions available for revision; this is straightforward OER content.
  2. the platform level; using a wiki to support dissemination of OER content, with scope for collaborative creation of part of the content (the model solutions).
  3. the service level, where it supports a specific group of students studying together; you would need some way of cloning the question-only version of a wiki page relating to a past paper, and giving access to the group of students–quite straightforward if you start with the content on a wiki.

It seems to me that the real educational value is in the third level (though some keen students might engage at the second level). Does the choice of platform for disseminating content affect the ease or likelihood of realising this value? Perhaps, in some cases, it does. Using a wiki as the OER host would serve as an exemplar, and I can imagine a fairly simple tool to clone the question-only version into a semi-restricted section of the wiki for the group of students to use as their own, or perhaps to the students’ local wiki.

If you’re interested, you can see an instance of Examopedia used by one of Manish’s recent classes (this isn’t an OER, so unless you happen to be registered for that class you won’t get write access).

One Response to “Examopedia”

  1. Martin Poulter Says:

    Thanks for this, Phil. I’ve plenty of experience shocking academics with how easy a wiki is to use, and once they get this message, and divorce the technology of wikis from the near-anarchy of Wikipedia, there’s a lot of teaching innovation waiting to be done. The cloning could be done by a bot script analogous to the archiving bots that periodically clean Wikipedia Talk pages.

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