We use wikis internally at Blackboard for project management, development and operations among other things, and in the last year or so they’ve really taken root company-wide. As more and more people have started using them, we have moved from a culture of "information control" to one of shared information and openness.
I have to admit, at first it was a little nerve wracking to put all of my project plans and ideas out there for the whole company to see. But in doing so, it created more of a sense of accountability and confidence. No longer was I only compiling information for myself or to convey to my immediate team, but I found myself being more succinct and thorough so that anyone could understand the plan and reasoning behind it. I was forced to think things through even more than before and make decisions more on fact and research, less on assumptions. And of course, I then referenced and linked out to the sources of those facts and research findings, thus spreading even more knowledge to my colleagues that they could then apply to their initiatives, as well.
Even more beneficial is the opportunity for those colleagues reading my work to provide feedback and suggestions. I have had numerous occasions where someone from another department read my launch plan on the wiki and offered insight to a novel approach they had seen at a conference, or offered experiences they have had that influenced me to alter my direction. Instead of me just creating things in my own bubble, confined by my own knowledge and experiences, they helped me get to a more reasoned and weathered solution that had the support of the greater company behind it.
Having all the information on a wiki also really unites the company, not just “virtually,” but in principle and practice behind common goals. As I work on the launch plan for a Blackboard Beyond property, with a click or two, I can also see what other initiatives Product Marketing or Product Development are doing at the same time and I can then work to align my efforts with theirs, and focus our efforts towards the bigger-picture goals.
Now we also recognize the value of wikis for external information sharing, as well. The Blackboard Beyond Team has an external resource wiki for each of the products and services we have launched. The Scholar® wiki was the first resource library at Blackboard that is completely open for end-users to add and edit content, and for the public to view. Obviously, we pre-loaded the wiki with the essential "how to" resources and information, but any Scholar user can click through the "Help" link within Scholar and be seamlessly authenticated with permissions to add their own content, update postings, add anecdotes and best practices, and inevitably help take Scholar further than we could ever do behind closed doors at Blackboard.
We also launched EduGarage a few months ago, which is the first Blackboard community site built completely on a wiki environment. Members of the Blackboard Developers Network can build pages and share information in any way that is relevant and valuable to them, thus giving the community the power to drive things forward as they see fit. And of course, EduGarage is also open to the public to view and learn from.
This posting primarily references wikis, but in reality, the wiki is just the tool – the means to the end. The real power is in open and accessible information that can be communicated in an adaptive way based on how it is most effective for the audience. I hope to see us continue to move in this direction for all things related to Blackboard – both internally and externally – and work together towards the common goal of extending education and promoting student achievement.