Wikis in education
October 5, 2006 5:47 AM   Subscribe

Is there an easy-to-configure wiki engine/software package that is suited for education?

The instructional technology coordinator at my college, knowing about my Wikipedia experience, approached me with an idea for using Wikis in education.
For example, professors being able to post content, and students being able to edit/annotate said content. The trouble is, there really isn't anybody with the technical expertise or time to configure a database backend like MySQL, so we're looking for a solution that is quick to configure without any kind of sophisticated database engine. Possibly some kind of flat file or MS Access solution that could just be dropped onto a web server's htdocs folder with minimal configuration and installation. Any suggestions?
posted by fvox13 to Education (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The trouble is, there really isn't anybody with the technical expertise or time to configure a database backend like MySQL

Try it at home in your spare time. I think you'll find that configuring it takes a good 30-45 seconds. (Install the software, copy over the example "medium site" configuration file, start the software.) From there, the Mediawiki software sets up its own databases during its installation process.

There are other wikis, some of which don't need databases, though. MoinMoin has a lot of corporate-style features to introduce accountability but stores its data in flat files, and it's written in Python.

Wikipedia itself has a comparison of wiki software that addresses storage and a dozen other variables.

I doubt there's anything too particular to education for a wiki -- after all, the first wiki was for the (informal) education of computer programmers, and wikis in general are supposed to be blank slates.+
posted by mendel at 6:14 AM on October 5, 2006

TWiki is flat-file based and the installation isn't too bad. I've been using it in an academic setting for the last two years without too much trouble.
posted by roue at 6:19 AM on October 5, 2006

A wiki might be a little too free form for what you're after. Have you considered some of the CMSes out there? Drupal is a php/MySQL CMS that can do just about anything. Set up is easy. Configuration can take some time and practice. There are tons of modules to expand and customize it's default functionality. I use it on one of my sites and like it a lot. The default install would cover posting content and commenting on it.

You might also check out Moodle. It's a little clunkier, but it's essentially an open source WebCT.

There are lots of quick install apps out there that will set you up with a working LAMP stack in minutes. On Windows, I use WAMPserver. There are lots of Linux options out there. Someone else can post a favorite.
posted by wheat at 11:58 AM on October 5, 2006

I've tried installing TWiki several times and never managed to get it running - my advice steer clear.

I'd recommend Pmwiki which you can pretty much drop into the htdocs folder and doesnt use databases. It simple to use and deceptively powerful
posted by cgfoz at 9:06 AM on October 6, 2006

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