I am currently thinking about organizing a course for next semester. The most important aspect that I worry about is: How to sustainably organize knowledge? This should be a new "hands-on" course where students research and work on novel solutions to real-world problems (Note: How to get the students to innovate is not the question I am asking).

One key aspect of this course is to keep track of knowledge from previous semesters, so students of later semesters can build on top of what was previously achieved, and can find good (over the years better and better) answers to commonly (and less commonly) asked questions. They should also be able to get a good idea of what students worked on previously, and even decide whether to build on top of what was previously done, or just roll their own thing.

The knowledge that needs to be tracked, in short:

  • Q&A's regarding the course contents
  • Interesting and useful material relevant to the course
  • Project approaches and results by students who have previously taken the course

I am currently thinking of using a Stackoverflow clone in combination with a Wiki. Does anyone have good suggestions/experiences? Maybe more professional solutions?

TL;DR First build a knowledge base, then a knowledge community (more than 1 person), then a Q&A site...

Apart from the practical questions (software, structure) I think you miss like many trying to start a community site/wiki that there really needs to be an incentive to participate continuously in such a project and answer and document things when there is a reader count of a few dozen (like it will be for a course). You see what trouble some specialized beta sites here on stackexchange have to get 1-2 questions at all a day to attract audience. Gamification will not work for a such a small audience. I participated in some research group wikis, the will of the members to participate is defined mainly by "how easy to use" and "what's my profit from this compared to my current personal note taking system (redundancy)"

Wikis work much better for such a small community for the purpose of documenting things and sharing knowledge:

  • easier to share and embed PDF's
  • many skins to get a layout suited for good overview
  • often plugins to export Wiki syntax to Tex/Docbook/PDF so you can write basically your bachelor/master thesis with the wiki
  • easier software to handle, many wikis can be file-based and run without server (more future-proof), I would only put my knowledge into a wiki if it is simple to copy and install at another place

If you put such criterions now here you get some candidates:

Dokuwiki, MoinMoin, PHPwiki, PMwiki I can recommend

MoinMoin runs without server (even on USB stick), has WYSIWYG editor (absolutely necessary or only few will use your wiki) and is pretty future-proof as Debian and other known communities are based on it. There is also a nice sidebar theme to keep overview and allow fast navigation, don't underestimate overview when people browse a new site!

So this is my recommendation, but the bigger question is how to motivate students to participate. Already putting some knowledge and stuff up yourself is mandatory, why participate in an empty website, that's why stackexchange invented the Area51 launching system, but even this is not reliable...

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    I tend to agree with Gamification will not work for a such a small audience. However, do you happen to have source/reference for it? Thanks. – scaaahu Dec 9 '13 at 4:52
  • @Hauser Thank you for your input! I absolutely agree with many of your suggestions, especially the ease-of-use factor. However; why participate? Because it is part of the participation grade and because it is a chance to help your fellow classmates and a chance to share. Building a community in the classroom is my main goal. This is only a small part of the MUCH bigger question: "How to get students to be a team/community?" I did not start that discussion here yet, but I will soon. I am still researching. – Domi Dec 9 '13 at 4:53
  • @Hauser another thing: A sense of community is created by team building exercises, a well organized stream of constant feedback in all directions. – Domi Dec 9 '13 at 11:40

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