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Academic Advising, Wikis, and Shared Knowledge
September 28, 2010 - 6:15am

I have 3 days left at Oregon State University (OSU). I've been an academic advisor for more than 3 years and have accumulated a tremendous amount of knowledge about OSU's academic processes. Life as an academic advisor consists of a never-ending stream of academic regulations, registration functions, course planning, substitutions, petitions, overrides, mentoring, teaching, and questions. When I started at OSU in 2007, I knew very little about what it meant to be an academic advisor. I was taking in knowledge while simultaneously communicating it to students. Knowledge wasn't readily available via the web so I was constantly popping out of my office to ask questions. I called it my "year-one advisor workout routine."

As you may have noticed, I'm a huge advocate for knowledge transfer and searchable data. Not being able to find advising information via the web was a constant source of frustration for me. Knowing that certain facets of information pertained only to advisors, I started thinking about how our advising team could share its collective knowledge. An avid reader and casual editor of Wikipedia, I started looking at wikis as a way for current advisors to share information and as a living training document for new advisors. I knew that I wanted to house our wiki on an OSU server and that I needed a platform that would encourage posting/sharing.

Having used the self-hosted version of WordPress since 2004, I was exceptionally comfortable with it as a blogging platform. I had customized my site's theme and had used WordPress to create the OSU Admissions Blog. I started tinkering with the idea of using WordPress as a wiki. The WYSIWYG editor in WordPress was fairly intuitive. New posts could easily be updated, comments could be added, and tags/categories provided an excellent way to organize data. A "private WordPress" plugin ensured that only approved users could access the site and post updates.

The "WordPress Wiki" has been in use in our office since April 2009. In order to get the wiki up and running, I conducted a half-day virtual barn raising with our staff. We filled it with interesting bits of logistical information and made a commitment to use it as our shared knowledge resource. There are currently 96 posts, 58 categories, 77 tags, and countless documents in the wiki. It has become a fantastic resource for our team.

Two new advisors start in our office next week. I am thrilled for them as they begin their journey as new academic advisors. I know that the wiki will become an integral part of their advising tool kit. They will be able to contribute, access, and learn about advising through a collective experience.

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