This page compares different wiki platforms with regards to the challenges presented in using them in higher education.

(very much in draft form - feel free to clean up) - iversen iversen Feb 23, 2007

Criteria for comparison:
  • Ability to create new space: Who has the ability to create a new space? How easy is it for an instructor to create a new space?
  • Editing: Code or WYSIWYG? Import of existing documents and images? Embedding rich media?
  • Permissions: What types of control can be added to the site (e.g. editing and viewing rights)? Who has the ability to grant those rights (administrator, instructor, student)? Can certain sections be set aside for group work? Can a page be for a single person, later to be made public?
  • Authentication: Can authentication for editing rights etc. be integrated with existing campus authentication systems, like LDAP and Active Directory?
  • Hosting: Farm or local?
  • License/Cost: Open source or proprietary? Ad-based or subscriptions?
  • WiscWiki Pages to use as basis for generating criteria:
Creating new space
Group permissions
Instructor control

Request to administrator
Open source

Easy - from within wiki
Control of space

PHP Wiki

Similar to wiki text
Yes, in theory, but not functioning




Open Source

WYSIWYG and TwikiText
Yes, very flexible permission structure

Open Source

Descriptions of Platforms


This platform is very open (it's the one Wikipedia is based on). It needs to be installed and managed locally, rather than in a farm. This is a very robust platform with a large community of users.

Problems for education:
  • By default, all pages are wide open to editing - it isn't even necessary to create an account to edit pages. These settings can be changed, but not by the instructor. In fact, it appears there is no notion of an instructor or owner of a single wikispace. The system administrator will need to be involved in all security changes. However, groups can be created and associated with what Mediawiki calls "Custom Namespaces," which can then be access-controlled.
  • Editing is strictly in Wikitext, which is simpler than HTML, but would still cause some problems for students unfamiliar with markup languages. Apparently it is possible to have a plugin installed to allow for WYSIWYG.
  • Adding rich media
  • Not sure what is meant by "Group Permissions" in the matrix--Mediawiki does have the concept of groups, and that different groups have different permissions (to read, edit, revert, etc.). As noted above, though, all of these config changes require sysadmin intervention.

PHP Wiki

Computer Networking downloaded the basic software and installed it onto a campus server. The software has a bunch of glitches, and does not seem to be adequately supported at present. My impression is that most of those using it are coming from computer science.

Problems for education:
  • Computer Networking set this up so only those with a university "Net ID" (campus name and password, as used in campus email) could access the pages at all. This was necessary because we loaded videotapes of K-12 students, so human subjects concerns were paramount - no one who was not part of the project could gain access. The largest issue was that Computer Networking then had to manually add and delete students due to late adds and drops of the relevant courses.
  • In theory page permissions are possible (so only not everyone had the right to edit everything) but in fact this did not work.
  • Editing required learning basic rules - simpler than HTML but students complained about it being difficult (these were not computer science students, but in Communication or Teacher Education).
  • The entire site crashed several times and had to be reinstated (it was set up so it automatically backed everything up every 24 hours so we didn't lose much). We think the problem was that students never managed to follow the naming conventions established - but it may have been due to something else.
  • In theory we had some nice additional functions (like reviewing recent changes) but these broke early and simply stopped working.


Possible wiki platforms for education

Wikis that mention having permissions or some other feature that would address educational usage:

Wiki Engines (for local hosting?):

Wiki Farms:

This page also could be useful for selecting wiki software:

These are also options to consider: Atlassian, Socialtext, CustomerVision, MindTouch, Traction (source:

Some questions:
  • If you run multiple sections of the same course over semesters, is there a need to 'reset' the wiki to an initial state? (I don't think may platforms allow for making a copy of a wiki)
  • Is there a need to import material from one wiki to another?