Why Would I Use a Wiki Template?

by Tonia Malone on March 26, 2014

screen image of OU Wiki, index of pagesI am currently teaching an online course called “eLearning Series: Framing Your Online Course.” In this course the students are required to create an online syllabus that meets Cal Poly, QOLT, and QM standards. I created an OU Wiki activity in my PolyLearn course. While setting up the OU Wiki, I decided that a single page wiki for the students just wouldn’t support the assignment’s objectives.

What is OU Wiki?

But first, those of you new to PolyLearn and/or the OU Wiki may be wondering what I am talking about. The OU Wiki (PolyLearn plugin) allows instructors to set up pages that are editable by individuals or groups. It allows students to collaborate with one another (as well as the instructor). Pages can be added to the Wiki for organization and the instructor can see all the activity that occurs within the OU Wiki.  

The OU Wiki was added Fall 2013 to provide an easy to use wiki for individual or collaborative pages, grading options (such as a participation report, to name just one), and template export/import options. The OU Wiki tool also offers:

  • The ability to upload pre-defined templates. The instructor can have a set structure and some content already created to provide structure for their students.
  • Integrated comments on pages or headings and single words
  • An editing lockout. When one person is editing a page in a wiki, the other team members are unable to edit the same page. OU Wiki allows instructors to set a time-out that will release and auto-submit the page, allowing other members to work on it. (Multiple pages can be created to help with group wiki development.)
  • A word count display
  • Grading options
  • Exportation as a template
  • Usage reports and statistics
  • A hierarchal page index
  • An extended page history management tool (per page and activity wide)
  • The ability to add new paragraphs and new pages easily at the end of each page

screen image of the OU Wiki, Start (home) pageTemplate Development

Back to OU Wiki templates and why I decided to use one. The syllabus assignment is due at the end of class. The students have only a week to complete their syllabi, but this idea can apply to a quarter long project as well. I structured the OU Wiki with eight pages: Start (Home: Instructor Info, Course Info and Outcomes); Student Outcomes; Required Materials; Grading; Activites Calendar; Campus Resources & Polices;  Online Policies;  and Your Grade – Rubric.

Each page has an outline of requirements to frame the page. You can also add images, links to files and other helpful tips to provide a successful space for your students.

OU Wiki has a Gradebook Option that creates the gradebook column and allows the instructor to choose the point value, but it doesn’t provide advanced grading with rubrics or marking guides. I placed my rubric on the last page of the wiki. I use this for grading their assignment so they can see the breakdown based on my rubric.


To create the template, I first needed to create the OU Wiki. Once I have the OU Wiki framework for the assignment, I can download the template file so I can upload the file into any of my other courses. 

For more detailed instructions about creating an OU Wiki in Polylearn, please see  

To download your template

From the OU Wiki tool:

  1. Click on the Wiki Index button on the top right.
    screen image of the OU Wiki, index button
  2. Scroll to the bottom and click on the download as wiki template file link.
  3. Save the ZIP file somewhere safe on your computer and make sure it stays a ZIP file and isn’t unpackaged. (Note: On some browsers there are options in the Preferences, such as “Open safe files after downloading” in Safari, that will cause a file to be unzipped during download. You’ll want to turn those types of options off in your browser before downloading the wiki template so that it remains zipped.)

To upload your template

From the OU Wiki settings page:

  1. Drag the ZIP file into the template’s drag & drop box.

    screen image of the OU Wiki, drag and drop window

  2. Scroll down and click on the Save and display button.

If you would like to learn more about using wikis in PolyLearn, please schedule a consultation with our PolyLearn team.

What Students Experience

light at the end

Now when the student opens the OU Wiki activity in PolyLearn, the page is full of helpful instructions, tips, links and steps. There are multiple pages for each key milestone. It is extremely clear what is expected of the student and they feel stress free.

In contrast, a wiki without a template is a single blank page. Students can create pages, but very seldom are they what you requested per your instructions. Students are confused, which can affect their grades, understanding and increases stress.


Overall using the OU Wiki template is a wonderful way of supporting the assignment’s objectives and improving the success of your students. Templates can be used in many scenarios such as an individual senior project assignment where students are required to develop a literature review outline, methodology outline, and references. In the 10 +/- weeks the student works on their senior project wiki, the instructor can review progress, make formative comments and support the student’s success the entire time. The OU Wiki is also perfect for a group project. Instructors can structure the wiki via a template and watch the progress of not only the group, but also the individual participation of students and provide feedback and grades accordingly.

Also Check Out

If you would like to learn more about creating syllabi, please check out the CLTL page Tips for Designing a “Promising Syllabus” for more information.

If you would like to learn more about PolyLearn, please visit our support site at: http://www.polylearnsupport.calpoly.edu/

If you would like to learn more about using PolyLearn to support effective teaching and learning, schedule a consultation with one of our instructional designers.

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