Asee peer logo

Wiki Based Learning In The Mechanical Engineering Classroom

Download Paper |


2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Technology Curriculum

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1402.1 - 13.1402.14



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Alan McGaughey Carnegie Mellon University

author page

Jeremy Michalek Carnegie Mellon University

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Wiki-Based Learning in the Mechanical Engineering Classroom 1. Introduction

A wiki (derived from the Hawaiian word for quick) is a type of website that provides a framework for users to interactively and collaboratively build a database of interrelated information quickly and easily. Wikipedia1, currently featuring more than two million articles in English alone, is the most well known wiki, but wikis can also be targeted to smaller audiences, such as an engineering class. Lamb2, Parker and Chao3, and Elgort4 discuss the use of wikis in an academic environment. They provide an overview of the wiki concept, address common concerns about wikis (e.g., copyright issues, vandalism), and present some of the associated pedagogical challenges.

Our objective in this paper is to describe our specific experiences with wikis and teaching mechanical engineering classes. We will discuss our use of wikis in teaching a capstone senior design course and graduate courses in design optimization and small scale heat transfer. In all three courses, a wiki provides (i) logistical benefits to the instructor compared to a traditional web page, and (ii) an interactive and collaborative online- environment in which students can drive their own learning experience. In all three courses, the wiki is designed to grow in subsequent offerings, providing a basis and standard for future students. In addition to discussing the benefits of course wikis to both instructors and students, we will also describe the process of setting up and maintaining a wiki on a web server.

In keeping with the theme of wiki use for teaching and collaborative writing, this article was originally written by the authors on Professor Michalek's Design Decisions Wiki prior to publication with ASEE5. Other instructors with experience using wikis for teaching are welcomed and encouraged to contribute to this page, which will remain an active, dynamic resource for sharing experiences of wiki-based learning in the classroom.

Professor Michalek's Design Decisions Wiki (DDWiki) is located at Professor McGaughey's Nanoscale Transport Phenomena Wiki (NTPWiki) is located at

2. Wiki software

Most wiki software is open source code, and numerous wiki engines are available at no cost. The most popular one is MediaWiki6, the same engine used for Wikipedia. MediaWiki is written in the hypertext scripting language PHP7, incorporating a database management system. We choose and also recommend using MediaWiki to setup a classroom wiki for several reasons:

1. It has large-scale database capabilities and high operational reliability; 2. the installation and maintenance processes are simple and friendly;

McGaughey, A., & Michalek, J. (2008, June), Wiki Based Learning In The Mechanical Engineering Classroom Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3959

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015