Daniel Abawi is a graduate of the Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany, where he majored in Business Administration and Computer Science. He has been a Scientific Assistant at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and at the Department of Computer Science at the J. W. Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany, since 2001. Currently he is involved as a researcher in the overall e-learning project of the J. W. Goethe-University.Silvan Reinhold is a graduate from the Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany, majoring in Business Administration and Computer Science. He has been a Scientific Assistant at the Dept. of Computer Graphics at the J. W. Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany, since 2002. His current involvement with projects in the context of the University's e-learning strategy allows him to collaborate and interact in a very multidisciplinary field, as well as to focus his research on collaboration and integration of Wiki systems in educational settings.
Wiki systems provide a familiar and easy-to-use Web-based user interface for collaborative, text-centric work. Due to the general nature of the underlying Wiki paradigm, they also offer a variety of possibilities with respect to their use in different application scenarios. However, specific environments typically involve or require software systems other than Wikis, natively, in order to fulfill the requirements of their particular use case. Introducing additional software applications to any particular environment also necessitates an examination of the question of how to integrate these with the already existing applications, and how to make relevant information shareable and accessible across application boundaries, without introducing redundancy. In this context, this paper reviews the use of Wikis as information systems in an educational environment, where existing applications are already employed to supplement a classroom by offering structured multimedia learning materials and online courses to the students, but an additional Wiki is used by the students for collaborative, editorial work on class-relevant topics and articles. A concept is proposed to integrate such a Wiki system in a way that students may use its familiar Web interface to provide additional content in the form of a glossary or dictionary, while allowing the existing applications to dynamically access and present its content on-the-fly and context-sensitively. Based on this concept, an architecture and prototypical implementation are presented, allowing Web applications access to live and off-line Wiki content through an abstract application layer. The modular architecture offers an explicit binding mechanism that allows integration of different Wiki clones in parallel and as concurrent sources; by the same token, arbitrary external Wikis, such as Wikipedia, which reside outside of the actual class, could be accessed. The actual implementation prototype illustrates the main features and possibilities of the suggested concept on the basis of an actual e-learning application used to augment real-world university classes.