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Using a Wiki to Share Undergraduate Student Project Ideas


MODULE TITLE: Management Practice 1
MODULE COORDINATOR: Dr. Linda Dowling-Hetherington
TARGET AUDIENCE: Part-Time Post-Experiential
Undergraduate Business Students


In semester one of the Bachelor of Business Studies, stage two students are required to complete a 10 ECTS project-based module, HRM2001D Management Practice 1.  This is the first time in the degree that these students are expected to select a project topic of their choice and to prepare a literature review on the topic in question.  Students also complete the follow-on module, HRM2003D Management Practice 2, in semester two where they conduct a small piece of primary research on the topic in their chosen organisation.


Following a face-to-face class briefing session in September, students are expected to prepare a project proposal setting out the topic they wish to examine, the rationale for choosing this topic and a brief overview of the available literature.  The process of selecting a suitable topic can be a daunting one for undergraduate students.  The process can often result in a number of iterations of a draft topic before a suitably refined topic is identified.  With this in mind, it was decided to use a wiki feature in the virtual learning environment to provide students with an opportunity to share their project idea with the rest of their classmates in advance of the submission date for the project proposal.  Wikis are a collaborative webpage that allows multiple users to create, edit and delete content quickly and easily without web authoring skills.  The topic ideas posted on the virtual learning environment did not form part of the graded coursework for the module.

The Innovative Approach

At the start of the semester, the module coordinator created a table using the wiki.   Students were required to use the wiki table for two specific purposes:

  1. to outline their initial project topic idea; and
  2. to comment on the topic idea identified by one of their class members (students are, for example, encouraged to provide constructive advice on specific aspects of the topic that might be considered based on their own work experience in the area in question and also to recommend some readings on the topic that they feel would be useful to the student in question).

The wiki enabled students to share ideas and to make suggestions to each other that will assist them in refining their topic focus prior to the formal submission of the project proposal.  Below is an extract of three topic ideas posted by students and three comments made by other students on these topics (below each topic).

Topic: The Examination of "Workforce Planning"

Workforce Planning is a well-recognised strategic HRM process. It attempts to predict the future so that decisions are made based on the right number of people with the right skills. Many organisations will face serious challenges in the future due to the aging profile of the workforce, therefore workforce planning will be a vital tool for such future developments. I have chosen this assignment topic in order to explore and understand the process and importance of this tool. Furthermore I would like to investigate how organisations manage to forecast and make accurate decisions to meet the demand over medium to long term. (Mary K.)

Very interesting topic Mary to explore future planning and for an organisation to be mindful of change in demographics. There's some good content in Beardwell and Claydon (HRM text Ch6) on equality and diversity that makes a case for recruiting in a more diverse manner not limiting to traditional demographic to overcome skills shortages as well as content in HBR on managing demographic risk (Strack, Beier, Farhlander, Feb 2008, HBR) (John B.)

Topic: Human Resource Planning

I will study how to plan and manage for the following: An ageing workforce and the implications for planning, loss of expertise, targeted recruitment, retirement age reform.  At present 7% of the civil service is currently under 30 years of age and 46% over 50 years.  The average age is now 46 years.  This will have implications for future HR planning when large numbers of staff are due to retire. (Martin Z.)

Martin: As a public sector worker this area is of particular interest. Over the next decade it is expected that unprecedented levels of experienced public sector workers will depart. This will have significant impact not only to the HR function in adopting a more proactive approach to human capital management but will have significant effects within individual departments caused by this transition. The CPMR Discussion Paper; Ageing in the Irish Civil Service: A Human Resource Management Response by Joanna O’Riordan, (Irish Public Administration) suggests the need for an effective business strategy or change initiative to address the evolving staff implication. I hope you find it beneficial to your research. (Joan B.)

Topic:Strategic Downsizing - the successful implementation of a European restructure. 

An examination of the critical success factors involved in the planning, implementation and management of organisational restructure in a large multinational organisation. The project will analyse the strategy adopted by the organisation, the effects on employees and performance of the business and an assessment of 'best practice' in terms of communication, involvement and outcome. (Michael T.)

Michael, I found this article in the e-library that might help you with your project. 'Strategies for successful organisational downsizing' by K Cameron, Human Resource Management, 1994 Vol 33 issue 2. It focused on the results from 30 companies that downsized over as four year period. Some interesting results that might assist you. (Sarah C.)


Adoption of the wiki has proven to be very useful.  From a student perspective:

  • it allowed students to exchange and share topic ideas with each other and this has been particularly useful given the post-experiential nature of the students in question. 
  • It has also created an opportunity for ongoing dialogue between students, particularly, where they have identified others in the class that have chosen a similar topic to themselves.  This dialogue has very often continued beyond the basic requirements for posting and commenting on topic ideas as set out in the module outline. 
  • The use of the wiki in the manner described above has also encouraged students to begin thinking about their proposed topic idea much earlier than the formal submission date for the project proposal. 

In addition, the wiki has been very beneficial for the module coordinator who can make contact with a student at a much earlier point in the semester if they have chosen a topic that is unsuitable or is too large/small in scope.  In this way, any issues identified can be addressed well in advance of the formal submission for the project proposal and, thus, students are able to ‘hit the ground running’ following receipt of feedback on the project proposal from their supervisor.