Best practices in assigning Wikipedia articles as coursework to students

See this article in Ukrainian

Best practices in assigning Wikipedia articles as coursework to students is an introduction to using Wikipedia as a teaching tool. As demonstrated by the Wikipedia Public Policy Initiative, a pilot project for using Wikipedia as a teaching tool in higher education, there are many benefits associated with exposing students to an open peer production community like Wikipedia.

Benefits to students
In contrast to traditional writing assignments, working with Wikipedia promises several advantages for students:
  • students are held accountable to a global audience for what they are doing, and thus feel more devoted to the assignment as a whole
  • students experience others building on their work and continuing with the article after the assignment has ended
  • students learn the difference between fact-based and analytical writing styles
  • students strengthen their ability to think critically and evaluate sources
  • students learn how to work in a collaborative environment
  • students gain insights in the creation process of texts on Wikipedia. This enables them to draw conclusions about which purposes Wikipedia is appropriate to use (and for which not)
  • students gain insights in the creation process of texts on wikis in general, an increasingly essential skill in a modern technology-driven workplace (a skill that can be put on one's CV)
  • students understand that they can not only consume information, they can help to create it
Benefits to the Wikipedia community and its mission
The community benefits because:
  • more content is created
  • more people gain skills in editing Wikipedia and can become potential long-term contributors
  • more people gain a deeper understanding of Wikipedia's reliability and can use its content more appropriately
Benefits to instructors
The course leader benefits from using Wikipedia as a platform for education, because with the Wikipedia Ambassador program;
  • he or she is assisted in the tasks of guiding and assessing students by experienced Wikipedia editors and by students who volunteer to become trainers
  • students are more motivated because what they write is seen by many more people than just the student and the instructor
Action Plan
Phase A: Preparatory phase 1. Recruit facilitators
2. Think of what goals your students should reach. Use the experience of your facilitators to check the feasibility.
3. Creating work plan / time table / list of tasks or articles
Phase B: Course phase 4. Teaching Wikipedia basics (formal requirements, editing, quality management, tutorial for advanced learners. If you invite a public speaker, there will be a more constructive feeling: “there are qualified humans behind the nicks and cooperation produce better content / course notes") (90 minutes)
5. Executing and monitoring all phases and operationalize on Wikipedia (encouraging students during the process, dealing with drawbacks)
Models Model A: Bachelor in Germany (Goal: Lesenswerte Artikel) Model B: Master in Germany Model C: Bachelor in the United States
  • a. The lecturer prepares a list of tasks (e. g. a list of articles to edit), those tasks then are assigned to the participants.
  • b. Students reach up into their theme and (re-)write an article (3 weeks)
  • c. Review (2 weeks)
  • d. If the reviewresult shows a real chance to candidate for "Lesenswerte Artikel", you should enable a candidacy and grant a bonus for positive results to motivate the student (10 days). The other students should present their results. Note: Your students can present the discussion pages, too. That will help to verify their social skills (article discussion page and central project page).
  • e. Reviewing by lecturer
  • You have more time than by A: Your students can work on more comprehensive topics
  • Formation of groups: Beside an individual article, your students should work on an collaborative article to train teamwork and softskillmanagement.
Well proofed is the goal of creating content orientated on the criteria good or featured article. You ought not to use the local candidates, if there is no fixed timeline.
  • a. Establish working groups: 3-5 students should work on a theme, ideally scientific items (accurate selected and reputable scources)
  • b. Students reach up into their theme and (re-) write an article (3 weeks)
  • c. Wikipedia Peer-review (2 weeks)
  • d. Reviewing by lecturer
Phase C: Conclusion phase 6. Evaluating your course (finish your course, feedback of students, feedback for Wikipedia)

Other resources


Further reading