Education/Newsletter/February 2017/Medical students' contributions reach 200 articles in an innovative elective course at Tel Aviv University.

Medical students' contributions reach 200 articles in an innovative elective course at Tel Aviv University. edit

Author: Shani Evenstein



On October 2013, an innovative, for-credit, elective course dedicated to Wikipedia opened at Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University. The semester-long course (13-14 weeks), called "Wiki-Med", had a simple idea in mind – give students an opportunity to sharpen their academic, digital and collaborative skills, while contributing high quality medical content to Wikipedia; or in other words – ensure students' academic work makes a difference and has a positive impact not only on them, but also on the broader community, by curating their work in Wikipedia and its sister projects.

On January 2017, the 4th iteration of the course was completed. Thus far, 106 medical students participated in the course, almost 50% of them women. The majority of participants were Hebrew native speakers, but many were Arabic native speakers, and some Russian and French native speakers. On average, each student wrote 2 articles during the semester, contributing collectively close to 210 medical-related articles in Hebrew Wikipedia (which are about 7.5% of all medical articles in Hebrew), with page views by the millions. Some of the articles were translated from English as part of the WikiProject Medicine Foundation's extensive translation efforts, some were wanted but missing articles in He-Wiki and some were personal initiatives by students. In the last iteration, half of the articles focused on Women's health, as part of the Hebrew"Women in Red" initiative (part of the WikiWomen project).

Despite some labor pains and the course's complex nature (especially compared with other electives at Sackler), the course is considered a success. It continues to evolve yearly (for example, in the past two years it includes a Wikidata session), and students consistently report a positive and meaningful learning experience. Specifically, this includes –

  • Engaging in active learning, which leads to higher-order thinking skills and better retention of material
  • Sharpening academic skills, including academic writing and convergence of different sources into a coherent picture
  • Perfecting digital skills, such as online research and evaluation of sources
  • Learning about encyclopedic writing, including understanding copyrights, writing from a neutral point of view and the importance of references
  • Working collaboratively, including peer-reviewing each other, having to give and receive feedback in a positive and constructive way, rather than a negative and distractive one – a skill students will have to use in their future careers
  • Practicing simplicity, by taking complex medical ideas and having to convey them in a simple way, something students will have to do with future patients
  • Learning about the free-knowledge movement, the power of the community, and the importance of contributing high quality medical information to Wikipedia, which has become the number 1 source of medical information online around the world.
  • Self-belief, teaching the students to take ownership on their learning process from an early stage, as well as on their capacity to do something good with what they already know.

Based on its success, the Vice Rector at Tel Aviv University has given its blessing to adapt the Wiki-Med course model and open a second Wikipedia course. The new course, called "Wikipedia: Skills for producing and consuming knowledge", opened in 2015 and is available to all undergraduate students from every discipline taught on campus. The 2nd iteration of the course just finished, and up till now, 135 articles were added to Wikipedia.

  • Further Reading: (2 - 3 links)

Tags: Wiki-Med, Wikipedia in Higher Education