Wiki Education (a.k.a., WikiEdu) is an independent non-profit organization that promotes the integration of Wikipedia into education and classrooms. In pursuit of this mission, WikiEdu has created incredible resources for students and instructors, including tools that facilitate classroom assignments where students create and improve Wikipedia articles.
In courses at both Northwestern and the University of Washington, CDSC faculty and students have offered courses with Wikipedia assignments for over a decade. In the past two weeks, WikiEdu has featured the most recent instances of these courses on their blog.
The first WikiEdu post celebrated the work of a team of Northwestern students that included Carl Colglazier (TSB and CDSC Ph.D. student) and Hannah Yang (undergraduate Communication Studies major and former CDSC research assistant). The team, all members of the Online Communities & Crowds course I taught with CDSC Ph.D. student Sohyeon Hwang in Winter 2022, overhauled an article on Inclusive design in English Wikipedia. Since the article’s initial publication back in March, other Wikipedia editors have improved it further and it has attracted over 10,000 pageviews. Amazing work, team!
The second post celebrates UW Communication doctoral student Kaylea Champion, recipient of an Outstanding Teaching Award from the Communication Department on the strength of her work in another Winter 2022 undergraduate course on Online Communities (also taught by Benjamin Mako Hill) that features a Wikipedia assignment. Several of Kaylea’s students thought so highly of her work in the course that they collaborated in nominating her for the award. Kaylea enjoyed the experience enough that she’s about to offer the course again as the lead instructor at UW this upcoming Winter term. I should also note that Kaylea has been nominated for a university-wide award, but we won’t know the outcome of that process for a while yet. Congratulations, Kaylea!
The public recognition of CDSC students and teaching is gratifying and provides a great reminder of why assignments that ask students to edit Wikipedia are so valuable in the first place. Most fundamentally, editing Wikipedia engages students in the production of public, open access knowledge resources that serve a much greater and broader purpose than your typical term paper, pop quiz, or exam. When students develop encyclopedic materials on topics of their interest, motivated undergraduates like Hannah Yang can directly connect coursework with practical, real-world concerns in ways that build on the expertise of graduate students like Carl Colglazier. This kind of school work creates unusually high impact products. Kaylea Champion puts the idea eloquently in that WikiEdu post: “Instead of locking away my synthesis efforts in a paper no one but my instructors would read, the Wikipedia assignment pushed me to address the public.”
Just think, how many people ever read a word of most college (or high school or graduate school) term papers? By contrast, the Wikipedia articles created by our students have routinely been viewed over 100,000 times in aggregate by the end of the term in which we offer the course. Extrapolate this out over a decade and our students’ work has likely been read millions of times by now. As with other content on Wikipedia, this work will shape public discourse, including judicial decisions, scientific research, search engine results, and more. There’s absolutely nothing academic about that!