Wikipedia belongs in the higher education classroom

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As part of the Public Policy Initiative, we are collecting stories about how Wikipedia has been used in university classrooms. The following is an excerpt from Reid Parham’s blog post, “Wikipedia in higher education? it’s legitimate, and I proved it long ago.” Reid’s undergraduate thesis set out to prove that Wikipedia has a place in the classroom.

The Wikimedia Foundation announced in May 2010 that it had received a grant to facilitate involvement of American universities in the goal of improving public policy articles. Throughout the summer, they obtained the support of nine professors from five universities and have hired staff, held trainings and connected with students and professionals at each school—they’re ready to make this pilot program a reality.
I’ve heard the same issues about Wikipedia that everybody seems familiar with (“not a valid source,” etc.), but, in 2007, I conducted a project very similar to the current program and proved the skeptics wrong.


I attended Oregon State University from 2003 to 2008 and wrote my undergraduate thesis under guidance of Associate Professor Andrea Marks. It was an amazing adventure. My written thesis demonstrated three key points…

  1. The common American public education model had grown from several cultural and technological revolutions[6][7]
  2. The effectiveness and equality of American public education has suffered during the cultural and technological progress of the 1980s and 1990s[figure 1][18][19]
  3. The shift in cultural norms that have come with the Millennial Generation and the advancement of technology that has related to the Web 2.0 movement should be embraced and integrated into instructional models to improve education (but be bold and do it correctly)[28][32][34][37]

My favorite part of the thesis was an adventure in which I expressed my frustrations and then showed the legitimacy of our new techno-cultural frontier. I cited Wikipedia (using the proper URLs), YouTube[40], television news[35] and dramas[14], a public email list[34] and various lectures from distinguished academics[27][39][41]. It felt good to supplant the cultural symbols of my contemporaries into the academic rigor of an accredited, four-year professional degree program; it felt good to write out my thoughts; and it felt great to get full credit for my thesis and graduate with cum laude honors.
Read the full post at Reid’s blog.

Have more stories of how you’ve used Wikipedia in the classroom? Leave a note in the comments.
LiAnna Davis
Public Policy Initiative

Archive notice: This is an archived post from, which operated under different editorial and content guidelines than Diff.

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We are developing an information literacy program about using Wikipedia in library and information studies. We’ve also setup a trainning course for faculty professors in Murcia University (Spain). Besides we are trying to form a group of scholars and students working together in increasing spanish wikipedia content, within a cultural and creative context.