Wikimedia Research Newsletter, January 2017

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“Wikipedia as a platform for impactful learning: A new course model in higher education”

Reviewed by Piotr Konieczny

Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University

The paper[1] starts with a solid literature review on existing scholarship on teaching with Wikipedia, and this reviewer commends the authors for doing a very solid job with their introduction, which also displays their familiarity with Wikipedia community and institutions such as the Wiki Education Foundation and related. The authors then describe a semester-long elective course opened in the 2013 fall semester at the Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, registered on Wikipedia as the Wikipedia:WikiProject Medicine/Tel Aviv University project.
One of the unique elements here is that the authors designed a course that would not just use the Wikipedia assignment as part of the course, but also had substantial elements discussing topics such as “what Wikipedia is”. Courses that significantly discuss Wikipedia are still very rare, and this one is to best of my knowledge the first course of this type that has been described in peer reviewed literature. In terms of content generation, the course resulted in 64 new articles in Hebrew Wikipedia and 64 expanded stubs, all related to medical topics.
The article presents an in-depth overview of student responses, which were mostly positive. There are many insights which match my own experiences, including the note that “A new mini-assignment focusing on copyright violations resulted in a drastic decline in copy-paste issues” – a great idea that deserves inclusion in best practices for teaching with Wikipedia (if it is not there already). The authors also found that students’ perception of Wikipedia’s reliability has risen. Students did not think that their digital literacy improved significantly, but instead noted that their academic skills and collaborative work skills improved. Students were satisfied and proud, and most reported sharing their experiences with family members and friends, and would recommend this course to others. Four students (out of 62) reported editing Wikipedia after the course. The authors describe the course as successful, and note that they are expanding it to be available to more students. The authors express hope that their study and design will allow for further popularization of Wikipedia teaching assignments and Wikipedia-focused elective courses, and this editor sincerely thinks their effort will be very helpful, as in my professional experience related to reading and reviewing literature on teaching with Wikipedia for many years, this is one of the best, if not the best, treatment of this subject. Anyone interested in teaching with Wikipedia, particularly from a practical perspective, should read this paper.

Faculty perception of Wikipedia improves over five-year term

Reviewed by Piotr Konieczny

This paper[2] reports on faculty perception of Wikipedia, based on a survey of academics at four Californian universities. (The authors attempted to identify all faculty members in those institutions, and asked all of them to participate in the survey. The response ratio was about 13% of a population of 3,000.) The primary research question was whether attitudes towards Wikipedia are changing. Respondents were asked whether their attitudes have shifted over the past five years, and if so, why. The study opens with an interesting literature review, citing prior works on use and perceptions of Wikipedia in academia. Following a presentation of the survey results, the authors conclude that faculty perceptions of Wikipedia have improved over the five-year period surveyed. (The perceptions of over a third of the respondents improved, while perceptions of only 6.5% worsened.) Interestingly, the number of teachers allowing students to cite Wikipedia nearly doubled from 5% to 8.5%. The biggest reported shift is for teachers recommending use of Wikipedia for initial data gathering (from 40% to 55%). Similarly, the number of those telling students to never use Wikipedia decreased from 52% to 31%. The authors find that the impacts of rank, years of teaching, or discipline on faculty attitudes are minimal. Based on qualitative comments, the authors note that negative comments about Wikipedia focused on the lack of reliability and the instability of entries. As the authors note, followup studies on what, exactly, is responsible for different attitudes will hopefully cast light on this still unclear topic. At the same time, we can reasonably expect that as time goes on, faculty views of Wikipedia will be slowly but steadily improving.
On another note, authors also found out that 13% of the respondents (52 individuals) have incorporated Wikipedia into their courses in some fashion – an interesting number regarding the spread and impact of the Wikipedia in Education initiatives.

Students report 95% of their interactions with other Wikipedians as positive – even when they are getting reverted

Reviewed by Tilman Bayer

A case study titled “Giving Psychology Away: Implementation of Wikipedia Editing in an Introductory Human Development Course”[3] reports on a Wikipedia assignment to edit psychology related content in a large introductory class (110 participants). Students received guidance in the form of in-class workshops as well as online support, and “demonstrated considerable engagement with the assignment”, with an average of 14.5 edits over 50 days. Apart from peer feedback by classmates, the reactions by other Wikipedians to the students’ contributions were highlighted as important in the evaluation survey:

only 6% (of 93 responses) indicated that [the students] had not interacted with outside editors. The majority (95%) identified beneficial interactions, where the editor helped them to improve their work […]. Of the 70 students who described their interactions with these Wikipedians, over half (73%) mentioned editors who reverted their edits (perhaps due to concerns about quality or plagiarism), or corrected their punctuation/grammar (56%). Some students (17%) reported using Wikipedia talk pages to communicate with other editors. A few (6%) asked the instructor or a campus ambassador to intervene with an outside editor; another 3% described an edit war that occurred when they went back and forth with an outside Wikipedian editor, reverting their work.

The outcomes of the course were described as positive: “Students demonstrated improvements in information literacy and Wikipedia knowledge, with gains in locating and evaluating the quality of source materials.” However, when the researchers checked back six months after the end of the semester, none of the students had made further edits to their articles after the course ended.


What we know from research about why Wikipedia is still struggling to get accepted in academia, and about the benefits of teaching with Wikipedia

Reviewed by Tilman Bayer

“Teaching with Wikipedia in a 21st-century classroom: Perceptions of Wikipedia and its educational benefits”[4] offers a thorough examination of two main research areas, based on an extensive review of the existing literature (up to early 2015):

  1. “the reasons that Wikipedia is still struggling to gain acceptance among many academics and higher education professionals”
  2. The benefits of using Wikipedia in class – for educators, students and the public

Regarding the first question, the author (Piotr Konieczny – also a frequent contributor to this research report, like in this issue, but not involved with this particular review), notes that much of the coverage of skeptical attitude in academia towards Wikipedia is based on anecdotes (opinions that “are commonly backed up by references to one or two newspaper articles focusing on criticism of Wikipedia by academics”), whereas peer-reviewed publications about the question are rarer – only seven (up to 2015), whose findings are summarized in form of a handy table. All involved faculty surveys of varying sample sizes, with respondent numbers ranging from 5 to 800 (the latter in the 2015 paper by Meseguer et al., also listed below). Recurring topics include Wikipedia’s credibility (both negative opinions about the project’s credibility and positive opinions about the actual quality of articles) and “a negative attitude toward collaborative knowledge produced interviews with faculty members outside academia”.

“Contributing to Wikipedia as an assignment for undergraduate students”

Reviewed by Piotr Konieczny

This short paper[5] describes another teaching activity. It notes that students in a German undergraduate class had much confidence in the quality of Wikipedia, but did not feel qualified to make their own contributions. The study suggests that students need a hands-on guide to explain how editing Wikipedia works, and to direct them to articles that need attention, and confirms that if a Wikipedia assignment is offered as an optional activity, relatively few students will attempt it.

Logo of Arabic Wikibooks

How to motivate students and others to contribute to Wikibooks

Reviewed by Tilman Bayer

A paper titled “How to motivate formal students and informal learners to participate in Open Content Educational Resources (OCER)?”[6] reports on results of a survey of Wikibookians in English and Arabic, conducted as part of PhD research at University of South Australia.
The survey was targeted at both readers and editors in 2009–’10 via posts to the project’s mailing list ([2],[3],[4]) and banner notices on Wikibooks itself (English versions: 1,2).
Of the 262 respondents, 88% described themselves as contributors. 26% identified as female and 71.8% male, indicating one of the smallest gender gaps observed on Wikimedia projects.
Regarding incentives to contribute to Wikibooks, “tesults show the co-existence of intrinsic & extrinsic motivations and approach & avoidance motivations. Results suggest that self-learners are more likely to be excited and have their desire to learn and other endorsed values, while students likely to be ‘pushed’ or encouraged to write and contribute to OCER until they enjoy/value what they are doing”.

K-12 teachers perceive Wikipedia as easy to use but unreliable

Reviewed by Tilman Bayer

The Technology Acceptance Model

This paper[7] reports on a survey among Israeli K-12 (i.e. primary and secondary school) teachers, whose design was informed by the technology acceptance model (TAM) theory. As summarized by the authors, “TAM suggests that when users are presented with a new technology, three major factors influence their decision about whether and how they will use it: (1) External factors, e.g. personal characteristic and background of the user (2) Perceived usefulness (3) Perceived ease of use.”
The survey had 143 respondents (out of 200, reached through Facebook groups and during professional development seminars), most of whom “perceive Wikipedia as an environment of middling to poor reliability, accuracy, and timeliness. Many teachers do not realize how authoritative information is when generated by ‘wisdom of crowds’ and interpret it as unacceptable and untrustworthy.” Among the positive assessments, “the teachers ranked the ease of use of Wikipedia as High. They consider the information very handy (M=4.46; SD=.74) and very easy to understand (M=4.05; SD=.83). Nevertheless, they perceived its overall usefulness as medium.” While “a large majority of teachers don’t think Wikipedia should be forbidden for learning purposes [, …] they rank Wikipedia as a valuable source of information only on a medium level. Therefore teachers don’t encourage their students to use this environment”. Most of them were using Wikipedia at least once per month themselves, and more than 30% at least once per week.
As may be common in this professional group, respondents showed a huge gender gap (as extreme or even more extreme as that of Wikipedia itself, but in the opposite direction), with 11% male and 89% female. Also, “the average age was 45 years (ranging from 26 years to 67 years).” From the paper it appears however that the results indicated no gender bias or variation by age (or that the question was not examined): “Looking for correlations between teachers’ use of Wikipedia with their students and their personal characteristics, the only correlation found was between the self reported information evaluation competencies of the teachers and their level of teaching their student to evaluate information in Wikipedia”.

Conferences and events

See the research events page on Meta-wiki for upcoming conferences and events, including submission deadlines.

Other recent publications

Other recent education-related publications that could not be covered in time for this issue include the items listed below. Contributions are always welcome for reviewing or summarizing newly published research.

  • “Wikipedia at university: what faculty think and do about it”[8] From the abstract: “… based on a large survey to all faculty members in two large public universities [with 913 valid responses. …] The results do not support an overwhelming sceptical attitude among faculty towards Wikipedia. The overall quality of Wikipedia articles is highly valued and most faculty are regular users, just as students are. Though most faculty show a positive view on the teaching usefulness of Wikipedia, few of them actually use it for teaching purposes. A certain conflict has been detected between standard academic procedures of knowledge building and the open collaborative model on which Wikipedia rests. In the end, two important factors play a role in shaping faculty views: their colleagues’ perceived opinions and practices, and academic disciplines.” See also our previous review of an earlier publication about the same research: “Most academics are not concerned about Wikipedia’s quality – but many think their colleagues are
  • “Veni, Vidi, Vicipaedia: Using the Latin Wikipedia in an Advanced Latin Classroom”[9] From the abstract: “Vicipaedia, the Latin Wikipedia, offers instructors an easy and flexible way to integrate composition assignments into a course. The high profile and immediacy of the site makes it uniquely attractive to students while the collaborative nature and complete transparency of the editing process recommend it to instructors. This paper documents the way Vicipaedia was incorporated into one advanced Latin class as a rich learning experience that resulted in better translation and increased understanding of the language.” (see also Dr. Ostorius)
  • “Using Wikipedia to Teach Discipline Specific Writing”[10] From the abstract: “Students at a mid-sized research institution in a course called Writing in the Health Professions evaluate Wikipedia articles related to healthcare and contribute to one of them. Writing for Wikipedia provides students with the opportunity to practice using plain language, write for an authentic audience, and engage in a non-traditional form of civic engagement. […] In this paper, the assignment will be discussed as well as the advantages and challenges of using Wikipedia in the classroom.”
  • “Improving Information Literacy Skills through Learning To Use and Edit Wikipedia: A Chemistry Perspective”[11] (coauthored by Walkerma) From the abstract: “This article overviews the Chemistry content on Wikipedia and how students can learn to use it effectively as an information resource, critically evaluating content, and learning key information literacy skills. We also discuss how students’ information literacy skills can be improved through a class project where students edit Wikipedia articles.”
  • “The Use of Digital Media Like YouTube and Wikipedia in Education”‘[12] Thesis about an online survey of 50 students. From the “Research findings” chapter: “10 students (20.4%) of the questionnaire respondents reported that they always use Wikipedia and 13 students (26.5%) answered they used Wikipedia frequently […] (36.7%) reported that they used it occasionally. Far fewer of the respondents (2%) said that they never used it. […] 20 students in this study (40.8%) said they used [Wikipedia] to obtain a summary or a background information about a topic and to get started to assignment, (24.5%) of the students said they refer to use it when they want to find a meaning of terms, (10.2%) stated that they used it because of its comprehensible explanations, (12.2%) said Wikipedia has certain advantages in researching over the citation at bottom of entry, (10.2%) reported that they used it to figure out search terms by having an idea about what are they going to write about, […] (10.2%) of the respondents reported they use it because it’s up-to-date entries, as unexpected only (4.1%) of the students report that they refer to Wikipedia because it is more credible than other websites, (26.5%) respondents reported that they refer to Wikipedia because it’s interface were easy to understand and use. [sic]”
  • “Writing for Wikipedia in the classroom: challenging official knowledge (a case study in 12th grade)”[13] From the abstract: “The paper describes an exploratory case study, carried out in an environment of critical action-research, at a urban K12 School in Portugal […]. The question was: Does the activity of writing articles for Wikipedia, by students changes the way these students a) relate to knowledge (awareness of it’s constructed, dynamic nature and b) use the information available on the Internet? Through questionnaires, observation and document analysis, we found many positive outcomes, e.g. skills relating to Wikipedia system; critical awareness of the information available; awareness that a text is an unfinished product and that can be collective; awareness of ethical and legal requirements. [sic]”
  • “Basic information competencies and the use of Wikipedia in educational environments” (“Competencias informacionales básicas y uso de Wikipedia en entornos educativos”, in Spanish)[14]
  • “How do Japanese students think about the credibility of Wikipedia and use Wikipedia in their learning? “ (“日本の大学生のWikipediaに対する信憑性認知, 学習における利用実態とそれらに影響を与える要因”, in Japanese)[15] From the English abstract: “[…] we conducted a survey on 102 students of Doshisha University in 2015. The survey concluded that students think Wikipedia has some credibility and they use it in writing reports. However, most of them never cited Wikipedia in the reference [sic] of their reports.”
  • “Ninth Graders’ Use of and Trust in Wikipedia, Textbooks, and Digital Resources From Textbook Publishers”[16]
  • “Using Wikipedia to Teach Audience, Genre and Collaboration”[17] From the abstract: “This essay describes a sequence of assignments to guide students though an informed effort at making contributions to Wikipedia that persist, and suggests ways this set of exercises in social informatics may also serve a number of common goals in a variety of writing, literature, and other courses: analyzing and writing for explicit editorial guidelines (“standards” in information science; “house style” in editorial practice); understanding, conforming to, and even negotiating conventions of genres and subgenres; collaborating online; writing for an audience that is not only real but talks back; and developing deep understanding of revision and the writing, editorial, and publication processes.”



  1. Sigalov, Shani Evenstein; Nachmias, Rafi (2016-12-12). “Wikipedia as a platform for impactful learning: A new course model in higher education”. Education and Information Technologies: 1–21. doi:10.1007/s10639-016-9564-z. ISSN 1360-2357.  Closed access / author link
  2. Aline Soules (2015-03-09). “Faculty Perception of Wikipedia in the California State University System”. New Library World. doi:10.1108/NLW-08-2014-0096. ISSN 0307-4803.  Closed access
  3. Shane-Simpson, Christina; Che, Elizabeth; Brooks, Patricia J. (2016-11-01). “Giving Psychology Away: Implementation of Wikipedia Editing in an Introductory Human Development Course”. Psychology Learning & Teaching 15 (3): 268–293. doi:10.1177/1475725716653081. ISSN 1475-7257. >
  4. Konieczny, Piotr (2016-04-01). “Teaching with Wikipedia in a 21st-century classroom: Perceptions of Wikipedia and its educational benefits”. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology. doi:10.1002/asi.23616. ISSN 2330-1643.  Closed access Temporary author link available via [1]
  5. Reimers, Gabriel; Neovesky, Anna. “Contributing to Wikipedia as an assignment for undergraduate students” (PDF). Proceedings of DisCo 2016: Towards open education and information society. 
  6. Hanna, Amal (2014). “How to motivate formal students and informal learners to participate in Open Content Educational Resources (OCER)?”. International Journal of Research in Open Educational Resources 1 (1): 1–15. 
  7. Meishar-Tal, Hagit (2015-01-01). “Teachers’ use of Wikipedia with their Students”. Australian Journal of Teacher Education 40 (12). doi:10.14221/ajte.2015v40n12.9. ISSN 1835-517X. 
  8. Aibar, Eduard; Lladós-Masllorens, Josep; Meseguer-Artola, Antoni; Minguillón, Julià; Lerga, Maura (2015-07-21). “Wikipedia at university: what faculty think and do about it”. The Electronic Library 33 (4): 668–683. doi:10.1108/EL-12-2013-0217. ISSN 0264-0473.  Closed access
  9. Oosterhuis, David (2016). “Veni, Vidi, Vicipaedia: Using the Latin Wikipedia in an Advanced Latin Classroom” (PDF). Teaching Classical Languages 7 (2): 30. ISSN 2160-2220.  (archived from the original)
  10. Callens, Melissa Vosen (2016-06-28). Using Wikipedia to Teach Discipline Specific Writing. EdMedia: World Conference on Educational Media and Technology 2016. pp. 1299–1303. ISBN 9781939797247.  Closed access
  11. Walker, Martin A.; Li, Ye (2016-03-08). “Improving Information Literacy Skills through Learning To Use and Edit Wikipedia: A Chemistry Perspective”. Journal of Chemical Education 93 (3): 509–515. doi:10.1021/acs.jchemed.5b00525. ISSN 0021-9584.  Closed access
  12. Shehab, Abdulkarim; Kadhem, Kadhem Husain (April 2016). “The Use of Digital Media Like YouTube and Wikipedia in Education”.  (student thesis)
  13. Oliveira, Lia Raquel; Martins, Lauro Manuel (2016). “Writing for Wikipedia in the classroom: challenging official knowledge (a case study in 12th grade)”. ECER 2016. ECER 2016. 
  14. Tramullas, Jesús (2016-06-07). “Competencias informacionales básicas y uso de Wikipedia en entornos educativos”. Revista Gestión de la Innovación en Educación Superior 1 (1). ISSN 0719-7624. 
  15. Sho Sato, Ranko Ide, Saki Ota, Naoki Hayashi, Kana Michura, Saori Soeda (佐藤 翔, 井手 蘭子, 太田 早紀, 林 直樹, 道浦 香奈, 副田 沙織): “How do Japanese students think about the credibility of Wikipedia and use Wikipedia in their learning?” (“日本の大学生のWikipediaに対する信憑性認知, 学習における利用実態とそれらに影響を与える要因”). Joho Chishiki Gakkaishi (情報知識学会誌), Vol. 26 (2016) No. 2 p. 195-200. (in Japanese, with English abstract)
  16. Hatlevik, Ove Edvard (2016). “Ninth Graders’ Use of and Trust in Wikipedia, Textbooks, and Digital Resources From Textbook Publishers”. Digital Expectations and Experiences in Education. pp. 205–219. doi:10.1007/978-94-6300-648-4_12.  Closed access
  17. Bilansky, Alan (March 2016). “Using Wikipedia to Teach Audience, Genre and Collaboration”. Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture. 


Wikimedia Research Newsletter
Vol: 7 • Issue: 1 • January 2017
This newletter is brought to you by the Wikimedia Research Committee and The Signpost
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