During the term of your course you will encounter situations where help by experienced community members is indispensable (unless you are a Wikipedia wizard yourself). You ask why? Because over the time Wikipedians developed their own strategies of solving problems, some of which have never been documented in Wikipedia's online help.
Here are two examples of such problems which might occur during university courses:
- While your students, at home, write a draft for a topic that doesn't yet have an article on Wikipedia, someone else creates the article on Wikipedia. Your students get frustrated: all their work suddenly seems to be to no avail.
- At a certain point of your course, a troll shows up and attacks some of your students with controversial and inflammatory postings. Moreover, the person reverts your students' edits. They need immediate help.
Asking community members to act as facilitators has a number of benefits:
- Wikipedians tend to be online for many hours a day. They may be online while you're holding a lecture, while you're working on your latest scientific paper and even while you sleep. As getting immediate responses is very satisfying on a collaborative website like Wikipedia, local community members will help a lot keeping your students motivated and they can check the compatibility of your time table and themes (lemma) with the guidelines.
- Over the years, every Wikipedia language version developed its own unwritten laws. Who else knows these guidelines and principles better than experienced community members?
- Participating in a collaborative website like Wikipedia requires strong communication skills. Long-term Wikipedians know how to keep cool in heated discussions. Their experiences with all sorts of disquiters can be very valuable for you and your students.
Moreover, recruiting community members as facilitators might generate a positive side effect: if those Wikipedia authors are interested in your course's topic, they might be willing to give your students feedback on their work (e.g. as part of Wikipedia's internal peer review process).
Where to find local community members?
You may find Wikipedians (and members of Wikipedia sister projects) in two places: in real life, willing to meet with you and with your class and (more easily) in cyberspace.
A list of editors willing to help you in real life can be found at w:Wikipedia:WikiProject Classroom coordination. This page also contains a list of editors who are willing to help in cyberspace, but this list is far from comprehensive. You may want to ask for help/mentorship/advice in various foras - preferably before the course is started. Good places to ask for help and avice include: w:Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Classroom coordination and w:Wikipedia talk:School and university projects. You can also try the more generic foras such as w:Wikipedia:Adopt-a-User or more specific ones - for example, if you aim to have your students try to achieve a Good Article status, you may want to ask if there are GA-experts willing to help you at w:Wikipedia talk:Good articles.
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