Wikimedia Foundation/Annual Report/2010-2011/Class Assignment
Class Assignment: Wikipedia
Recruiting on campus today
The Wikipedia Education Program is an ambitious initiative to transform post-secondary education the world over by fostering critical thinking, media literacy and collaborative learning, while improving Wikipedia at the same time.
Due to the enthusiastic endorsement of our early efforts by professors and students at leading universities, this program is gaining traction both in the U.S. and overseas. Professors who participate in our program assign their students to improve Wikipedia articles as part of their coursework. Students are assisted by trained “Wikipedia Ambassadors” — a newly developed concept — who help both in the class and virtually, thereby evangelizing and recruiting students and others to join in the effort.
The 17-month pilot project (initially called the Public Policy Initiative, as it focused on that academic discipline) was funded by a grant from the Stanton Foundation, and professors and students at 24 leading U.S. universities participated. In the pilot program, more than 800 students contributed the equivalent of more than 5,800 printed pages of content to Wikipedia. And the contributions were excellent: On average, the quality of articles students worked on improved 64 percent. Research from the pilot program found that students are much more motivated by a Wikipedia assignment than they were by a traditional term paper because it was a useful assignment. Through the Wikipedia Education Program, students have a global audience for their assignment, instead of working on something that will be read only by their professor and never used again. After great successes in the U.S., the program recently expanded into three additional countries: Brazil, Canada, and India.
A key goal is to develop new ways of assessing article quality, including tests of a new tool allowing readers to provide article feedback. Throughout the past academic year, students worked with the blessing of their professors to improve the quality of a wide range of project content, helping us reach by the end of 2010 the milestone 10,000th quality article on Wikipedia.
This development prompted a great deal of press coverage, and appears to represent a turning point in the relationship of the academy and Wikipedia. During the early years, many U.S. educators remained deeply skeptical of the online encyclopedia’s reliability for research and learning purposes. But in recent years, more and more professors have come to the conclusion that their students are going to rely on Wikipedia no matter what, so why not help improve the quality of its entries?
This breakthrough comes as the Foundation extends the lessons of its educational initiatives into a sustained effort to work with academics worldwide to promote collaborative learning models in pursuit of our goal to provide free access to the sum of the world’s knowledge to all.
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