Wikipedia:Education noticeboard

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Welcome to the education noticeboard
Purpose of this page Using this page

This page is for discussion of items that relate to student assignments and the Wikipedia Education Program. Please feel free to post, whether you're from a class, a potential class, or if you're a Wikipedia editor.

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Of course, we should remain civil towards all participants and assume good faith.

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Managing threads

By default, threads will be automatically archived by a bot after 30 days of inactivity. If you'd like to make sure a thread does not get archived, use {{Do not archive until}} at the top of the section. Use {{User:ClueBot III/ArchiveNow}} within a section to have it archived (more or less) immediately. A brief Archives page lists them with the years in which those now inactive discussions took place.

A proposal to upgrade user warning template Uw-copyright-new[edit]

For those interested in copyright issues, the single-use warning template {{Uw-copyright-new}} has long been available for use on user talk pages to provide students with some basic info on Wikipedia copyright policy in a bulleted message format. A proposal is outstanding at this discussion which would upgrade this template to provide conditional bolding based on some new parameters. In addition, this template has recently been upgraded to mention "Wiki Ed content expert" (it used to say, "campus ambassador"). See example #5 at Template:Uw-copyright-new/sandbox/doc#Examples for an example which may be of interest to editors here. Your feedback would be welcome at Template talk:Uw-copyright-new#Adding bold style to bullet items or text. Thanks, Mathglot (talk) 09:48, 8 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The upgrade in functionality for optional bold styling has now been released. See the doc page for details. Thanks, Mathglot (talk) 23:40, 8 November 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Organometallic drafts[edit]

Within the past week I have seen drafts on Draft: Organomagnesium and Draft: Organoberyllium submitted by different editors. My first guess, until looking at the histories, was that they were submitted by the same person. For the information of non-chemists, magnesium is immediately below beryllium in the periodic table, making them closely related chemically. So my question is whether there is a class project. I have asked both authors. If this is a class project, we would like to know who the instructor is, and would like to know whether they would like assistance or guidance. I don't see anything "wrong" with either draft. Robert McClenon (talk) 18:05, 8 November 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It's not a course I'm aware of, but if you find more information, let me know and we can reach out to the instructor to get them more support! --LiAnna (Wiki Ed) (talk) 18:22, 8 November 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
User:Jtn0925 says that it is a class project: directed by Professor Robert Gilliard. That is all I know. I don't know if I will be seeing Organocalcium and Organostrontium. Robert McClenon (talk) 18:15, 9 November 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Hello, yes this is a class project for Main Group Chemistry. We are given an assignment to talk about a certain topic and post it on wikipedia. The project/course should end by the middle of December if you like to have clarification. Jtn0925 (talk) 18:20, 9 November 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks! We'll reach out to the professor, and @Jtn0925:, feel free to encourage your instructor to work with us: --LiAnna (Wiki Ed) (talk) 20:55, 9 November 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Really problematic actions by students in Traditional Chinese Medicine class[edit]


I have alerted the instructor, the WikiEd expert, and I have put the class up for deletion. This is pretty bad. The students keep adding poorly sourced content in violation of WP:MEDRS and WP:FRINGE and it does not seem that the instructor was aware that these guidelines needed to be adhered to.

jps (talk) 03:36, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I've closed the MfD for the class, as that is not going to help address the issue here because the class is not dependent on the page's existence. Discussion as to the MEDRS issues at hand can continue here. signed, Rosguill talk 03:49, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
How do we stop a class when something like this happens? jps (talk) 03:51, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Getting in touch with the Wiki Ed coordinator and instructor is a good first step you've already done; while we're waiting for them to respond, you can make your case regarding problematic edits and move towards building a consensus around the degree to which they are problematic, as well as what remedies are appropriate. You can also respond to the edits themselves as you would to any other editor. signed, Rosguill talk 04:11, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'd like to reiterate what you said in the MfD discussion: what's important here is that there needs to be a clear process to say that a Wiki Ed class is purely detrimental to the encyclopedia and that the precedent set for this sort of thing is important. Thebiguglyalien (talk) 04:11, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Looking at the course description for this current term and the prior term it was taught, the course's goal, Students are expected to pick an organism used in TCM herbal medicine and edit (or create) a Wikipedia article on this organism to provide information on its historical use. could be beneficial to the encyclopedia, provided that the students are properly briefed on how to cite medical claims and distinguish medical advice from historical description. The issue at hand is that students have either not received this instruction or have failed to apply it. signed, Rosguill talk 04:19, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I hope that this is the case, but the discussion on the instructor's talk page suggests that he wishes to include alternative medicine as a legitimate practice on Wikipedia. That thread is what convinced me that the class is detrimental. Thebiguglyalien (talk) 04:31, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Student editors of Siena College are undergraduates who are not at a level of knowledge about TCM, human diseases, plant chemicals and their actions, and WP:MEDRS to competently contribute, WP:CIR. The course instructor could help students relate TCM practices to plants (probably too narrow for a course), but interpreting anti-disease effects in humans is far beyond the capability of undergraduate students in a WikiEd course. Meanwhile, the students are editing the health effects sections of numerous articles, providing inaccurate content and weak, non-MEDRS sources that are significantly disruptive, and require considerable monitoring and repair by experienced medical editors to restore. Zefr (talk) 05:13, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I absolutely would love it if a group of competent editors could properly contextualize TCM claims in Wikipedia. But this is very difficult because most sources that portend to do that are absolutely abysmal and parochial and completely unreliable even as they appear to be reliable superficially. Look at the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Papers published there make claims that end up as dead ends about what the precise arguments are when it comes to various plant uses. The fact of the matter is that there is no one standard use of any plant that has been rigorously identified because there is no corpus of right/wrong approaches in TCM as claims of efficacy are all decided upon by practitioners instead of some governing body or standard authority or ideal type. Because there have not been reliable summaries of which claims are more generally attested to than others, and a lot of the arguments that some plant or another were used for one purpose or another are sourced so weakly, it ends up begging the question "who makes this claim?" This seemed to be totally absent in any contribution coming from this class. jps (talk) 09:04, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

How do we push a "stop button" when something like this happens? I understand that WP:NODEADLINE might apply, and thankfully the damage seems somewhat contained, but this felt a bit like being alerted to a series of small fires and, on going around putting them out, you found out that the team of petty arsonists was still active even as you were sounding the alarm. How do we stop this sort of thing? It can't just be, "get consensus". We need a process that can move to quickly pull the plug.

jps (talk) 09:09, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I completely agree with jps and Zefr. Although the goal of recruiting more editors from the younger generation is a worthy one, it's counterproductive to do this without regard to WP:CIR. Hardly any of the student edits I've seen on the articles I watchlist have been improvements. They're typically poorly written, poorly sourced, and either off topic or undue. It's not the students' fault that they lack competence. The problem is that the instructors are failing to do their job of overseeing what the students are doing and educating them about how to edit competently. At U.S. colleges instructors look good if they can say that their students are contributing to Wikipedia, so there's a strong incentive to direct student editing - but little incentive to do the hard work of teaching them how to do it properly. It's up to us to provide that incentive.

Another problem is that instructors often want students to tackle topics that are far too sophisticated for them. They should start them out on something they can understand well, like popular culture pages or maybe their own college's page. Instead, they choose medical topics, scholarly topics, and highly contentious social topics. Unless this is fixed, it'll continue to be a net drain on the encyclopedia.

There could be a procedure whereby any editor can directly warn an instructor if their students are repeatedly making incompetent edits or responding badly when those edits are reverted. If the instructor doesn't correct that, either by educating the students or by redirecting them to simpler topics, then the matter can go to some noticeboard that would have the authority to impose a ban on the class and instructor if consensus supports a ban. NightHeron (talk) 10:21, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This class should not have been approved[edit]

I can understand that when setting up such classes for the first time, it may not have been appreciated that this would have been a problem, but I'm sad to report that this problem could have been easily foreseen. Two years ago the same class ran with fewer students: Wikipedia:Wiki_Ed/Siena_College/Traditional_Chinese_Medicine_(Fall_2020) Note that the contributions from that class were equally as problematic:

These diffs include literally every student in the class who made a mainspace contribution. Given the bad outcomes from the first time this class ran, why was it allowed to run again?

jps (talk) 10:50, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@ජපස Yes, you're correct - it shouldn't have been approved without further communication. The 2020 class was approved with the understanding that their work would stay in sandboxes until it was approved (an experiment we were trying after, well, this happened). My plan to look carefully at what they'd done never happened (it was a chaotic term) and the class ended up being closed by someone unfamiliar with the issues around Fringe topics. Had I done what I wanted to do, there would have been a flag on the course record telling Helaine to have a conversation with the instructor about sourcing and the MEDRS/Fringe issues before running the class. I apologise for that. Ian (Wiki Ed) (talk) 14:28, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I don't know where to put this now, with the subsection, so I'll just treat this as the bottom of the thread.
Wiki Ed staff work during the week. I presume you'll see a response soon. There's no "stop button" because what would that even mean? Blocking 27 students from editing, half of which haven't even made any edits yet? Wiki Ed has requested that some classes stop editing in the past, but they have no authority over a professor, either. Since, with a class, everybody tends to want to get it right, I tend to urge people to give them a few days to learn/communicate/set boundaries. It would be wise for the professor to ask students to stop making edits until they've had a chance to go over some things. If specific students continue to add inappropriate information after they've been instructed otherwise, we just have to treat them like any other editor who's adding information that isn't up to standard.
@Sdeyrup: This isn't a standard Wikipedia welcoming committee. :) TCM is an extremely hard subject to edit. I used to work with a lot of classes covering subjects ranging from racism and covid to abortion, and even I would be reluctant to encourage someone to work on TCM topics. It's not just because of the specific policies affecting its inclusion in articles, and the tricky balance between TCM-as-medicine vs. TCM-as-culture vs. TCM-as-history, but because of a long history of hundreds/thousands of people coming to Wikipedia to promote or otherwise add problematic claims about it. It's made some of our science/medicine editors rather sensitized to the subject, and I get why a class focused on it (even if students did everything right) might put folks on high alert. This is not something you could've known beforehand. I have two recommendations that I think would put minds at ease: first, and most importantly, have students work in sandboxes, but tell them not to move the content into articles for now. That takes away the urgency you may be seeing in comments here. Perhaps Wiki Ed staff or other Wikipedians can take a look at the contributions first, and then, once they're up to snuff, they can be moved into articles. Second, once the course is over (or in the meantime), have a go at editing some of the articles. I know from experience that during a class there's some pressure on the professor to do it right, but again, even the foremost experts would have a challenging time with this subject on Wikipedia. Give it a go after the class is over. Wiki Ed are extremely helpful, but digging in yourself does help when advising students down the road. FWIW. — Rhododendrites talk \\ 13:12, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Thank you for the kind, thoughtful remarks, Rhododendrites. It seems clear that I shouldn't run this project again with future classes based on the overall responses above. Luckily, the course ends in a week, so this should settle things down. I do worry about the state of Wikipedia to some extent when people who are editing science topics say things like, "If herbs had scientific evidence of affecting diseases, the extracts and processes would be patented and called prescription drugs", since this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how science works. It assumes a static nature of science, where everything that will be known/discovered already has been. Essentially, this viewpoint seems to indicate that there can never be new drugs in the future, or that drugs can't come from natural sources (also incorrect, see Anyway, I appreciate you providing me with the important context. I know at least understand why the above editors were acting in such an aggressive, and, in some cases frankly rude, way to an educator who followed the Wiki Ed guidelines and suggestions. Thanks again. Sdeyrup (talk) 14:11, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
There is probably some sort of way one could set up a compendium of every use for plants ever suggested. This really cannot be Wikipedia, however, because we have absolutely no way to vet which sources are reasonable and which are not. I am sure that individual researchers who took on this task would have their own thresholds, but Wikipedia is absolutely forbidden from doing this sort of thing. The only thing we can do is follow reliable sources and the reliable sources for the uses of plants in traditional medicine would necessarily be sources that were very careful in their attribution and scope. The sad fact is that given the way alternative medicine is shamelessly promoted as a money-making and anti-empirical activity, it is very difficult to find good sources on these subjects. That's why from a WP:FRINGE perspective we rely on WP:FRIND. WP:MEDRS is even more conservative due to the fact that it is so easy to find preliminary studies out there saying just about anything. Our only hope in a collaboration that ostensibly accepts all comers is to be downright rude when it comes to evaluating sources. To do otherwise invites content that varies from slanted to outright wrong. Lacking an editorial board who can separate the wheat from the chaff, we are left with a rigid and almost sneering view of the status quo as the only appropriate approach for us to take. This is almost certainly not ideal, but until an alternative can be found that does not suffer fools gladly, I'm afraid that is what we as a community has decided we need to be stuck with.
I have no doubt that there is a way to write certain facts about TCM that could be included in our pages. No doubt that ginseng, for example, is cultivated almost exclusively because of TCM. But it is very delicate to write about that because there really is scant evidence that ginseng has any efficacy for anything in spite of passioned claims to the contrary by TCM practitioners. We have no evidence that qi exists, but appeals to that idea are used all the time in arguing for the efficacy of this or that substance in the context of TCM. Wikipedia is not set-up to referee this at the level of the organism and so we demand some serious oomph when it comes to sourcing about such. This is no easy task. It sometimes may even end up that a desired "fact" really cannot find a good home at all at this website.
There might be other websites out there which could be useful. Maybe even some WMF projects that would lend themselves to keeping, for example, narrative accounts that you personally thought were worth bundling. But Wikipedia as a first-stop for internet-based research really can't be such a venue, I'm afraid.
jps (talk) 17:06, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Sdeyrup, I just emailed you to set up a time to speak ASAP. I think it's critical that we confer about what's going on right away. As I mentioned in my email, I think it would be prudent to ask your students to stop editing in main space for the time being until we can confer about the situation. Thanks to everyone involved here.Helaine (Wiki Ed) (talk) 18:00, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Update: Sdeyrup and I just talked. He has cancelled the assignment and asked his students to stop editing right away. As Ian mentioned, this class was approved due to some internal errors on our part, and we're going to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again. Thank you again to all involved.Helaine (Wiki Ed) (talk) 19:58, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks to the Wiki Ed staff for getting the situation under control. Since editors asked about a (non-existent) "stop button", I want to point out that reverting is always OK. One should never (well, unless there's something like 1RR going on, which means that it's a topic that students should never be allowed anywhere near) hesitate to wholesale rollback student edits. (After all, getting reverted is part of learning what it's like to edit Wikipedia.) But another thing, speaking of topics that students should not be allowed near. The content here falls within the scope of "Complementary and Alternative Medicine", and that's a topic area where ArbCom has already enabled discretionary sanctions: [5]. I feel like I'm a broken record on this, but I wish Wiki Ed would steer classes away from any topic that is subject to DS. I watchlist the GMO area, and there's a class working in that topic now. I recently fixed this near-illiterate contribution: [6], and I gave standard DS alerts to two of the students in that class. --Tryptofish (talk) 20:47, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Just as general's not fair to students or to the Wikipedia community to give them assignments in DS areas or other areas where extra caution is merited (biographies of living people, for example, or medicine). Those areas are all under special rules for good reason, and those rules can be confusing even to veteran editors, but we're just throwing the students into the metaphorical deep end when we allow students to edit mainspace in those areas. GeneralNotability (talk) 20:51, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Tryptofish @GeneralNotability: We have a system for steering student editors away from discretionary sanctions topics. However, it relies on Category:Wikipedia_pages_under_discretionary_sanctions, so it will miss things like Panax ginseng (and probably most GMO topics as well, in the case of individual species).--Sage (Wiki Ed) (talk) 20:58, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks, Sage, but the two GMO-related pages (Glyphosate and Glyphosate-based herbicides) are both on that list. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:02, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Also, part of the problem is that DS applies to a topic as a whole, not just to the set of pages tagged as having that DS. It's also possible for just part of a page to fall under sanctions (you would not believe how much dispute there is over the origins of hummus - and that particular dispute is in the Israel/Palestine conflict topic area). This is why the class's topic needs to be evaluated by someone with experience so that potential issues can be identified early; a class on traditional medicine is likely to run into the medicine topic area (subject to WP:MEDRS) and complementary/alternative medicine (a DS area) and so needs to tread very lightly, while a class on 17th century Mongolian poetry (as a made-up example) would be a lot safer. In the future, I'm happy to be a resource to answer questions or provide feedback if that would help you all. GeneralNotability (talk) 21:11, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Indeed. The system did create alerts for those two articles, and we should have steered the students toward different articles. The DS alerts often aren't relevant to the particular slice of a DS topic that applies to a given article (which is why we don't automatically send a warning message to the instructor and/or students), but as Ian told me in our work chat just now, "Glyphosate is a bit like Boba - we should always steer students away". Sage (Wiki Ed) (talk) 21:44, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
And be cautious about drinking either one of them. Face-wink.svg --Tryptofish (talk) 21:47, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Thanks to all. To be clear, I think the WikiEdu model is great and I know y'all are understaffed and overworked. I consider this an edge case more than an indicator. If we can come up with the right way to approach these kinds of issues at this still fairly nascent level, I'm sure it will forestall greater problems in the future. Also, thanks to User:Zefr and User:Peter coxhead who have put the bee in my bonnet that there ought to be an essay/guideline called WP:ETHNOBOTANY. Anyone know any ethnobotanists who are Wikipedians? jps (talk) 21:57, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@ජපස That's an interesting idea. I'm not an ethnobotanist, but I'd call myself ethnobotany-adjacent (not limited to the 8 or so years I taught economic botany). Might be something to consider doing on in my volunteer capacity. Ian (Wiki Ed) (talk) 22:38, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'm more than ethnobotany-adjacent, but my professional work isn't primarily ethnobotany per se. I don't think there are any other active Wikipedians who are really ethnobotanists (there is one editor with fairly low activity who is probably an ethnobotanist; if they are who I think they are, they have some COI-issues). After many years editing Wikipedia, I'm still not sure if editors who are concerned with MEDRS want to require a MEDRS-compliant source to explain why a plant has the common name "wormwood", or if a regular dictionary will suffice for that (and I'm not sure exactly how Wikipedia should phrase discussion of a plant's common name that is based upon a medical/ethnobotanical use). Plantdrew (talk) 22:49, 6 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
A reasonably good rule of thumb about when MEDRS does or does not apply is whether the content could potentially affect how a reader would think about their own medical choices. So, the name of a plant being wormwood does not fall under MEDRS. The plant being grown in certain ethnobotanical traditions does not fall under MEDRS. That those traditions have historically ascribed a medicinal property to that plant does not fall under MEDRS, but whether there is any validity to that assertion of medicinal actions does fall under MEDRS. And yes, I know that that last sentence spans a gray area. When in doubt, if a reader might think that the plant has a medicinal property, then err on the side of requiring MEDRS. --Tryptofish (talk) 23:16, 6 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

List of articles and editors[edit]

I'm interested in running some quarry queries to obtain some statistics on the impact of WikiEd. Are there lists anywhere that store articles that have been contributed to as part of WikiEd and editors that have contributed as part of WikiEd? BilledMammal (talk) 22:06, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

For editors, see Category:Wiki Education student editors. For articles, you can get data one term at a time with pages like, but I'm not aware of anything that aggregates across terms. * Pppery * it has begun... 22:17, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@BilledMammal All the data since here (though the older data - pre 2015 - is incomplete because of the way things worked in the old days). You'd need to filter it to just limit things to Fall 20xx, Spring 20xx and Summer 20xx, otherwise you'll end up with non-student work and some amount of duplication. There's API access as well, but all I know about APIs is how to spell them. Ian (Wiki Ed) (talk) 22:31, 5 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]