Wikipedia:Education program/FAQ

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Here is a page directed toward educators who may be interested in or planning to use Wikipedia as a teaching tool. Ambassadors, volunteers, and other editors should feel encouraged to add questions/edit the answers.

Questions about the Wikipedia Education Program[edit]

How did the Education Program get started?[edit]

The Wikipedia Education Program is an expansion of the Public Policy Initiative. In 2010, the Wikimedia Foundation received a grant to pilot a small university program, focusing specifically on improving the content of the English Wikipedia for the topic area of United States Public Policy. For the pilot program, we developed a plan for assistance to professors who wanted to use Wikipedia in their university classrooms: (1) support materials for teaching, including a sample syllabus, sample assignments, screencast videos, and handouts for students; (2) Campus Ambassadors, who are trained to work in the classroom to teach students how to edit Wikipedia; and (3) Online Ambassadors, experienced Wikipedians with a track record of helping newcomers who will support students online when questions arise.

How many classes have participated in Education Program in the United States and Canada?[edit]

Professors started working with the Education Program to implement Wikipedia in the classroom four terms ago, during the pilot phase, known as the Public Policy Initiative. Since that time, the Education Program in the United States and Canada have supported almost 300 classes with our resources, training, and Ambassadors. Each term, volunteers and staff coordinating the program learn better ways to support both academia and Wikipedia, the stakeholders impacted most when students add content as an assignment.

What is a Campus Ambassador?[edit]

A Campus Ambassador (CA) is a volunteer who can work with you and your students in-person. They answer questions for your students and serve as one of the liaisons with the online community of editors. Here are some of the various roles CAs can play:

What is an Online Ambassador?[edit]

An Online Ambassador (OA) is a volunteer who is an experienced Wikipedia editor. S/he knows the ins and outs of wiki markup, copyright laws, core policies, and all of the things that help your students benefit the most from working on Wikipedia. Your students can seek help from OAs via the education noticeboard or on a specific OA's talk page. You may ask an OA to work with your students in the following ways:

What do professors have to say about their experiences with the program?[edit]

Here are some blog posts written by our professors and Ambassadors about the student experience:

What do students have to say about their experiences with the program?[edit]

Questions about participating in the Wikipedia Education Program[edit]

Why do I need to complete the online orientation for professors?[edit]

We've put a lot of work into creating this orientation, as a lot of professors have noted at the end of the term that they would like more information about what it means to edit Wikipedia. The orientation reviews the basics of Wikipedia policies and best practices, so you'll be familiar with the benefits and challenges your students may face. It also walks you through an extensive Wikipedia assignment, so you can get an idea of how other professors have incorporated the Education Program into the classroom.

There's not currently an active Campus Ambassador at my university. Can I still join the Education Program?[edit]

Now that we've created online orientation for Ambassadors, we have the capacity to expand the Campus Ambassador program at a much faster rate. Rather than finding a Campus Ambassador who is already trained, you can (and should!) recruit a Teaching Assistant, faculty member, graduate student, or even an undergraduate student to serve in this role for your class. This recruited volunteer will still need to complete the online orientation that all Ambassadors complete and commit to your class for the full term. Some recommended faculty positions on your campus that are a good fit with this program: university librarians, Teaching and Learning Center staff, Instructional Design professionals, faculty in the writing center, etc..

I want my students to write a typical persuasive essay, but I like the idea of using Wikipedia. What can I do?[edit]

Persuasive writing does not belong on Wikipedia. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, which means only facts should be included, not arguments or thesis statements. One of the challenges for students is learning how to conceptualize their research in a neutral way, but this is also one of the biggest benefits. One of the things you should learn from the case studies portal is that the Wikipedia assignment does not have to be your only assignment! If you really want your students to work on Wikipedia, you'll need to choose an assignment that does not encourage (and even restricts) writing persuasively.

I will be teaching a class of 100 students. Is the Wikipedia assignment appropriate for me?[edit]

One of the biggest challenges with such a big class will be monitoring their work and providing feedback. This new assignment for your students will likely take more of your time to provide help and feedback to them, and you're a busy person. Though, of course, some larger classes can certainly add good content to Wikipedia and have a good experience, history points to this fitting better with smaller classes. However, a lot of professors offer the Wikipedia assignment as an alternate, optional, extracurricular, or even a "first come, first serve" assignment. So long as those editing Wikipedia will still get to interact with you and your Ambassadors, the size of the class is not necessarily a factor as to whether you'll be successful.

Questions about using Wikipedia as a teaching tool[edit]

Why should I replace a traditional assignment with a Wikipedia one?[edit]

Our past professors have indicated a lot of reasons for participating in the program, and some of them might ring true for you, too. Perhaps you want to be on the cutting edge of using technology in the classroom, or maybe you're interested in improving your students' writing, research, collaboration, or media literacy skills. A lot of students like that the Wikipedia assignment is "published", rather than a throw-away assignment that only the professor sees. Some professors have even argued that it's their civic duty to enable their students to give the world access to the wealth of information and research often available only in higher education.

How do I prevent some of the challenges students face while editing Wikipedia?[edit]

The program is young, and we're still learning, but now we have an outline of some great assignment types. We know writing for an encyclopedia is often a completely new phenomenon for students who are trained to take a stance and persuade an audience. We know students rarely learn about online copyright laws. We also know the collaborative nature and wide audience of Wikipedia articles leads students to defend their research and learn how to extract neutral, factual information from secondary sources.

Can I still teach with Wikipedia even if you don't have the resources to support my class?[edit]

Professors have been teaching with Wikipedia long before the Education Program existed. In fact, some of these professors even inspired the program. Wikipedia is the encyclopedia anyone can edit, so of course you can still use it as a teaching tool in your class. However, this program exists to support students, as our resources, trained Ambassadors, and expertise can make the difference between students embracing the assignment or struggling with it. If the question of your participation is more of a "program fit" problem, we highly suggest you heed our Ambassadors' advice and adjust your assignment according to our feedback. We are in this to benefit not only Wikipedia but also professors and students, and we are committed to helping everyone involved enjoy this as a positive learning experience.