A University of Utah professor is ditching the end-of-semester term paper and instead assigning her students the task of creating a Wikipedia article to show what they’ve learned from the course. Following the Wikipedia United States Education Program model, Professor of Economics Günseli Berik says she’s working to improve the scholarly content found on the popular online resource.
“As we all use it on a daily basis we find a lot of gaps and some coverage that doesn’t strike us as very strong coverage. So if our students are the contributors we may improve the quality of the knowledge out there,” she says.
Last spring, Berik’s Gender and Development graduate students contributed 15 new articles, covering an array of topics from women’s education in Pakistan to health in Uganda. She says one of her goals is to increase the number of women authors contributing to Wikipedia, as well as expand the site’s gender and race-related articles.
“Our received knowledge is mostly produced by men and reflect the experiences of men, so it would be good to have various vantage points, not just gender, but also racial, and other differences reflected in the knowledge we accumulate,” she says.
Berik says she will be using this assignment in the fall semester in a Ph.D. labor and gender course.
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I am afraid it is a bad idea. Wikipedia is addictive and as any other addiction is very unhealthy for young people.
On the contrary, it sounds a excellent idea: the students get a real experience of publication, not just writing something that will be thrown away at the end of the course). The professor gets to see the students take on a really challenging project, with elements of collaboration and review, and where the student contributors might have to defend their writing to questions from a stranger. Wikipedia gets more coverage and balance. The public get better informed.
Yes, Wikipedia editing can become addictive if you enjoy learning and sharing that knowledge with other people for free. Compared against the other things young people can get addicted to, that sounds like a very good thing.