Wikipedia in Medical curriculum: where science communication meets digital skills training

3 Mar

Dr Chris Harlow (Programme Organiser Reproductive Biology Honours) and MRC Career Development Research Fellow Dr Erin Greaves integrate Wikipedia publishing and editing into Reproductive Biology Honours Semester One curriculum and the outcome was a first-rate entry of a previously unpublished medical term: neuroangiogenesis.

This activity successfully delivered on several agendas: integrating digital literacies training and application into curriculum to support skills for academic outcomes and life-long learning; and, developing students as online, collaborative writers, and building skills for science communication. The project allowed students and staff to explore the affordances of virtual (online) spaces for public engagement. Through publishing collaboratively via Open Education repositories like Wikipedia, students and staff alike can contribute to the University’s knowledge exchange and educational impact agenda.

In two three hour lessons Honours students were able to collect enough material on neuroangiogenesis through diligent use of literature searching to then go on and collaboratively build a substantive, accurate and informative Wikipedia entry, generating a modest 5 hits per day since publication.

A team of staff made the outcome possible: Learning Teaching and Web Services Student Engagement Officer, Eugenia Twomey, Museums Galleries Scotland Wikimedian in Residence Sara Thomas, Ally Crockford (Wikimedia UK) and Sheila Fisken, Medical Librarian were on hand to support the delivery which took place at a teaching studio the King’s Buildings (Week One) and a computer laboratory at Little France (Week Two).

Feedback from students and staff at the conclusion of the project was overwhelming positive:

Student Felicity Robinson said, “[I was] amazed to learn that there was a topic that existed that didn’t already have a Wikipedia page!

Before this I didn’t fully appreciate before how much work goes into producing and maintaining a Wikipedia article. I have always been slightly wary of using Wikipedia but having seen how much effort goes into ensuring nearly all of the information on their is correct I will definitely use it as a starting point for further research projects in the future. I now feel very comfortable putting together further Wikipedia pages in future should I find a topic that does not already have a page”.

Siobhan Rice also enjoyed the session, “I gained new skills in creating and formatting a [Wikipedia] webpage which will be extremely useful going forward. Our Wikimedian, Sara, was encouraging, enthusiastic and made the whole learning process very fun. I now have the confidence to edit Wikipedia articles and do my part to improve this useful resource”.

Dr Harlow felt the collaborative nature of engaging with Wikipedia to be a highly valuable experience, “Working with colleagues from different disciplines, I found the process of introducing the whole Honours class to a range of literature searching tools, setting them specific tasks to collect information for the Wikipedia page, and then engaging a small group of students to help build the Wikipedia page a truly inspiring activity. To see the end product evolve on the screen in front of me was very exciting!”

The success of this project indicates how this type of interactive group work, with a public engagement message, lends itself to incorporation into the curriculum across all disciplines.

Requirements for staffing include a Librarian to support research skills and a Wikimedian to provide Wikipedia publishing training.

Venues should be equipped with learning technology for training purposes and should support students with personal computers.

This type of coursework can be applied to all subjects interested in public engagement and knowledge transaction. Wikipedia has a particular need for discipline specific communication (ie. science, medicine) to explore complex theory and concepts through accessible language.

For support on delivering your own wikipedia integrated curriculum, or for more information, get in touch with our Wikimedia in Residence Ewan McAndrew (Ewan.McAndrew@ed.ac.uk).

 

Links:

Neuroangiogenesis https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroangiogenesis

Wikipedia’s Five Pillars https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Five_pillars

Wikipedia Manual of Style https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style