Delighted that we won in the 2019 Herald Higher Education Awards!
This nomination for innovative use of technology focuses of the development of digital literacy skills at University of Edinburgh through our partnership with Wikimedia UK. Project achievements have gone far beyond what might have been expected and has shown impact and reach which is unique and well worth celebrating. This work involves staff and student across the entire university and reaches out to members of the public, local community and researchers as active participants in this new area of reputation, reach, digital and data literacy and knowledge sharing.
Wikipedia is simply one of the largest websites in the world. It is visited by tens of millions of people every day as a source of information. The quality and reliability of the information in Wikipedia relies on volunteers putting information there to be discovered and used. As the site grows, so the demand for contributions grows and the need for that community of editors to be one of knowledgeable, critical experts in their field increases. We have transformed 600 students, 400 staff and 250members of the public from being passive readers and consumers of Wikipedia information to being active, engaged contributors. The result of this is that our community is more engaged with knowledge creation online and readers all over the world benefit from our research, teaching and collections.
At every turn the mention of Wikipedia has been met with scepticism. Nonetheless the digital skill team have persisted in helping all of us see how contributing to sharing information can bring benefits for the university in terms of discovery, education, equality, outreach and excellence. We have run more than 50 skills training events each year. The skills needed by those contributing to Wikipedia are the same student digital literacy skills which a degree at University of Edinburgh is designed to develop: Those of critical reading, summarising, paraphrasing, original writing, referencing, citing, publishing, data handing, reviewing and understanding your audience. In this era of fake news it has never been more important that our students understand how information is published, shared, fact-checked and contested online.
This work towards getting all students and staff in the university to be active contributors is unique in the sector. Edinburgh staff and students have created 476 new articles, in a variety of languages on a huge range of topics and significantly improved or translated 1950 more. These articles have been consumed by millions of readers. Images released from our archive collections and added to Wikipedia have now been viewed 28,755,106 times. All editors are supported to understand the impact and reach of their work, to find the analytics and reports which show how their contribution is immediately useful to a wide range of audiences.
This project represents a clear statement by the University that we want to enable our staff and students to engage in becoming active citizens in the digital world:
Curriculum development: We have been working with academic colleagues to embed data literacy tasks into the curriculum. Courses which now include a Wikipedia assignment include: World Christianity MSc, Translation Studies MSc, History MSc (Online), Global Health MSc, Digital Sociology MSc, Data Science for Design MSc, Language Teaching MSc, Psychology in Action MSc, Digital Education MSc, Public Health MSc and Reproductive Biology Honours. Each of these activities bring benefits to the students who learn new skills and have immediate public impact. For example:
- Global Health students add 180-200 words to a Global Health related article. 31 student editors added 7,500 words to 18 articles. Their edits to the Wikipedia page on obesity are viewed on average 3,000 times per day.
- A Reproductive Biology student’s new article on high-grade serous carcinoma, one of the most common forms of ovarian cancer includes 60 references and diagrams and has been viewed over 60,000 times since September 2016.
- MSc in Translation Studies students translate 4,000 words on a topic of their own choosing. 30 students each year translate articles from English to Arabic, Chinese, French, Greek, Turkish, Japanese and from Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and Norwegian into English. They wrote with a potential global audience in mind and Wikipedia editors all over the world scrutinise their work.
Community engagement, equality and inclusion: We work with students to target areas of inclusion. The Wellcome Kings and UnCoverEd groups have added biographies of notable LGBT+ and BAME individuals missing from Wikipedia and we organise high profile events for Black History Month, Ada Lovelace Day and International Women’s Day. An event focusing on cultural representations of mental health during Student Wellbeing Week 2018 saw 33 articles updated to ensure that when students and the public search for information about mental health the information they find will be of a higher equality than it was before.
Wikipedia is one of the world’s largest information and knowledge sharing websites, and University of Edinburgh is now the university with the highest level of contribution and engagement to that endeavour. We hope that this project can be seen as a model for other universities to follow as a way to share the knowledge we create in universities via the most public and open of platforms.
And we hope we will win. Obv.