We know that many students are involved in activities alongside their studies such as volunteering, part-time work, and getting involved in the University community.

To help these activities to stand out from the crowd, our University has a new Award for “Digital Volunteering with Wikipedia to sit beside other available Edinburgh Awards– the Edinburgh Award is a programme that allows students to get official recognition for their involvement in extracurricular activities and demonstrate their digital capabilities to employers.

Edinburgh Award participants sat around a boardroom table in the shadow of Edinburgh castle at final showcase event, CC-BY-SA by Ewan McAndrew, University of Edinburgh

Edinburgh Award participants sat around a boardroom table in the shadow of Edinburgh castle at final showcase event, CC-BY-SA by Ewan McAndrew, University of Edinburgh

There are many different types of Edinburgh Award activity students can undertake but Digital Volunteering with Wikipedia focuses on developing 3 Graduate Attributes (e.g. digital literacy, written communication, assertiveness & confidence etc.) over the course of 55-80 hours of work and providing evidence of demonstrable learning, reflection and impact. These hours are staggered over the October to end of March period punctuated by 3 main mandatory “input” sessions.

In the first, Aspiring, in October the students self -assess themselves against the Graduate Attributes and select three to develop as part of the award. They also select a topic area of Wikipedia they wish to improve and submit a 400 word action plan for how they plan to develop their chosen Graduate Attributes and how they’ll deliver impact.

Once they have had training and researched their topic areas, the 2nd Input Session, Developing, in late December, requires them to re-assess if their Graduate Attribute ranking has changed, and submit a completed Fortnightly Log of Activities designed to evidence their work to date and their reflections on how they are progressing towards their personal project goals. We hold fortnightly group research sessions in the library (because not everything is online) to help their research and allow them to edit in  a social and supportive environment where they can ask questions and seek help; both from the Wikimedian in Residence, and from each other. 

Example student project on Francophone Literature, CC-BY-SA by Ewan McAndrew, University of Edinburgh

The final Input Session, Owning, is about coming together to share their project outcomes and reflections as well as ensuring the students get the opportunity to tie all this in with their future goals and how they will communicate about their Edinburgh Award experience to their peers, academic advisors or employers. This session takes place at end of March and their final submissions are an 800 word report or 3-6 minute video presentation reflecting on both their impact achieved and the development achieved in their 3 chosen graduate attributes.

Topics suggested by students to improve online

More interestingly, are the topics the students wanted to write about. Climate change, Covid-19, LGBT History, Black History, Women artists, Women in STEM. Marginalised groups, underrepresented topics, some of the biggest and most pressing challenges in the world today. This shows me that students recognise and are intrinsically motivated by the importance of addressing knowledge gaps and improving the world around them.

Here’s a short video of an example project on LGBTQ+ history and women of the MENA region:

 The final 10

We started in October with a large cohort off 44 interested students but this reduced to 10 by Input 3 but this was to be expected and is in line with other Edinburgh Award programmes similarly asking students to undergo over 55 hours in extracurricular volunteering.

These ten ‘knowledge activist’ heroes have been put forward to achieving the Award this year. 

The projects

  1. Witch hunting: past and present day
  2. Visual culture: Artworks depicting Edinburgh
  3. Francophone literature
  4. Plant pathology
  5. Buddhism and Artificial Intelligence
  6. LGBTQ history and women in the MENA region
  7. Byzantium Greece and Cavafy’s poetry
  8. International development and human rights
  9. History of menstruation
  10. Northumberland Folklore and coverage of Edinburgh related artists, banks, and writers by using museum exhibits 

The outcomes

76,000 words have so far been added to Wikipedia and over 876 references to pages viewed almost 3 million times already! 

41 articles created, 157 improved, 35 images uploaded and articles translated in German, Spanish, Greek, Bulgarian and French including the accused Bavarian witch Anna Maria Schwegelin (translated from German Wikipedia) and Crime of Solidarity (translated from French Wikipedia) which is a concept coined in France by human right’s activists in order to fight against organised illegal immigration networks as well as fight against laws that prevent refuge for refugees.

Reflections on the Edinburgh Award. CC-BY-SA by Ewan McAndrew

Notable new pages also include:

Here’s a short video of an example project on the history of menstruation:

Here’s a short video of an example project on Witch hunting (past and present):

Quotes from the students

“During the Wikipedia project, Critical Thinking skills were crucial to ensure the information presented was accurate, unbiased, and relevant. As the research progressed, I noticed that my skill improved as I had to analyse and evaluate the information gathered. One of the key improvements in the skills was the ability to identify and evaluate different sources of information. Initially, I relied heavily on a few sources for my research, but as the project progressed, I began considering a wider range of sources. I made an effort to evaluate each source based on its credibility, relevance, and objectivity, which helped me to identify and include the most accurate information.”

“I think that I have helped improve information accessibility on Wikipedia, as one of the most widely used free encyclopaedias I have felt it important to fill gaps in information largely concerning the LGBTQ community and women, as both of these areas are often forgotten about. I think having access to marginalised communities stories, achievements and contributions is a really important value, by contributing to these topics I have hopefully made information available to people around the world.”

“Once, I completed my second article I felt more self-assured and assertive on what was appropriate writing to upload onto Wikipedia. I had created an article on one of Cavafy’s poems, which is one of my favourite poems from his anthology. That could’ve also been a contributor to the overall experience too, since producing something which engages with one of your likes makes the activity a little more bearable. As I overcame this barrier, I was able to expand as well as develop my skills by editing as well as creating a lot more articles on Wikipedia. As it stands right now, I have contributed 10k words on Wikipedia. Although the first half of this process was excruciatingly slow, after overcoming my fears and worries I was keener with contributing on Wikipedia and practically spent most days changing, improving, or producing articles. ”

“Being a part of writing communities like Wikipedia has helped me to improve not only my writing but also my editing and proofreading skills. I have learned to use plain language, avoid jargon and technical terms, and organise information logically and coherently, thanks to Wikipedia’s style guidelines.”

“Doing this award has helped me make significant progress made on improving my independent research skills. For example, I think that over the course of my project, I have become better at picking out relevant information from very long sources and not spending too much time reading and fussing over smaller less significant details. In addition, I am more proficient at finding sources through Google Scholar and DiscoverEd and have also learnt where to look when struggling to find more information about a topic e.g. using good quality sources referenced in the bibliographies of journals and books I had already found to help grow my source lists.”

“Overall, my confidence to make bolder edits and create quality articles on Wikipedia has grown significantly since I started my project and I now feel that I can have a more significant and active presence on the site. Editing and writing articles about witch-hunting has been incredibly enlightening and rewarding and I want to continue to edit about this important topic after I finish the award.”

“My digital literacy skills have greatly improved compared with when I started my Wikipedia research project. Since the project involved extensive online research, it required me to engage with a wide range of digital tools and technologies. Through this process, I have developed proficiency in various areas of digital literacy, such as information literacy, media literacy, and digital communication.”

“My Wikipedia project on the history of menstruation has had a positive impact on others in several ways. Firstly, the project has helped raise awareness and understanding of an often-overlooked aspect of women’s health and history. By providing accurate and accessible information on the history of menstruation, the project has helped to demystify a topic that has long been stigmatized and taboo. I corrected a key part of the history of menstrual cups, which were first patented in the US in 1867, whereas before the article only included that the first patent for a commercial cup was in 1937. My article on Menstruation and humoral medicine has filled a gap in the content on Wikipedia, and highlighted the ambiguities in the ways that people viewed menstruation in the early modern period.”

“I wrote an article on Mary Marjory MacDonald, and significantly edited articles on Edwin Chiloba and the Signares. Mary was nicknamed ‘the Scottish Queen of Thieves’, and I believe it is important to represent more women on Wikipedia, especially figures who do not fit into traditional gender roles. This is also the case for the Signares, who were a group of women who acquired wealth and power in colonial Senegal. In addition, representing African LGBTQ+ activists such as Edwin Chiloba is important, since they are a group often neglected on Wikipedia.”

“I decided to focus on creating new pages to maximise my impact as some very important parts of the history of Francophone literature were missing, such as The Colonial System Unveiled, one of the earliest critiques of colonialism, which is unfortunately not recognised widely enough as a significant historical anticolonial text. I also decided to emphasise the contributions of women to Francophone Caribbean and African writing, as they can be overlooked in this area.”

“I hope that my contributions can help other students like me, such as those studying French or taking the course that inspired me to pursue this project. On a wider level, I also think my project can help increase the awareness of Francophone literature among English speakers. I believe it is very much underappreciated and people do not realise how much influence Francophone African and Caribbean thought have had on literary criticism even in an Anglophone context.”

Here’s a short video of an example project on improving topic coverage of Francophone literature:

Here’s a short video of an example project on improving topic coverage of artworks depicting Edinburgh:

In conclusion

Example student project researching artists,writers and banks related to Edinburgh. CC-BY-SA by Ewan McAndrew, University of Edinburgh

There are no stars so lovely as Edinburgh street lamps“.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s words (below) are inscribed in Makar’s Court, Edinburgh. In taking this photo and sharing it openly to Wikimedia Commons and inserting it into the Makar’s Court page, the Edinburgh Award student has brought these words to my attention and helped raise my awareness that there are clearly other lovely stars in Edinburgh. Ten student stars in particular. And I have told them that they should all be enormously proud of their achievements this year.

Inscription of Robert Louis Stevenson quote in Makars’ Court, CC-BY-SA by Erisagal via Wikimedia Commons

One final student project!

Here’s a short video of an example project on improving topic coverage of plant pathology on Wikipedia: