The following post was co-written by Stephanie ‘Charlie’ Farley and Lorna Campbell who work at the University of Edinburgh’s Open Education Resources (OER) Service. It was presented by Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, at the Repository Fringe Conference 2018 held on 2nd & 3rd July 2018 at the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
Open.Ed – OER & Open Knowledge at the University of Edinburgh
by Charlie Farley & Lorna M. Campbell
The University of Edinburgh’s OER Service is based within information Services and provides staff and students with practical advice and guidance on creating, finding and using open educational resources. Charlie Farley and Lorna Campbell run a wide range of workshops and initiatives within the University and beyond, and also maintain Open.Ed which provides a one stop shop to access open educational resources produced by staff and students across the university. The University does not have a single OER Repository, instead we have multiple repositories across the institution for different kinds of content and we believe in sharing our open resources where ever they will be found most easily, e.g. Media Hopper Create, flickr, Vimeo, Sketchfab, TES, etc.
OER Mission, Vision and Policy
Provide the highest quality learning and teaching environment for the greater wellbeing of our students
Make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world.
OER Vision draws on history of the Edinburgh Settlement, excellent education and research collections, traditions of the Enlightenment.
OER Policy encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience.
At Edinburgh we believe that open education is strongly in line with our institutional mission to provide the highest quality learning and teaching environment for the greater wellbeing of our students, and to make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world, promoting health and economic and cultural wellbeing.
Our vision for OER builds on our excellent education and research collections, traditions of the Scottish Enlightenment and the university’s civic mission. In addition to the OER Service, this vision is backed up by our OER Policy which encourages both staff and students to engage with the use and creation of OER and open knowledge, to enhance the quality of the student experience while at the same time making a significant contribution to the cultural and digital commons.
OER for Digital Skills
OER can help to develop digital skills for both staff and students. 23 Things for Digital Knowledge is an award winning, open online course, adapted from an open course developed by the University of Oxford. 23 Things is designed to encourage digital literacy by exposing learners to a wide range of digital tools for personal and professional development. Learners spend a little time each week, building up and expanding their digital skills and are encouraged to share their experiences with others. All course content and materials are licensed under a CC BY licence and the University actively encourages others to take and adapt the course. The course has already been used by many individuals and organisations outwith Edinburgh and it has recently been adapted for use by the Scottish Social Services Council.
OER for Equality and Diversity
OER can make a significant contribution to diversifying the curriculum. A number of studies, including the National LGBT Survey released by the Government today, have shown that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual health is not well-covered in Medical curricula, however knowledge of LGBT health and of the sensitivities needed to treat LGBT patients are valuable skills for qualifying doctors.
Using materials from the commons, a project at the University of Edinburgh, LGBT+ Healthcare 101, sought to address the lack of teaching on LGBT health within the curriculum through OER. The project remixed and repurposed resources originally created by Case Western Reserve University, and then contributed these resources back to the commons as CC BY licensed OER. New open resources including digital stories recorded from patient interviews, and resources for Secondary School children of all ages, were also created and released as CC BY OER.
OER for Knowledge Exchange
Open access makes research outputs freely accessible to all. It allows research to be disseminated quickly and widely, the research process to operate more efficiently, and has the potential to increase use and understanding of research by the wider public. However it is not always easy for those outwith academia to know how to access these outputs, even though they are freely and openly available. In order to address this issue, we’ve created a series of open educational resources in the form of video interviews and case studies called Innovating with Open Knowledge. These resources are aimed at creative individuals, private researchers, and entrepreneurs to provide guidance on how to find and access the open outputs of Higher Education. The resources focus on developing digital and data literacy skills and feature case study interviews with creative individuals and entrepreneurs engaging with the University of Edinburgh’s world class research outputs.
OER and Co-creation
We believe strongly in engaging both staff and students in the co-creation of open education and one hugely successful example of this is the School of Geosciences Outreach and Engagement course. Over two semesters, students develop an outreach project that communicates an element of GeoSciences outside the university community. Students work with schools, museums, and community groups to create a wide range of resources for science engagement. Students gain experience of science outreach, public engagement, and knowledge transfer while working in new environments and developing transferable skills to enhance employability. A key element of the course is to develop reusable resources which are then repurposed by our Open Content Curation Interns to create OER that are then shared online through Open.Ed and TES where they could be found and reused by other teachers and learners.
Open Content Curation student interns play an important role in OER creation at the University. These fully-paid interns help to repurpose and share resources created by staff and other students while at the same time developing their own digital literacy skills. We’re now in the third year of this internship and the feedback we’ve received from the students has been nothing short of inspiring. This is Tomas Sanders who worked as our Open Content Curation Intern last year, and who then went on to run a successful Wikipedia editathon for Black History Month with the student History Society.
OER for Playful Learning
The OER Service also runs a wide range of events that develop playful and creative strategies for finding and reusing open licensed content. Board Game Jam is a popular workshop that leads groups through creating, licensing, and sharing an OER board game using digitised images from the University collections. It’s a fun and creative way to teach copyright and open licensing by stealth. GifItUp is another workshop that provides an introduction to creating GIFs using free and open tools and openly licensed and public domain images. It teaches colleagues how to find and use open licensed public heritage content and encourages discussion of the ethical responsibilities we as creators have towards those materials.
OER for Creativity
Eric Lucey was a pioneering biologist and film maker at the University of Edinburgh whose film collection from the 1950s and 60s has now been made available under open license by University’s Centre for Research Collections. With help and guidance from the OER Service on open licensing and content reuse, students from Edinburgh College of Art and the Edinburgh Film Society have created film poems from the Lucey collection for the Magma Poetry journal. And we’ve also released open film snippets from our MOOC content that can be reused in a wide range of creative contexts.
These are just a few examples of how the OER Services encourages staff and students at the University of Edinburgh to engage with and contribute to a wide range of open content collections, while enhancing their own digital skills and contributing resources back to the digital commons. For more information about the OER Service you can visit Open.Ed here, or contact Lorna or Charlie via the details below.
A regular activity for Ada Lovelace Day (ALD) at the University of Edinburgh is the Wikipedia editing event or editathon. This year the focus is contemporary women in STEM who do not currently have Wikipedia pages.
Who is your STEM heroine?
Nominate your contemporary STEM heroine for consideration at the Wikipedia editathon Tuesday 9th October. This should only take 5-10 minutes and it will really help us to create new role models for young and old alike on the world’s go-to source for information, Wikipedia.
Please note the deadline for submissions is Monday 3rd September.
In celebration of International Women’s Day (#IWD2018) watch footage from Ada Lovelace Day 2017 at the University of Edinburgh. Via Media Hopper Create you can watch and download a Creative Commons licenced (CC BY-SA) full HD version for sharing/repurposing/remixing!
To celebrate 100 years since the Representation of the People Act (1918) gave some women the vote, we held three #Vote100 Wikipedia editing events.
34 brand new biography articles have now surfaced on Wikipedia about Scotland’s suffragettes and the Eagle House suffragettes, along with 220 improved pages and items of data so people can discover all about their lives and contributions.
New Wikipedia pages have been created about: Maude Edwards slashing the portrait of King George V at the Royal Scottish Academy and her defiance at trial; the force-feeding of Frances Gordon and Arabella Scott at Perth Prison by the doctor who was “emotionally hooked” to Arabella Scott and offered to escort her to Canada; the attempted arson conducted by pioneer doctor Dorothea Chalmers Smith; the Aberdonian suffragette & organiser, Caroline Phillips, being sacked by telegram by Christabel Pankhurst; and the “energetic little woman from Stranraer” Jane Taylour who was a firebrand lecturer on Women’s Suffrage touring up and down Scotland and England.
Below is what I said at the Academia and Wikipedia Conference held at Maynooth University on 18 June 2018. My slides are here.
I have been working at the University of Edinburgh for two and a half years now in this rather strange sounding role of Wikimedian in Residence. My role here today is to explain a little about what I do at the University of Edinburgh and why we think there is a need for all universities to engage with Wikimedia.
So the Academia and Wikipedia conference is a very timely conference for the work we have been doing.
Academia and Wikipedia. This is a huge discussion right now. It needs to be. Not least in terms of what value we as higher education institutions place in students, staff and members of the public being conversant with how knowledge is created, curated and contested online and with the digital intermediaries that govern our daily lives. Beyond this in terms of what value we place on the transparency of knowledge sharing and having somewhere online you can go to orientate yourself on a topic and students can contribute their scholarship for the common good.
Because I take the view that there is a huge & pivotal role for universities to play in this discussion.
Full disclosure, I was not born a Wikimedian. Although I am interested in all the things so perhaps I was. My background is in Software Development, English & Media teaching and Information Management and the work we do at the University of Edinburgh draws on all 3 of these aspects.
So what can I tell you about the residency itself?
I can tell you that it started, and has continued, with information literacy and digital skills at its heart. Our IT director, Melissa Highton, was asked at the time what strategies could be employed to help better meet the information literacy and digital skills needs of our staff and students at the university, and how could we better meet our commitment to sharing open knowledge.
Working with Wikimedia ticked all these boxes.
But because the University of Edinburgh is a research-based institution, Professor Allison Littlejohn from the Open University was invited to come along to our first editing event in 2015 to help us make sure there was value in a collaboration with Wikimedia UK and to analyse what was going on in these editing events and what their impact actually was. And what she discovered was that there was indeed genuine formal and informal learning going on at these events and she’s produced two research papers arising from that 1 event.
The first looked at the formation of networks of practice and social capital through participation in an editathon. Through Allison’s work we learned that activity did not stop after the editathon event and participants did see it as an important part of their professional development. The second paper looked at the process of becoming a Wikipedia editor – and how participants felt editing was a form of knowledge activism and helped generate important discussions about how knowledge is created, curated and contested online and how Wikipedia editors can positively impact on the knowledge available to people all around the world and addressing those knowledge gaps. So we had strong evidence there was real merit in universities engaging with Wikipedia editing because of this. This made the business case once we aligned it with our information literacy and digital skills strategy.
Since then we have never looked back. As the university’s new resource, I could have been twiddling my thumbs or treated as a snake oil salesman but I’ve never been busier. While academia and Wikipedia have something of a chequered history*, as soon as we started discussing the university taking an informed approach to Wikipedia and knowledge sharing, we found we had a lot to talk about.
And that’s what Wikipedia is about – making connections, wiki-linking from one subject to another, disappearing down the rabbit hole of knowledge. And that’s what the residency has been about, delivering workshops and creating resources which allow colleagues across the whole university to see the connections between their work and the work of the Wikimedia projects. As such we have now created a network of Open Knowledge nodes. We find that when we work with a colleague in one discipline this can often lead to further collaborations and other colleagues being brought in and other disciplines. The number of connections and positive quality interactions that a collaboration with Wikimedia affords makes, I think, working in this space finding areas of mutual benefit makes this the most exciting in academia right now, because it is so emergent but it has so much potential to make a really “significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to the world”.
I’m supported on all sides by a growing number of people all passionate for the sharing of Open Knowledge. There’s our IT Director Melissa, and Anne-Marie her deputy. Our Open Education team, our digital curator, our academic support librarians. Our course leaders from year one in Translation studies, World Christianity and Reproductive Biology. The team at Wikimedia UK, course leaders from year two. Course leaders in Digital Sociology, Reproductive Biology, Anthropology, English Literature, Design Informatics, Data Science for Design. A growing number of Wikimedians in Residence. And, latterly, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was tweeting his support of Wikimedia UK recently too.
So “if you build it they will come”.
And it grows over time.
Of the in-curriculum work we have done – all of these courses have been repeated because of the positive reactions of staff and students. And we’re adding to these with workshops in Digital Sociology MSc, Global Health MSc, Data Science for Design MSc. We’re also now discussing which year group we should work with in the Law school – postgraduate, undergraduate, or both – because supporting digital research skills and the ability to communicate their scholarship an accessible way is absolutely something we as a university should be looking to do.
By way of example of our work with students , Reproductive Biology Hons. student, Áine Kavanagh scrupulously researched an article on one of the most serious and most deadly forms of ovarian cancer, backing up her work with over sixty references and creating her own openly-licensed diagram in Photoshop to help illustrate the article. The artice has now been viewed over 40,000 times since 2016, addressing a serious knowledge gap with scholarly research. Áine benefited from the practice academically and she enjoyed doing it personally. Because her scholarship lasted beyond the assignment and did something for the common good. Lots of the students see that as the main benefit of engaging with Wikipedia and are enthusiastic to help because of this.
The reason being: “Search is the way we live now”.
Google and Wikipedia have a symbiotic relationship where they depend on one another. Google is the #1 search engine and Wikipedia is the go-to information site, powering Google’s Knowledge Graph. So because Wikipedia pages are given a high ranking by Google’s algorithm, there is real agency to Wikipedia editing which our editors find inspiring. They become an activist for knowledge.
And it’s never been easier to contribute because of the new Visual Editor interface and all the little fun things you can do to add citations, images, links and more – while it’s also never been harder to vandalise because of the increased checks & balances put in place.
So there is lots to talk about in terms of Wikimedia in education… but I’ll let our students and staff speak to this and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.
Danah Boyd also wrote some articles back in 2005 on academia & wikipedia which make for interesting reading… if for nothing other than Jimmy Wales’s ‘Wikipedia as steakhouse’ analogy which deserves to be read:
Danah also wrote an article entitled Did Media Literacy backfire? last year which has a very pertinent point to the discussion of Wikipedia in academic contexts:
“Too many students I met were being told that Wikipedia was untrustworthy and were, instead, being encouraged to do research. As a result, the message that many had taken home was to turn to Google and use whatever came up first. They heard that Google was trustworthy and Wikipedia was not.”
This post was co-authored with Jemima John (pictured above), 4th year undergraduate student at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Law and a Digital Skills intern in Information Services. It was written with a focus on Wikipedia and legal education but speaks to Wikipedia’s role in tertiary education more generally. You can watch an interview with Jemima John on Media Hopper.
Uses of Wikipedia in higher education
Since the early 2000’s, Wikipedia has acquired somewhat of a negative reputation for being unreliable. Educators are normally wary of allowing Wikipedia as a source that anyone can edit. This is due to believing it to be a source of misinformation, going directly against their role to reduce misinformation in the world.
However, what if the contrary is true?
What if Wikipedia can be used to reduce misinformation in the world, an often-highlighted problem of our current times. This is the very mission of Wikimedia organization. The Wikimedia projects exist to combat misinformation. Indeed, Wikipedians have been combating fake news for years as source evaluation is a core skill of a Wikipedian. Researchers found that only 7 percent of all Wikipedia edits are considered vandalism and nearly all vandalism edits are reverted instantly by automated programs (bots) which help to patrol Wikipedia for copyright violation, plagiarism and vandalism. If a page is targeted for vandalism it can also be ‘semi-protected’ (essentially locking the page so new edits are reviewed before being added) for one day, two days or longer as required while accounts or IP addresses repeating vandalism can be blocked indefinitely. While Wikipedia is still the encyclopedia that anyone can edit, a recent implementation is new users cannot create new pages until their account has been active for four days and accrued at least ten edits. Within the first four days, however, new users can submit their new pages for review by another editor who quality checks it is sufficiently neutral, notable and well-referenced for inclusion in Wikipedia’s live space.
Due to open licensing of Wikipedia content, it is more visible across the Internet. For example, Google scrapes from Wikipedia biographies to feature as sidebar profiles as part of its ‘Knowledge Graph’ answer engine results for notable people; among many other topics. Wikipedia articles also happen to be within the top five search results due to its preferential status in Google’s ranking algorithm. This is important when one considers ‘search is the way we live now’. According to 2011 figures, Google processed 91% of searches internationally and 97.4% of searches from mobile devices. Google has also been found to have a funneling effect whereby the sources clicked upon the first page of results are clicked on 90% of the time with 42% click through on the first choice alone. Indeed, more recently, research published in 2017 found that Wikipedia and Google have a symbiotic relationship whereby Google depends on Wikipedia – click through rates decrease by 80% if Wikipedia links are removed – and Wikipedia depends on Google – 84.5% of the visits to Wikipedia are attributable to Google. While, just this year, researchers at MIT and the University of Pittsburgh published a paper that evidenced that science is actually shaped by Wikipedia; demonstrating the free encyclopedia’s influence. The randomised control trial the researchers undertook evidenced a strong causal impact that, as one of the most accessed websites in the world, incorporating ideas into Wikipedia leads to those ideas being used more in the scientific literature. 
Today Wikipedia is the fifth most visited website on the Internet and sometimes more trusted than traditional news publications, according to a recent YouGov poll. This poll indicated that Wikipedia was trusted by the British people more than such reputable news sites as the Guardian, BBC, the Telegraph, the Times and others. Wikipedia relies on these sources, and other similar sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy, so would not necessarily advocate trusting a Wikipedia article over these other sites.
However, Wikipedia’s policies on Neutral Point of View (NPOV) and identifying reliable sources do help police its content and plainly increases trust in its content. Research from the Harvard Business School has also discovered that, unlike other more partisan areas of the internet, Wikipedia’s focus on NPOV (neutral point of view) means editors actually become more moderate over time; the researchers seeing this as evidence that editing “Wikipedia helps break people out of their ideological echo chambers”. More than this, it is worth considering what value one would place on having somewhere online like Wikipedia – and unlike many other of the world’s top ten websites – where it is completely, ruthlessly transparent in how pages are put together so that you can see: when edits were made; and by whom; and so that edits can always be checked, challenged and corrected if need be. After all, all edits to a Wikipedia page are recorded in its View History which includes which account or IP address made the edit along with a date, time and edit summary. Importantly, these entries in the View History are all permanent links so that different versions of the page can be compared and, ultimately, so a page can always be reverted back to its last good state if any unhelpful edits are ever made.
Indeed, the process of researching and writing a Wikipedia article demonstrates ‘how the sausage is made’ – how knowledge is created, curated and contested online – and asks students as part of their research to consider what constitutes a reliable source. In this way, students can be introduced to the pros and cons of searching a variety of databases as part of discussions on information and media literacy. Ultimately, whether it is a news article, journal article or Wikipedia article one should always evaluate what one is reading. That much has always been true. Wikipedia, for its part, has as its policy that no Wikipedia page should be cited in an academic paper. Rather Wikipedia considers itself a tertiary source; an encyclopedia of articles made up from citations from high quality published secondary sources. If one cites anything it is these sources that one should cite, not Wikipedia itself. In this way, Wikipedia reframes itself as useful place for pre-researching a topic in order to orientate oneself before delving into the scholarly literature. Hence, it is not the endpoint of research but the beginning; the digital gateway to academic research. In this way, it can then be seen as a valuable resource in itself. 2016 research confirmed that 87.5% of students were using it in this way; in “an introductory and/or clarificatory role” as part of their information gathering and research and finding it ‘academically useful’ in this context. Now in its seventeenth year, Wikipedia has approaching 5.7 million articles in English with about ten edits per second across all Wikimedia projects and nearly 500 articles created each day. As the largest reference work on the internet, it is simply too big to fail now and too important a source of information for the world. Consequently, Wikipedia has realized this and has taken out an endowment to ensure it exists it perpetuity.
Within the boundaries of Wikipedia editing guidelines of notability, reliability, and verifiability, it can prove to be a valuable resource in education. Editing Wikipedia articles builds a number of key skills. It encourages digital creation and digital collaboration skills. It builds legal research skills through finding relevant sources. Most of all, the ability to synthesize the research in an accessible manner for a non-legal audience is an unique but incredibly valuable skill for any law student. What is amazing about editing and creating Wikipedia articles is that the articles it allows for dialogue and improvement over the article through collaboration with other editors.
Indeed, it was the ‘realness’ and collaborative element of the assignment that appealed to students on the Reproductive Biology Hons. programme along with seizing a rare opportunity to communicate medical knowledge to a lay audience. Being able to communicate to a non-specialist audience is a key skill for new medics just as communicating legal knowledge is a key skill for new entrants to the legal profession.
For History undergraduates, it was the opportunity to improve the public’s understanding of history in a way that was active and not just passively receiving knowledge. More than this, it was recognizing that people’s understanding of the diversity of history would not be improved until staff and students actively engaged with addressing these gaps in representation; particularly in underrepresented areas such as social history, gender history and queer history.
A Wikipedia assignment isn’t just another essay or presentation that students may never return to, but something that has actually been created; a way of demonstrating the relevance of a student’s degree and communicating their scholarship in a real-world application of teaching and learning. Beyond this, the experience of a Wikipedia assignment at Bucknell University was that:
“at the close of the semester, students said that simply knowing that an audience of editors existed was enough to change how they wrote. They chose words more carefully. They double-checked their work for accuracy and reliability. And they began to think about how best they could communicate their scholarship to readers who were as curious, conscientious, and committed and as they were”.
Once the article becomes live on Wikipedia and indexed in Google’s top five results, students realise that there is agency to sharing their scholarship with the world. By way of example, Reproductive Biology Honours student Áine Kavanagh’s scrupulously researched a brand new article on high-grade serous carcinoma, one of the most deadly and most common forms of ovarian cancer. This article, including over sixty references and open-licensed diagrams Áine herself created, has now been viewed over 33,000 times since it was published in September 2016; adding a well-referenced source of health information to the global Open Knowledge community. Hence, rather than students’ work being disposed of at the end of an assignment, it can become a community project that can then be added to and improved over time; either by the students themselves or by other editors anywhere around the world. This has been a key motivator for students taking part in Wikipedia projects at the University of Edinburgh.
Of these other editors, there are some 2000+ WikiProjects on Wikipedia where editors come together to focus on a particular area of Wikipedia because they are passionate about the subject and/or have expertise in that area. If you check the Talk page of an article on Wikipedia you will see the WikiProject that has been assigned to ‘look after’ the article. In this way, content on Wikipedia is monitored and curated by a team of subject specialists; amateur enthusiasts and professionals alike. WikiProject Law aims to organise the law-related articles that consist of defining concepts spanning jurisdictions. There is a need for more articles focused on Scots law and there is scope to start a WikiProject to organise articles regarding Scots law.
There can be a number of applications within the law school. A Wikipedia assignment can be run in a single afternoon or over the course of an entire semester. It can be done as individual work, paired work or group work. Starting small and building up over time has proven a sensible methodology although best practice has been developed over a number of years at the university and elsewhere if bolder approaches are warranted.
It can be a formative assessed from a student perspective, it should be noted that if software seems too difficult to learn, students may feel like it is not worth the formative assessment and that it should be summative in nature. Indeed, recent experience is that students have been enthused to take part in Wikipedia assignments and put great efforts in to complete the assignment so receiving some feedback on their efforts always goes some way to ensuring they are fully satisfied by the experience: be it a group discussion; using a Wikipedia marking rubric; individual assessment; peer assessment; blogging their reflections on the project; or providing an oral presentation. The timing of the assignment may also help ensure its success. If it is assigned during a time of the term where other summative assessments may be due then the students may be more strategic in where they place their priorities.
Hence, past experience at the University of Edinburgh has suggested that a Wikipedia assignment incorporating such elements as students having discussions around information literacy and learning how to edit/ how to use a new form of educational technology may work best in the first semester as part of inducting the students into good digital research habits for the rest of the year before the course programme becomes busier in the second and third semesters. World Christianity MSc students and Psychology undergraduate students have also reported in recent interviews how the experience of adding references to Wikipedia was both a motivating and “very exciting” moment for them; partly because of the “slick” way Wikipedia allows you to add citations easily and partly because of the fact they were able to draw from relevant news articles and bring them together with books and journal articles (and more) to holistically convey the subject they were writing about.
In terms of how hard or difficult Wikipedia editing now is, Wikipedia has a new WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) Visual Editor interface which is easy to learn in an hour and just takes a little practice. It makes use of dropdown menus much like one experiences in word processing applications such as Microsoft Word and WordPress blogging and has been described variously as “super easy”, “fun”, “really intuitive” and “addictive as hell.”
There is also scope for a Wikipedia assignment to form a proportion of the summative element of the course as they have done on the World Christianity MSc. It should be noted that contributions made to Wikipedia are not static, but rather they are picked up by other Wikipedia editors to improve the reliability of the site. In educational contexts, this could be seen negatively but students have intimated that they like their work surviving beyond the life of the assignment and becoming a community project that can be added to over time. Beyond this, students can download their finished pages as a pdf, create books of their finished articles and, because all edits are recorded as permanent links in the View History of a page, they will always have a permanent link to their version of the page, no matter what changes are made to improve or expand it by other editors.
Wikipedia is an useful source but it can never replace formal legal education which teaches specialist knowledge, analytical skills, ethical standards, and importantly impart a love of democracy and justice. Wikipedia in legal education will only supplement these activities.
 McMahon, Connor; Johnson, Isaac; and Hecht, Brent (2017). The Substantial Interdependence of Wikipedia and Google: A Case Study on the Relationship Between Peer Production Communities and Information Technologies.
The 9th annual conference for Open Education research, practice and policy, OER18, took place at the Bristol Watershed Cinema on 18 and 19 April 2018. Its theme was ‘Open to All’ and it featured Wikimedia heavily in its programme.
Good afternoon, thanks for inviting me along today.
My name is Ewan McAndrew and I have been working at the University of Edinburgh for just over two years now in this rather strange sounding role of Wikimedian in Residence.
My background is in English and Media teaching where I worked closely with school librarian colleagues and I’ve recently finished my Information Management MSc so libraries, literacy and learning is kind of my thing.
But I struggled to think what I could tell you in my ten minute section here today.
The reason being that there is a huge discussion right now. It needs to be. I’ll not dwell on the whole Facebook and Cambridge Analytica issue because that’s not what I’m here to speak to you about today but it does speak to a larger issue on what value we place on information literacy and media literacy, what value we place on the transparency of knowledge sharing, what value we place on our students, our staff and members of the public being conversant with the digital intermediaries that govern our daily lives. Because I take the view that there is a huge & pivotal role for libraries to play in this discussion.
”This challenge is not just for school librarians to prepare the next generation to be informed but for all librarians to assist the whole population.” (Abram, 2016)
So what can I tell you about the residency to date?
I can tell you that it started, and has continued, with information literacy and digital skills at its heart. Our IT director, Melissa Highton, was asked at the time what strategies could be employed to help better meet the information literacy and digital skills needs of our staff and students at the university, and how could we better meet our commitment to share the knowledge we share with the world?
The residency also started with libraries.
Or 1 library in fact. Because we borrowed Ally Crockford, the first Wikimedian in Residence in Scotland, from the National Library of Scotland to help run our first editathon way back in February 2015 focused on Women in Science and Scottish History missing from Wikipedia; and the Edinburgh Seven in particular, the first women ever to matriculate at a British university. Sara Thomas, here today, was also at that event.
An editathon for those who don’t know, is just a Wikipedia editing event with a particular focus on a subject area to help create & improve certain Wikipedia pages. It can be done as in-person event with online resources, physical resources, t-shirts, stickers, cupcakes. But it can also be done as remote online event or can be done as translate-a-thon, image-a-thon, infobox-a-thon or more.
Professor Allison Littlejohn came along to the event and what she discovered was that there was genuine formal and informal learning going on at these events and her research paper has just been published with others to follow.
So there was real merit in universities engaging with Wikipedia editing to surface the knowledge they were creating & curating because of these shared missions. This made the business case once we aligned it with our information literacy and digital skills strategy.
So that’s where I sit in that middle area between Wikimedia and the University of Edinburgh and I’m supported on both sides by people passionate about Open Knowledge.
Since then we have never looked back. While academia and Wikipedia have something of a chequered history, as soon as we started discussing the university taking an informed approach to Wikipedia and knowledge sharing, we found we had a lot to talk about.
And that’s what Wikipedia is about – making connections, wiki-linking from one subject to another, disappearing down the rabbit hole of knowledge. And that’s what the residency has been about, delivering workshops and creating resources which allow colleagues across the whole university to see the connections between their work and the work of the Wikimedia projects. As such we have now created a network of Open Knowledge nodes. We find that when we work with a colleague in one discipline this can often lead to other colleagues being brought in and other disciplines. So far we have worked across all three teaching colleges with an ever-increasing number of disciplines.
Of the in-curriculum work we have done in Reproductive Biology, World Christianity, Translation Studies (case studies) – all of these courses have been repeated year-on-year because of the positive reactions of staff and students (compilation video of staff & student feedback). And we’re adding to these with workshops in Digital Sociology MSc, Global Health MSc, Data Science for Design MSc (adding the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database and 3,219 accused witches to Wikidata) and we’re now discussing which year group we should work with in the Law school because practising research skills and the ability to communicate laws in an accessible way is absolutely something we as a university should be looking to do, and help our students to do.
So we need to talk about Wikipedia and how we engage with it.
Not many people know, for instance, that Wikipedia has a strict conflict of interest policy – you shouldn’t write about anything where you are too close to be impartial. That’s why it was so good to see Glasgow Caledonian University Library recently create the Wikipedia page for Shetland Library.
Libraries should support one another.
Paying it forward for the common good is what Wikipedia is all about.
For instance, a University of Edinburgh Reproductive Biology student, Aine Kavanagh (fantastic video interview with her – well worth watching), scrupulously researched an article on one of the most serious and most deadly forms of ovarian cancer, high grade serous carcinoma, and it has now been viewed over 28,000 times since September 2016, addressing a serious knowledge gap with scholarly research articles. She benefited from the practice academically and she enjoyed doing it personally. Because her scholarship lasted beyond the assignment and did something for the common good. Lots of the students see that as the main benefit of engaging with Wikipedia and are enthusiastic to help because of this.
Now, for the first time, Wikimedia UK is able to produce a booklet of case studies of the Wikipedia in the Classroom work being undertaken in the United Kingdom; which should be available soon and include mention of (among other coursework):
Mia Spiro taking students from her Jewish Studies class at the University of Glasgow to do some research at the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre. Afterwards they were able to create the article on the Garnethill Synagogue and illustrate the page with some pictures from their walking tour of the area.
Telling the story of rural England: Students on the Applied Human Geography course at the University of Portsmouth are tasked with writing articles about a village not currently represented on Wikipedia. So far Scotland has not been touched by their efforts so there is gap there if anyone wants to get their students writing about Scottish towns and villages.
The 21st century skills that a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and Wikimedia UK help develop include:
A critical Information Literacy
Academic writing & referencing
Writing for different audiences.
Community building / Online citizenship
“Students have said that simply knowing that an audience of editors existed was enough to change how they wrote. They chose words more carefully. They double-checked their work for accuracy and reliability. And they began to think about how best they could communicate their scholarship to readers who were as curious, conscientious, and committed as they were.” https://wikiedu.org/blog/2014/10/14/wikipedia-student-writing/
Wikipedia is not the end point of research. It is where you orientate yourself at the start.
Wikipedia does not want you to cite it either.
It is an encyclopaedia, a tertiary source made of articles which in turn cite from reliable published secondary sources. If you cite anything it should be these references that Wikipedia not Wikipedia itself.
The point is that everything on Wikipedia is out in the open, completely, ruthlessly transparent where every change is recorded in permanent links in the View History of the page so every edit can checked, challenged and corrected if need be.
Whether it is a news article, journal article or Wikipedia article – we should be evaluating what we read and deciding if the information is credible.
School and HEI libraries can help lead the way on this by providing students, staff & members of the public with guidance on taking an informed approach to using Wikipedia and other databases as our Academic Support Librarians do and by sharing the high-quality research and image collections you have in your repositories for the common good.
You have the artefacts and the expertise. Wikipedia has the online audience.
Why is this important?
Well because knowledge builds understanding and there is precious little of that in the world right now. And because search is the way we live now.
Google processed 91% of searches internationally and 97.4% of searches from mobile devices. (2011 figures in Hillis, Petit and Jarret, 2013).
Google has a “funnelling effect” – The sources clicked on are reduced to the 1st page of results 90% of the time. (Beel & Gipp, 2009)
With 42% click through on first choice alone.
So because Wikipedia pages are given a high ranking by Google’s algorithm, there is real agency to Wikipedia editing which our editors find inspiring that they can be a knowledge activist.
And it’s never been easier to contribute because of the Visual Editor – particularly citations which autogenerate (video) from a url, stable DOI codes, Pubmed IDs or ISBN numbers – and it’s never been harder to vandalise because of the increased checks & balances put in place by the Wikipedia community.
We also need to talk about the little fun things you can do to contribute open knowledge.
Contributing to Wikipedia doesn’t have to involve a heavy time component. You can use your phone to upload a pic on the Wikimedia Commons Android App in seconds. You can create timelines, you can nominate pages to be included on Wikipedia’s front page in the In the News section, Did You Know section or On this Day sections as we did when we nominated noted sociologist Mary Susan McIntosh to the front page (from not having a page about her at all – she suddenly had 7000 views in 1 day!)
Internet Archive’s – Fix Dead Links tool. (this has rescued over 2.7 million+ dead links on Wikipedia).
We need to talk about gaps in representation (English Wikipedia is by largest Wikipedia with 5.5. million articles but it has been estimated that it should have 104 million articles plus if it was coming anywhere close to representing the sum of all knowledge) and how incredibly motivating that has been for editors during the residency in helping to address these gaps. And we need to talk about the uneven spread of knowledge between different language Wikipedias and about how Wikipedia’s new Content Translation tool helps proficient bilingual and multilingual students share knowledge easily between languages.
Students on the Translation Studies MSc can achieve meaningful published practice before they enter the world of work. Over four semesters they have translated the best quality articles on Wikipedia (featured articles) into another language including:
Rōjinbi – A demonic flame that supposedly appears deep in the mountains on rainy nights was translated from Japanese to English.
and many many more.
We need to talk diversity and how WikiProject Women in Red is the 2nd most active project on Wikipedia (out of some 2000+ Wikiprojects), creating 1000-2000 new women role models for young and old alike every single month. Hosting Women in Red events – where we turn red-linked articles about notable women which don’t yet exist into blue clickable ones that do – helps meet the university’s commitment to Athena SWAN and there is interest keeping this going in ten disciplines for the next four years to inspire more women to enter STEM fields. (Read about the 19 women petitioners to the Chemical Society or the Eagle House suffragettes – there were hardly any pages on Wikipedia about these fabulous women until Women in Red editors sat down to write them).
We need to talk open access and how Strathclyde and Leeds libraries have identified their top research articles on Wikipedia and ensured they are have the open access link rather than the pay-walled link. And about how Wikipedia signals an article is open access with little coloured Open Access icons in the references to increase visibility and clickthrough.
e.g. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a travel guide, Edinburgh (1914).
This was a text recently uploaded to Wikisource from a djvu scan on the Internet Archive. The text was OCR-ed and proofread by two Wikisource users to ensure it was correct. Now it is 100% searchable HTML and the images have been cropped out so they can be shared individually as openly-licensed images on Wikimedia Commons.
As a result we now have:
The illustrated text described as “to the Scot it ought to be a sort of Bible” in 100% searchable HTML on Wikisource.
A new Wikipedia article created on the book with a link to these images and to the text on Wikisource. 1 click away!
A link to the text on Wikisource added to the Wikipedia page for Edinburgh so that the text is surfaced on a relevant page where people can discover it.
Don’t believe me about the 100% searchable HTML? Type “moist eyebrows” into the search bar on Wikisource and see if it can find where Stevenson uses it in one of his novels. Make sure you use the speech marks so it can find the exact phrase.
We definitelydefinitely need to talk about Wikidata and about creating the date literate workforce of the next ten years. The residency’s next big adventure.
Wikidata is Wikipedia’s exciting new sister project and it may just overtake Wikipedia in years to come as the dominant project – because it has two distinct advantages over Wikipedia in that it is information not just from Wikipedia but from other databases too (like Historic Environment Scotland) stored as machine readable linked open data with multilingual labels.
The implementation of Wikidata in the curriculum therefore presents a massive opportunity for educators, researchers and data scientists alike; not least in honouring the university’s commitment to the creating, curating & dissemination of open knowledge. A Wikidata assignment allows students to develop their understanding of, and engagement with, issues such as: data completeness; data ethics; digital provenance; data analysis; data processing; as well as making practical use of a raft of tools and data visualisations. By structuring the data in Wikidata it helps you to see any anomalies in the data. The fact that Wikidata is also linked open data means that students can help connect to & leverage from a variety of other datasets in multiple languages; helping to fuel discovery through exploring the direct and indirect relationships at play in this semantic web of knowledge. This real-world application of teaching and learning enables insights in a variety of disciplines; be it in open science, digital humanities, cultural heritage, open government and much more besides. Wikidata is also a community-driven project so this allows students to work collaboratively and develop the online citizenship skills necessary in today’s digital economy.
The Survey of Scottish Witchcraft – Wikidata in the Classroom
At the University of Edinburgh, we supported our first Wikidata in the Classroom assignment last semester on the Data Science for Design MSc course. At the course’s Data Fair on 26th October 2017, researchers from across the university presented the 45 masters students in Design Informatics with approximately 13 datasets to choose from to work on in groups of three. Happily, two groups were enthused to import the university’s Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database into Wikidata (the choice of database to propose was suggested by a colleague). This fabulous resource began life in the 1990s before being realised in 2001-2003. It had as its aim to collect, collate and record all known information about accused witches and witchcraft belief in early modern Scotland (from 1563 to 1736) in a Microsoft Access database and to create a web-based user interface for the database. Since 2003, the data has remained static in the Access database and so students at the 2018 Data Fair were invited to consider what could be done if the data were exported into Wikidata, given multilingual labels and linked to other datasets? Beyond this, what new insights & visualisations of the data could be achieved?
We now have 3219 items of data on the accused witches in Wikidata (Spanning 1563 to 1736). We also now have data on 2356 individuals involved in trying these accused witches. Finally we have 3210 witch trials themselves. This means we can link and enrich the data further by adding location data, dates, occupations, places of residence, social class, marriages, and penalties arising from the trial.
But we also need to talk about the ingrained revenue generation model too. If you examine the actually revenue brought in and costs associated with image sales from the beginning to end of the process and then add in how much you would normally expect to pay for the kind of marketing that Wikipedia offers for free and then add in that by sharing images to Commons that you can still retain a higher-resolution image for sale on your own site then the increased exposure, engagement and reputational gain from the move to open looks like a pretty good deal.
In terms of finding bodies to help you, there is a new Scotland Co-ordinator at Wikimedia UK, and a Wikipedia community ready, willing and able to help share your collections. There are staff at your institutions, digital champions, there are students, there are volunteers, friends of the library who if you said the word that you wanted to share your collections they would jump at the chance, I’m sure.
At the University of Edinburgh, we now have our own Equality Images intern opening up some of our image collections to make them more discoverable and usable with a focus on identifying role models, women in science, women in medicine, diverse groups and positive representations.
It has 120,000 regular contributors (of which only 3455 or so are considered ‘very active’ Wikipedians which means a village the size of Pitlochry is trying to curate the world’s knowledge).
500 million visitors per month
1.5 billion monthly unique devices
Trusted more than the BBC, ITV, the Times, the Telegraph, The Guardian and more according to Yougov survey (2014).
And in last week, where Youtube have arguably take billions of dollars of value from Wikipedia, the single greatest Open Education Resource the world has ever seen for granted, we need to think about what value we place in having Wikipedia as the largest referenced work on the internet; free, open, and dedicated to sharing verifiable open knowledge transparently.
Wikipedia doesn’t take itself for granted, and we shouldn’t either. While it is volunteer-built and 100% donated funded, it is too important to fail now so it has created an endowment now to ensure it exists in perpetuity.
In closing, I take Tim Berners-Lee’s view:
“We need to rethink our attitude to the internet. It is not enough just to keep the web open and free because we must also keep a track of what people are building on it.
Look at the systems that people are using, like the social networks and look at whether they are actually helping humanity.
In these terms, in terms of the internet we want to see and the digital landscape we want to help people navigate and engage with, I believe libraries have a huge role, the most important role to play, in supporting learners, in fuelling discovery, in driving engagement and in displaying the kind of leadership – local, national and international – in building a civic digital society we can be proud of.
10 Reasons to work with Wikimedia UK
Wikipedia is not the end point research, it is the beginning. It is a useful place to orientate yourself at the start of your research.
A recent study found 87.5% of students use Wikipedia for their academic work and found it “academically useful”. It is also a source of health care information for half to nearly three-quarters of physicians and more than 90 percent of medical students. (Anecdotally, reference librarians at the Mitchell Library also directed a customer to Wikipedia when asked where the best place to start finding out information about the Bermuda Triangle was).
Staff, students and members of the public are already consulting Wikipedia for pre-research purposes so why not ensure gaps in representation and inaccuracies are addressed? Because if not you then who?
Wikipedia is only ever as good as the editors who engage with it and gaps in the knowledge possesses occur because of this. So as a postscript, here are ten reasons to engage with Wikipedia:
Our attendees tell us the new Visual Editor is super easy to learn, fun and addictive.
Smith, L.N. (2016). ‘School libraries, political information and information literacy provision: findings from a Scottish study’ Journal of Information Literacy, vol 10, no. 2, pp.3-25.DOI:10.11645/10.2.2097
I have been working as Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh for just over two years now (one year part-time and one year full-time) so now seems a good time to start the deep delving of reflecting back. (I’m also, it has to be said, contractually obliged to reflect back now I am undertaking my CMALT).
The importance of reflection in my role, or any role for that matter, is not lost on me… and not a new experience either. My background is in English and Media teaching at secondary school level and the yearly soul-searching and evidencing of continuous professional development is something other teachers will recognise. Teaching, it has to be said, can be a very solitary profession at times. Aside from tea and lunch breaks you often spend the lion’s share of your day working autonomously in your own classroom; reflecting on your work and intuitively planning to better meet the needs of your students. Like most teachers, I tried to lead by example, offering support, guidance, humour when needed, cajoling when needed, and generally trying to remove any barriers to learning. Like most teachers, I needed to train myself to remember all the good things achieved during each day rather than dwelling on the work still outstanding or the things that hadn’t worked out.
The volunteering I did in various archives too (University of Glasgow Archives, Glasgow School of Art Archives and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Archives) was solitary in nature a great deal of the time. I didn’t mind that. There was something immensely gratifying about the process of quietly sorting* through the archives, looking for buried treasures and helping to catalogue & write about them so others could learn about them. A world away from the noise of the classroom. Though I’ll confess that those moments when I felt I made a difference in the classroom and helped inspire a love of learning in others (not to mention the daily barrage of humour that was released on me) is something one can’t help but miss.
Teaching and volunteering in libraries/archives were two aspects of my life for a while; and I felt they complemented one another perfectly. So, you can imagine how thrilled I was that these aspects could be combined in one role working as the Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh.
The difference now is that I am no longer just a teacher. I learn justas much as I teach… which I love. Such is the fast-developing nature of the Wikimedia projects, there is always something new to learn and to share with others once mastered. Beyond this, after completing four courses of study in higher education, I was well versed in being a student but found I had a lot to learn about the inner workings of a university; especially one like the University of Edinburgh with some 35,000 students and 13,000 staff. Working to support the whole university across all the teaching colleges and support groups to see how the university could benefit from, and contribute to, the Wikimedia projects is a very new role; the first in the United Kingdom so I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to break new ground. I have never wavered in my belief that there are huge areas of crossover between universities and the Wikimedia projects and therefore huge opportunities to explore the untapped potential of collaborating with one another. This has been hugely exciting, hugely rewarding…. and, at times, more than a little daunting because there is so much that could and should be done. And in those few quiet moments when I have had my head too far buried in my laptop to see the wood for the trees and my inner Eeyore has taken over this can feel like another solitary role.
Only it hasn’t been. Not really.
And this, more than anything else, is why I believe that the residency is working.
Because I work in an incredibly supportive environment and learn everyday from the example of brilliant, inspiring women. Reflecting back, my two years at the University of Edinburgh has been characterised by, and shaped by, the fantastic female colleagues I work with. Even today at our International Women’s Day Wikipedia event to celebrate the lives and contributions of the suffragettes, I was struck by the absolute enthusiasm for editing Wikipedia by our all-female group of attendees. “This is soooo addictive.” was proclaimed multiple times this afternoon. Which is unfailingly awesome to hear as Wikipedia has (historically) been seen as the preserve of white techy males.
Not anymore. Not on the evidence of the last two years. Things are definitely changing for the better. Though there is still a way to go. #PressForProgress
So, I would like to pay tribute on International Women’s Day to the inspiring women that I feel honoured to work with and learn from. You’ve helped champion the work of the residency, of Wikimedia UK and the sharing of open knowledge. You’ve pointed me in the right direction (sometimes literally), provided advice, ideas, support, carved turnips, Periodic table cupcakes, guided me, forced me to take pictures of strip clubs for Wiki Loves Monuments, made me laugh, made me see things differently, challenged me to grow as a practitioner; and demonstrated just what it means to be dedicated & brilliant professional.
I am not normally one to pay compliments or give enough credit where credit is due as a general rule. A fault I know.
But in the dying moments of International Women’s Day I thought I could sneak this out.
I am endlessly grateful so I doff my hat to you all!
Melissa Highton – Twas bold to be first to host a university-wide Wiki residency. And Melissa has been never less than brilliantly supportive throughout.
Wikipedia: the internet’s favourite website for information
As Wikipedia celebrates its 17th birthday this month, we are once again asking our colleagues to help share some fact-checked knowledge to Wikipedia as part of the global #1Lib1Ref campaign (1 Librarian adding 1 Reference) and help assert that facts, not alternative facts, matter.
The campaign runs from January 15th to February 3rd 2018. Everyone is welcome to participate (it is a global open platform after all).
Wikipedia is already the 5th most visited website, the largest reference work on the internet and the single greatest open education resource in existence today. And that’s with only 120,000 regular contributors. Of whom, only around 3455 are considered ‘very active‘ Wikipedians.
That’s the population of a village like Pitlochry curating the world’s knowledge.
Imagine if the 13,000 staff and 36,000 at the University of Edinburgh all contributed a little of their time and expertise to improving the free encyclopedia.
Imagine if ALL universities contributed.
Imagine if ALL libraries contributed.
While Pitlochry is near the famous 18ft ‘Soldier’s Leap’ at Killiecrankie (worth a visit)#1Lib1Ref is your invitation to take a small step to find out how everyone can help improve Wikipedia. Simply add 1 citation to 1 fact on Wikipedia that has been tagged as needing verified with a ‘Citation Needed‘ tag between now and February 3rd 2018.
87.5% of students report using Wikipedia for their academic work.
Used by 90% of medical students and 50-75% of physicians.
It is the place people turn to orientate themselves on a topic.
Did Media Literacy backfire?
“Too many students I met were being told that Wikipedia was untrustworthy and were, instead, being encouraged to do research. As a result, the message that many had taken home was to turn to Google and use whatever came up first. They heard that Google was trustworthy and Wikipedia was not.” (Boyd, 2017)
“Search is the way we live now” – Google and Wikipedia
Google depends on Wikipedia. Click through rate decreases by 80% if Wikipedia links are removed.
Wikipedia depends on Google. 84.5% of visits to Wikipedia are attributable to Google.
According to 2011 figures in Hillis, Petit & Jarrett (2013), Google processed 91% of searches internationally and 97.4% of the searches made using mobile devices.
Google’s ranking algorithm also has a ‘funnelling effect’ according to Beel & Gipp (2009); narrowing the sources clicked upon 90% of the time to just the first page of results with a 42% click through on the first choice alone.
This means that addressing knowledge gaps on Wikipedia will surface the knowledge to Google’s top ten results and increase clickthrough and knowledge-sharing. Wikipedia editing can therefore be seen as a form of activism in the democratisation of access to information.
Did you know that you can nominate Wikipedia pages to be included on Wikipedia’s front page (viewed 25 million times a day on average)? We did just that for the noted sociologist Mary Susan McIntosh‘s Wikipedia page which was created for International Women’s Day in March 2017. From not having a Wikipedia page at all to 7000 views in 1 single day.