This post was authored by Ruth Jenkins, Academic Support Librarian at the University of Edinburgh.
For some time, Wikipedia has been shown to be a resource to engage with, rather than avoid. Wikipedia is heavily used for medical information by students and health professionals – and the fact that it is openly available is crucial for people finding health information, particularly in developing countries or in health crises. Good quality Wikipedia articles are an important contribution to the body of openly available information – particularly relevant for improving health information literacy. In fact, some argue that updating Wikipedia should be part of every doctor’s work, contributing to the dissemination of scientific knowledge.
With that in mind, Academic Support Librarians for Medicine Marshall Dozier, Ruth Jenkins and Donna Watson recently co-presented a workshop on How to run a Wikipedia editathon, at the European Association for Health Information and Libraries (EAHIL) Conference in Cardiff in July. Ewan McAndrew, our Wikimedian in Residence here at the University of Edinburgh, was instrumental in the planning and structuring of the workshop, giving us lots of advice and help. On the day, we were joined by Jason Evans, Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Wales, who spoke about his role at NLW and the Wikimedia community and helped support participants during editing.
We wanted our workshop to give participants experience of editing Wikipedia and build their confidence using Wikipedia as part of the learning experience for students and others. Our workshop was a kind of train-the-trainer editathon. An editathon is an event to bring people together at a scheduled time to create entries or edit Wikipedia on a specific topic, and they are valuable opportunities for collaborating with subject experts, and to involve students and the public.
Where a typical editathon would be a half-day event, we only had 90 minutes. As such, our workshop was themed around a “micro-editathon” – micro in scale, timing and tasks. We focused on giving participants insights into running an editathon, offered hands-on experience, and small-scale edits such as adding images and missing citations to articles.
We are waiting on feedback from the event, but anecdotally, the main response was a wish for a longer workshop, with more time to get to know Wikipedia better! There was lots of discussion about take-home ideas, and we hope they are inspired to deliver editathon events in their own organisations and countries. We also spotted that some of our participants continued to make edits on Wikipedia in the following weeks, which is a great sign.
The University of Edinburgh has won Partnership of the Year at Wikimedia UK’s AGM.
On Saturday 14 July 2018, Wikimedia UK, the national chapter for the global Wikimedia movement, held its Annual General Meeting at the Natural History Museum in London.
Each year the AGM recognises individuals of the Wikimedia UK community who have made a recognisable impact and this year there were 4 categories open to nomination:
UK Wikimedian of the Year 2018
UK Partnership of the Year
Positive Wikimedian of the Year
Up and Coming: Wikimedian to Watch 2018
It was announced at this year’s event that the University of Edinburgh had been nominated and won for UK Partnership of the Year, as the institution which had stood out in the past year as ‘the most effective Wikimedia and Open Knowledge Advocate’.
This is the second time the university has won this accolade following its win in 2016 for hosting the Open Educational Resources conference (OER16) and follows Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, being named UK Wikimedian of the Year in 2017.
The UK Partnership of the Year award recognises the leadership of Melissa Highton and Anne-Marie Scott in supporting the Wikimedia residency and fostering an Open Knowledge community within the university and beyond. It also recognises the fantastic work of our Open Education team; Wikipedia in the Classroom course leaders; our student interns; colleagues in Digital Skills; in Library & University Collections, in Digital Learning Applications and Media (DLAM); and colleagues all across Information Services and the university’s three teaching Colleges in furthering the sharing of open knowledge through the Wikimedia projects.
“The work done by the University of Edinburgh continues to lead the way in Scotland in terms of Higher Education engagement with Wikimedia, and has prompted enquiries from a number of other universities and organisations… showing impact within and outwith Scotland.”
“Their success is absolutely key to the development of the Wikimedia community and its work in Scotland – and I feel it’s right and proper that they be recognised for that.” – Wikimedia UK
Fittingly, the award was collected by Lorna Campbell, who works for the University’s OER Service, and is also a Wikimedia UK Board Member.
Overall, it was a good day for the growing ScotWiki community with other award winners including Delphine Dallison, Wikimedian in Residence at the Scottish Library & Information Council, who won Up and Coming Wikimedian of the Year and Sara Thomas, Scotland Programme Co-ordinator for Wikimedia UK, who received an honourable mention for UK Wikimedian of the Year 2018.
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.
Once again, there is a strong presence of people associated with Wikimedia UK, as well as other Wikimedians. As Wikipedia edges towards 17 years old and we get ever closer to OER17, here’s a look at the presentations coming up from Wikimedia – on the edge of OER17.
(Sadly there will be no Stevie Nicks.)
The conference is co-chaired by Wikimedia UK trustee Josie Fraser and Creative Commons Poland co-founder Alek Tarkowski.
Wikimedia UK Chief Executive Lucy Crompton-Reid is one of the keynote speakers.Lucy Crompton-Reid has a career in the cultural, voluntary and public sectors spanning two decades, with a strong emphasis on leading and developing participatory practice and promoting marginalised voices. As Chief Executive of Wikimedia UK since October 2015, she has led the development of a new strategy focused on eradicating inequality and bias on Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects, with an emphasis on the gender gap and geographic bias. In the past year Lucy has given talks on equality and diversity at the Open Data Institute, Open Source Convention and MozFest, and recently spearheaded an international partnership between Wikimedia UK, Wikimedia communities around the world and the BBC, focused on closing the gender gap on Wikipedia. Lucy will be presenting: “Open as inclusive: Equality and Diversity on Wikimedia” at OER17.
Sara Mörtsell, Education Manager of WikimediaSE, will present on “How openness in mainstream K-12 education can advance with Wikimedia and GLAMs in Sweden” – This proposal addresses how mainstream K-12 education can transition to use and share open educational resources and play a part in the future direction of the open educational movement (Weller 2014). The presentation is based on practical experience of a one year OER project in 2016 with 230 students in K-12 education from both minority and dominant communities in the city of Stockholm.
Stefan Lutschinger, an academic and Wikipedia Campus Ambassador at Middlesex University, will present on “Open Pedagogy and Student Wellbeing: Academic Confidence Building with Wikipedia Assignments“. Stefan’s talk talk will introduce the use of Wikipedia assignments in higher education, present a case study, discuss its benefits for students’ academic confidence building and propose a framework for evaluation and critical reflection. The evidence is based on the compulsory course module (level 6) ‘MED3040 Publishing Cultures’ of the BA (Hons) Creative Writing and Journalism degree programme at Middlesex University, Department of Media, developed in cooperation with Wikimedia UK and the Wiki Education Foundation.
Ewan will also be giving a lightning talk on “Building bridges not walls – Wikipedia’s new Content Translation tool”. Wikipedia’s new Content Translation tool offers an impactful means of sharing open knowledge globally between languages as it brings up an article on one side of the screen in one language and helps translate it, paragraph by paragraph, to create the article in a different language taking all the formatting across to the new article so a native speaker just has to check to make sure the translation is as good as it can be. This presentation will outline the successful models already employed in a Higher Education context.
Martin Poulter, Wikimedian In Residence at the University of Oxford, is giving a presentation on “Putting Wikipedia and Open Practice into the mainstream in a University”. OER Conference attendees are often part of a minority group of Open Education advocates in their institutions, and it is a hard challenge to change wider institutional policy and culture. This presentation will share lessons learned from experience in a UK university, using Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects as well as Open Access research publication as levers to encourage an open approach to education. The drive towards open access to the outputs of research, and open access to the collections of cultural institutions, are potentially powerful drivers for the creation of open educational content. This session explores how to push academic culture in that direction.
Ewan and Martin are jointly giving a lightning talk on “Citation Needed: Digital Provenance in the era of Post-Truth Politics“.This session covers why the most important frontier of Wikipedia is not its content but its 30 million plus citations (Orlowitz, 2016) and the latest developments behind the WikiCite project after its first year. The WikiCite initiative is to build a repository of all Wikimedia citations and bibliographic metadata in Wikidata to serve all Wikimedia projects. The ultimate goal to make Wikipedia’s citations as “reliable, open, accessible, structured, linked and free as our Knowledge is.”(Orlowitz, 2016)
Ewan and Martin will also be running a workshop on “Gamifying Wikimedia – Learning through Play (Workshop)“. This workshop will demonstrate that crowd-sourcing contributions to Wikimedia’s family of Open Education projects does not have to involve a heavy time component and that short fun, enjoyable activities can be undertaken which enhance the opportunities for teaching & learning and the dissemination of open knowledge. Participants will be guided through a series of Wikimedia tools; running through the purpose of each tool, how they can be used to support open education alongside practical demos.
Wikimedia UK volunteer Navino Evans is giving a workshop on “Histropedia – Building an open interactive history of everything with Wikimedia content“.Histropedia is a web application aiming to create free interactive timelines on every topic in history using open data from Wikimedia projects like Wikidata, Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons.All Histropedia timelines are published under an open licence, which means they can be reused and remixed for any purpose, both within Histropedia and elsewhere on the web. Tools like Histropedia provide an incentive for donating text, data and images to Wikimedia projects, as it can instantly be visualised in exciting ways without incurring any cost.
It also shows how data becomes more valuable when it’s open, as it can be combined and compared with other data in a way that is not possible when kept in isolation. It’s our hope that Histropedia can play a role in getting more educational institutions to engage with Wikimedia content and other open resources, as well as inspire others to build innovative applications on top of the wealth of free knowledge that’s available. In this workshop, we will learn how to use Histropedia by completing a sequence of practical exercises to find, combine and improve content.