Another winter term is coming to an end at Czech universities and we can again evaluate how students of Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague, succeeded in improving Wikipedia articles about Czech protected areas this year. A total of 36 enrolled students of “Nature and Landscape Protection” (6 more students than last year) took part in the cooperation between the faculty and WikiProject Protected areas, organized under patronation of Students Write Wikipedia program and Wikimedia Czech Republic.
The benefits of cooperating with a group of third-year university students of Institute for Environmental Studies have been clear since last year, as can be seen from the last year’s report. At that time, students wrote top-quality articles accompanied by lots of pictures, aiming to document corresponding protected areas and improve the topic in the Czech Wikipedia. It was this past success that was very demanding this time: Will we be able to motivate the students enough so that their articles are at least as good as they were last year?
We did not change the overall model of the project: again, students were asked to pick one protected area, pay a visit in it, take pictures, make a 15-minute talk in front of the class (including the following discussion), and, last but not least, write a detailed Wikipedia article on the subject of this protected area. However, we put more stress on the professional delivery of the talks in front of class, including punctuality and good time management, as well as sticking to basic Wikipedia rules when writing the article. The scheme did not change because it was evaluated as satisfying enough and leading to good quality articles with lots of pretty pictures. It must be noted that this model is very demanding for the Wikipedia Ambassador who goes through all the articles, corrects them, and attends the seminar each week to evaluate the speeches.
As mentioned earlier, WikiProject Protected Areas has been the principal curator of this project; however, it is part of an official Students Write Wikipedia initiative that has been operating for two years now in the Czech Republic and has seen hundreds of articles being created about various topics and by students of several Czech universities. Apropos, ten Czech projects are running in the current winter term, including “Christianity I.“, “Sculpture in Czech Lands 1550-1800“, “Molecular Immunology” or “Essentials of Parasitology” (the list of all our projects can be found here). Recent changes in all these articles can be monitored real-time at a special page; the most interesting updates are regularly posted at the program’s Facebook page.
And how was the cooperation going this year? Let’s see the table below!
As you can see by comparing the corresponding page revisions in the table, the amount of text written during the course of the project was huge, and that applies to pictures as well. Like last year, one of the articles, written by a student, achieved the status of a Good Article. Specifically, it was an article dealing with a natural monument Hostivické rybníky, which is located in the vicinity of Prague. We proved again that even someone who is a Wikipedia beginner can create a high quality article when properly motivated. We also believe that the “exemplary articles” offered to students are essential for the success, as students can easily see all the templates used and just copy/paste them into their own article. We also stressed the practice of watching the work of students by experienced Wikipedians, who fix any imperfections and mistakes in the text or student’s wrong understanding of the internal wiki-rules.
Nevertheless, something did not run so smooth this year. Although we did explain the problem of copyright and stressed the importance of original writing, two students crossed the line of this essential Wikipedia rule this year. We cannot tell if it was unfamiliarity with the rule or an effort to simplify their school job, but the truth is that we recognized these violations very soon and removed the problematic pieces. Students thus experienced efficient defence mechanisms of Wikipedia, as even without the need of an Ambassador’s action, as other users promptly flagged the articles. Students were bound to rewrite the articles and explain their fault to the teacher. We believe this was an important lesson for all the students in the class, helping them to realize how important the original work is. However, we strongly warn everyone who considers starting a similar project to check all the student texts for copyright violations – this is a ubiquitous problem.
Apart from this issue that must be addressed, I would recommend all the Wikimedia projects to try to involve students as much as possible. Their positive value is indisputable and if you dedicate enough of your free time, they sure will produce excellent results, as our students did. The Czech “Students Write Wikipedia” program has once again proved its viability and the diversity it brings into Czech Wikipedia. This is a project when otherwise non-existent articles on protected areas and pictures are created and I personally hope that the next term will be again blooming with gifted students and their beautiful articles.
I’d like to hereby thank to Mgr. Jiří Reif PhD., the Associate Professor at Charles University in Prague, who once again allowed me to cooperate with his students and join them into the development of Czech Wikipedia. Also, I would love to thank to all students, who took part in this project and gave a lot of their energy in it. Thank you all!