Students at Schreiner University enrolled in their Spring 2013 New Media Technology and Communication course to find that Professor Mary Grace Antony wanted them to expand Wikipedia articles. Antony found out about the Wikipedia Education Program through the National Communication Association Wikipedia Initiative.
“It seemed like the perfect fit for a course that examined technology and its impact on communication, while providing my students with a firsthand immersive experience with an online collaborative and research-oriented organization,” she says. Her colleagues have been enthusiastic about the project, and one reference librarian, Connor Baldwin, is now training as a Wikipedia Ambassador after supervising this assignment so he can best support others at Schreiner.
In the beginning of the semester, all students completed the training for students as an introduction to editing basics and norms, article selection, and referencing guidelines.
“Dan Simanek, our Campus Ambassador, provided an initial orientation, and even presented a Skype guest lecture where he reviewed the stub extension process and took questions from the class,” Mary Grace says. “User:Theopolisme, our Online Ambassador, provided invaluable feedback and real-time assistance whenever the students hit a roadbump. His patience was truly commendable.”
Students enjoyed the assignment, according to feedback they provided at the end of the term.
“I like how this project is virtually a group effort, and how others can jump in with their ideas,” said one of her students, User:Marshall90. “It challenged me to do something I would have never considered doing, yet it gave me the opportunity to share my work with others.”
The great thing about programs and projects like the Education Program is that new editors, who may not edit in the long-term, can still add great content and learn along the way. But it’s not just Wikipedia who benefits: students do, too.
“It is far more practical and immediately beneficial than a traditional class assignment,” Mary Grace says. “Developing a stub into a full-fledged article required focus, attention to detail, and good research and writing skills. The results were instantaneous and tangible, and this gave the students a more fulfilling and satisfying learning experience. Several of them appreciated writing for a global audience, rather than just the course professor.”
Even with all of these learning benefits, Antony’s favorite part of the assignment was her “students’ evolving and burgeoning pride in their work.”
“This has been one of my favorite assignments while at Schreiner,” said User:Saviands, one of her students. “I intend to keep up with the page and see what changes and edits are made.” Antony says she “can’t wait to do it again.”
Jami Mathewson, Wikipedia Education Program, United States and Canada