With six university classes having participated previously on English Wikinews, Wikinews contributors and The Wikinewsie Group decided to formalize the creation of an education program as a way of instilling best journalistic practices in future journalists and to increase news production. The first steps in this process involved installing the Education Program extension, developing support materials for instructors to use with students, and creating a portal for educators to learn more about the project at WN:EDU.

A presentation by LauraHale for EduWiki 2013 held in Cardiff in early November

To date, all our classes have been university undergraduate classes. From them, we’ve learned a number of valuable things as a project and made a number of changes. This included turning red check marks into blue question marks, trying to practice giving more detailed and useful feedback, providing instructional materials for students to reference, and providing screencasts of article writing and reviewing to assist reporters in better understanding our processes. An analysis of our articles not readied for publication revealed that many of the problems students have are ones that new contributors also face. That includes plagiarism (10% and 16% of all not ready reviews), understanding what is news, and writing articles in compliance with our style guide.

Students contribute diverse and important articles to Wikinews. Here are some articles from the most recent term contributed by students:

With the new infrastructure in place, we’d love to see more high school and university courses participating on Wikinews. From our point of view, there are a lot of tangible benefits for students. They can learn to write on a deadline, comply with a style guide, and write neutrally. They can learn to discern fact from opinion. Students can also engage in original reporting by going out into the world and documenting what they see and hear. Original reporting is allowed and encouraged. This provides practice with interviewing skills, practicing observations, give students interested in photography a way to frame their pictures against a news narrative. Because nothing is published on Wikinews without going through a community review process with a built in feedback system, students can have a better idea of where and how they can improve their writing. If students are successful in getting their news published, they can easily find it through Google News, and it might be picked up by a print newspaper as our licensing allows that. It’s happened a number of times.

If you’re a high school or university instructor interested in having your students get involved with the process, please feel free to ask us any questions you may have on the project’s water cooler or consider applying for instructor rights at Wikinews:Instructor rights request.

Laura Hale
The Wikinewsie Group