Wikipedia as a Teaching Tool: Case Studies (Bookshelf)

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  • Target group: Instructors in higher education who are interested in using Wikipedia as a teaching tool in their course.
  • Positioning message: As an instructor who is interested in using Wikipedia as a teaching tool, you can build on the experiences of others who already used Wikipedia in a university setting. This brochure will provide you with a short description of the learning objectives that professors have met with a Wikipedia assignment, descriptions of different types of Wikipedia assignments professors have done, different ways of grading these assignments, and different in-class activities that can accompany such assignments.
  • Length, format: 16–20 pages,  need size, folded and stitched.
  • Remarks: Each case study shall include a photo of the instructor who used Wikipedia in his/her class. The case study itself shall be written in an informal, personal tone that builds trust and conveys the message: here is what I've done and how things worked out for my class. The brochure will have a web counterpart that has more information about the particular professor's assignment and other professors' assignments that also address that particular learning objective. The brochure's story will continue online in this web version.



Since Wikipedia began in 2001, professors around the world have integrated the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit into their curriculum. In 2010, the Wikimedia Foundation started a project called the Wikipedia Education Program to provide more support for professors around the world who are interested in using Wikipedia as a teaching tool.

In this brochure, professors around the world will explain Wikipedia assignments they've used to meet learning objectives for their courses. They will also explain how they graded these assignments. These case studies can help you form a plan for how you can use Wikipedia as a teaching tool in your class.

This brochure is just the beginning, however. For each case study, you can go online to get the assignment details. And if you've created an assignment that you'd like to share with other professors, just go online and add yourself! Follow the links at the bottom of each case study for more information.

Learning Objectives[edit]

Professors say the following are typical learning objectives they use the Wikipedia assignment to meet:

1. Writing Skills Development

There are several ways students improve their writing skills with Wikipedia. First, they learn how to write for a diverse and interested readership that represents a significant percentage of the worldwide online population. During the process of contributing information to the encyclopedia, students must learn to write with others and to accept revisions of their work. Furthermore, with Wikipedia's emphasis on verifiability and "no original research," students gain a greater understanding of the difference between fact-based and persuasive writing style.

2. Media and Information Literacy

Wikipedia's transparent and collaborative content development process allows students to gain a deeper understanding of how information is both produced and consumed. This provides an excellent opportunity for students to reflect on available sources and their appropriate usage.

3. Critical Thinking and Research Skills

Students learn to critically analyze Wikipedia articles to determine how well the article covers the topic, to assess what information is missing and to evaluate to what extent the article is documented with reliable sources. In the larger context, the evaluation of Wikipedia articles helps your students learn how to evaluate different sources, not just Wikipedia. The process of assessing an existing article and deciding what information is missing is very similar to the literature review process that is crucial in scholarly research.

4. Collaboration

Students learn first-hand how to collaborate with a community of active volunteer editors (including their fellow students) in the development of encyclopedic content. They often receive feedback on their work and learn to negotiate with other editors in building consensus on content.

5. Working on Wiki: Technical and Communication Skills

Wiki software use is growing in both educational and corporate settings. Wikipedia assignments teach students how to use the popular MediaWiki software. Students also learn to effectively communicate online with people they've never met. Students communicate on article and user talk pages, developing skills and techniques appropriate for getting their message across to their intended audience.

Case studies: Assignments[edit]

Each case study will feature a box with the following information about the assignment:

  • Professor name
  • Professor university
  • Course name
  • Course level (undergrad/graduate)
  • Learning objectives
  • Discipline of course
  • Class size
  • Individual or group assignment
  • Duration of assignment (in weeks)

Each assignment will feature a description from the professor on what the assignment was, what was good about the assignment, and what challenges are with the assignment. In each of these cases, the details of the assignment will be available on the web counterpart to this printed brochure.

  • Instructor to feature: Adrianne Wadewitz (US)
  • Assignment description: Many instructors try to teach the clarity and precision of writing, but nothing quite makes the point like someone else’s failed attempt at achieving these goals. Using one of the many poorly written articles on Wikipedia, you can quickly show students the real-world effects of poor communication. You can also show them the benefits of improving that communication by copyediting the article in real-time. If you choose one of the newly-created articles on Wikipedia, you can also have a discussion with the author(s) of the article about how best to convey what they want to say! This assignment can be done by students individually or collectively as a class and is a good introduction to editing Wikipedia. It is small and does not require students to learn wiki mark-up.
  • Instructor to feature: Jim Lipuma (US)
  • Assignment description: Students are asked to analyze Wikipedia lead sections and decide whether the existing introductions fulfill the criteria of good definitions. Whenever they find definitions that are badly written, not understandable or ambiguous, they edit the article and replace the existing definition with a better one.
Lit Review
  • Potential instructor to feature: Iman Ezzeldin (Egypt)
  • Assignment description: Students are asked to write a Wikipedia article on a course-related topic. They then use what they've crafted as the literature review section for a longer analytical paper that they turn in to the professor.
Write an article
  • Potential instructors to feature (two since this is most common): Juliana Bastos Marques (Brazil)
  • Assignment description: Students are asked to write a Wikipedia article on a course-related topic.
Bring an article to FA/GA status
  • Instructor to feature: Jon Beasley-Murray (Canada)
  • Assignment description: Students worked together to write course-related articles and bring them through the Good Article and Featured Article process on Wikipedia.
  • Instructor to feature: Leigh Thelmadatter (Mexico), Dalia El-Toukhy (Egypt)
  • Assignment description: Students were asked to translate an article from one language Wikipedia to another. Leigh asked her students to translate from the English Wikipedia to the Spanish Wikipedia, and Dalia had her students translate multiple articles from the French Wikipedia to the Arabic Wikipedia.
  • Instructor to feature: Mgr. Jiří Reif Ph.D. (Czech Republic)
  • Assignment descriptions: Students took photos of protected areas in the Czech Republic and added them to Wikimedia Commons as well as the Wikipedia articles on those areas.
  • Potential instructor to feature: Bruce Sharky (US)
  • Assignment description: Students were asked to create infographics about course topics, upload them to Wikimedia Commons, and add them to related articles on Wikipedia.
  • Instructor to feature: Jennifer Geigel Mikulay (US)
  • Assignment description: Create video, upload it to Wikimedia Commons, and add it to a Wikipedia article.

Case studies: Grading[edit]

Each case study will feature a box with the following information about the assignment:

  • Professor name
  • Professor university
  • Course name
  • Course level (undergrad/graduate)
  • Learning objectives
  • Discipline of course
  • Class size
  • Individual or group assignment
  • Duration of assignment (in weeks)

NOTE: Many professors use a mix of the below when they grade.

Content added to Wikipedia
  • Potential instructor to feature: Anne McNeil (US)
  • Description: Professor carefully monitors the content added and grades based on quality and quantity of final content added.
  • Instructor to feature: Bob Cummings (US)
  • Description: Bob has his students create online portfolios of their Wikipedia work.
Reflective paper
  • Instructor to feature: Michael Mandiberg (US)
  • Description: Students write reflective papers on their experiences
Blog posts
  • Instructor to feature: Rochelle Davis (US)
  • Description: Students added weekly blog entries about their experiences on the class blog.
Peer reviews
  • Potential instructor to feature: Shamira Gelbman (US)
  • Description: Students review each others' work and provide feedback.

Next steps[edit]

Visit the online version of this brochure to get more details on each professor's assignment. If you've used Wikipedia in your class, you can also add yourself and your assignment details, so other professors can experience what you've learned from your Wikipedia assignment. Have another idea of an assignment or a way to grade? Add that as well! Visit  url to come for more details.

Wikipedia Education Program

Ready to join the Wikipedia Education Program? Education programs already exist in many countries, and Wikimedia volunteers are creating new programs every term. Professors don't need to be Wikipedia experts to use the free encyclopedia as a teaching tool in their classrooms; volunteer Wikipedia Ambassadors are available to offer you and your student assistance in learning the best ways to contribute to Wikipedia for class.

For more information, visit