The study continued: “Wikipedia was a convenient go-to source under these circumstances. The source delivered results students could act upon, allowing them to get unstuck and move forward.”

Chelsea Clement, a junior communications major at Denver who wrote a Wikipedia entry on a ski resort near her hometown of Gobles, Mich., said writing and posting her article was not as complex as she thought.

“I was surprised I could do it, and it was much simpler than I expected,” says Clement, who is in Demont-Heinrich’s class.

Michela Altergott, a senior digital media studies major in Schofield Clark’s class, said sifting through mounds of digital information about the Denver Depression of 1893 proved time consuming. Finding legitimate sources for an article that could be read anywhere in the world, she said, was a challenging assignment.

“I never considered how much research and knowledge actually has to go into a Wikipedia article to make them good sources,” Altergott says. “It was actually very tough researching the subject and turning it into a coherent entry for Wikipedia.”

The University of Denver isn’t the only campus asking students to contribute to Wikipedia’s 3.2 million English language articles. Mikhail Lyubansky, a clinical psychologist and lecturer at the University of Illinois, recently urged his students to write a Wikipedia entry on the class textbook for the current spring semester.

Lyubansky said contributing to Wikipedia’s knowledge pool fits well in higher education’s mission.

“It’s not a scientific peer-reviewed process, and that’s OK,” he said. “It’s never going to be … but students can contribute to the learning of others, and that’s really cool.”

Douglas Giles, a philosophy professor at Elmhurst College outside of Chicago, said the gratification of seeing course work published on one of the internet’s most widely read sites could serve as a motivating factor for college students learning their craft.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing for writing students or anyone who goes into a field where their job is to create content,” said Giles, who recommends Wikipedia citations in his students’ research projects, but requires multiple sources. “You can actually see the results of your work and see how they’ll fare in the wide world.”

Links:

Wikipedia statistics

University of Denver


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