Using Wikipedia in the Classroom In This Guide

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Using Wikipedia in the Classroom

 In This Guide

  • Introduction

  • Learning Objectives

  • Overview of How It Works

  • Step-by-Step

  • Sample Projects

  • Grading Tips

  • Additional Resources



Integrating a Wikipedia assignment into your course can be a powerful way to create a more authentic and experiential learning opportunity for your students. It is very different from using the Blackboard wiki; while they both facilitate cooperation, using Wikipedia creates a published, public record, and can be scene and editing by anyone with access to the internet, not just students in the course or at Cal Lutheran.


Learning Objectives

(Adapted from Wikipedia Education Program, Case Studies Brochure)

  • Writing skill development: Students learn how to write in an objective voice, clearly and concisely, for a diverse readership. Practice copyediting skills, proper referencing, and translation.

  • Media and Information Literacy: Transparent and collaborative content development process allows student to gain a deeper understanding of how information is produced and consumed. Provides an opportunity to reflect on available sources (on and off the web) and their appropriate usage.

  • Critical Thinking and Research Skills: Students learn to analyze existing articles to see what is missing, incomplete, and evaluate the quality of sources used. When writing/improving the article, they find third-party sources to site, and must decide the most accurate and appropriate way to incorporate the information into the article.

  • Collaboration: Students learn to write with others, and learn to both give and receive revisions/constructive criticism of the work. They become a part of an established community of active volunteers they will collaborate with to build consensus.

  • Technical and Communication Skills: Wiki software use is becoming increasingly common in educational and corporate settings. Students learn to use the MediaWiki software and practice communicating in a professional manner article and user talk pages.

Overview of How It Works

(Adapted from Wikipedia Education Program, Instructor Basics brochure)

  • Wikipedia is a free, online encyclopedia anyone can edit, but it is not edited chaotically

  • It has five key policies to guide “Wikipedians” while they edit.

    • Online encyclopedia: Wikipedia is not a soapbox, a dictionary, a web directory, or an experiment in democracy or anarchy.

    • No firm rules: The rules are not carved in stone, are subject to change over time, and the spirit of them is more important than the literal wording.

    • Free content: All writing must be original, and it may be edited and reused by others under a shared license. Editors must respect copyright and not plagiarize sources.

    • Neutral point of view: No persuasion or advocacy; all information should be presented without bias. Different opinions on the topic should be presented without arguing for one over another.

    • Good faith: All Wikipedians should assume good faith when interacting with others. Everyone should be treated with respect and assume that everyone is working toward the same goal of improving the content on Wikipedia.

  • Other core values

    • Reliable sources: Wikipedians should cite third-party sources with a reputation for fact-checking (e.g. peer reviewed academic journals, international newspapers).

    • Notability: Is defined by Wikipedia as having “significant coverage in reliable sources that are independent of the subject” (Wikipedia Ambassador Training Module, p. 12 of The Core).

    • No original research: Wikipedia is a tertiary source; a synthesis of reliable, secondary sources.

    • Be bold: If you see a problem, fix it! Prior versions are saved, and mistakes can and will be corrected by the community.

  • Students can create, update, or alter Wikipedia content, alone or in groups, and their individual contribution will be visible.



  1. Design an assignment the fits with your course syllabus and content. You can use Wikipedia example assignments (detailed in the next section)

    1. Write an article

    2. Translate an article

    3. Add illustrations, videos, or photographs to an article

    4. Copy-editing

  2. Train students how to use Wikipedia

    1. Wikipedia Ambassadors, both online and offline, can train your students to use Wikipedia, and provide feedback throughout the process of editing and posting entries.

      1. Campus Ambassadors will do “in-class presentations that introduce students to Wikipedia-editing, run labs/workshops on the technical and cultural aspects of Wikipedia, and in general offer in-person Wikipedia mentorship to students.”

      2. Online Ambassadors will answer questions and help students troubleshoot problems they have while they are editing.

    2. Online training resources

      1. Wikipedia: Training

  3. Have students create a user account with a connected email address, and give you a copy of their usernames, so you can keep track of which students are doing what

  4. Choose article(s).

    1. There are 2 ways that this is done:

      1. Students choose for themselves, and the instructor approves it.

      2. The instructor creates a list of content/course appropriate articles that the student chooses from.

    2. Good articles for this project should:

      1. Need improvement, such as stub or start-class articles (or search WP: Pages needing attention)

      2. Should be well established in its own field, though weakly represented on Wikipedia

      3. Should not be covered thoroughly elsewhere (e.g. under a related topic)

  5. Clearly define assignment requirements and grading scheme 


Sample Projects

(Adapted from Wikipedia Education Program, Case Studies Basics brochure)

  • Copy-editing:

    • Short or long assignment

    • For writing classes

    • Improve clarity of article and engage editors in discussion about their writing

  • Definitions:

    • Short or long assignment

    • Any class using terminology

    • Improve/add definitions and cite reliable and appropriate sources

  • Write an article:

    • Long assignment

    • Alone or in groups

    • Create, improve, or expand an article (or section of an article).

    • Can be used as part of a larger class project; e.g. reflection paper on the process of writing; class presentation on the topic.

  • Translation:

    • Short or long assignment

    • For language or translation classes

    • Alone or in groups

    • Translate an article that exists in the English version, but not in the course's language; or vice versa.

  • Photos:

    • Short or long assignment

    • Photography, nature conservation, biology or botany, history, etc.

    • Find or take images and add to Wikipedia articles

    • Engage in a discussion of copyright and fair use of materials.

  • Illustrations

    • Short or long assignment

    • Landscape architecture, architecture, geography

    • Students add an illustration to an article that explains something with words that could be better expressed graphically

  • Videos

    • Long assignment

    • Film and media studies

    • Create a video to add to an article


Grading Tips

  • Create a course page at the beginning of the quarter that all the students must enroll in.

  • You can then easily click on their username and see what they have been doing in Wikipedia.

  • Be explicit in grading expectations.

  • The syllabus should say how much each aspect of the project is worth (i.e. 5% of the grade for evaluating classmates' work) and delineate what is expected (create one new subsection, composed of at least three paragraphs, and having at least three citations).

  • Do not grade students on what stays in Wikipedia; even great articles get changed and moved and even removed.

  • Create milestones for steps such as enter something in the sandbox, migrate sandbox edits to the live page, a rough draft for other students to edit.


Additional Resources

  • Contact Cia DeMartino (, 805-493-3368) for more information

  • All the brochures mentioned in this guide are available at

  • Kevin Gorman is our Regional Ambassador for California

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