In Fall 2008 I began developing a graduate-level class project that centers on the editing of Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia. Wikipedia is a highly visible and open platform for communicating science to general and technical audiences. Founded in 2001, Wikipedia is now the seventh most accessed site on the Internet, containing over 3 million articles in English and is translated into 260 different languages.
The format of Wikipedia is designed so that anyone can create or edit an entry with minimal instruction and entries can be readily interconnected through links. Overall, the goals of this project are to (i) enhance student learning, (ii) build collaborative skills, and (iii) improve the quality and quantity of scientific information available to the public. Briefly, the students work in small groups to edit a site on a topic that is related to the course material and not already adequately described in Wikipedia. Throughout the semester the students submit an outline and draft website for peer review and feedback. The culmination of the project involves posting the revised site online.
For examples of materials, please click here: syllabus, project description, timeline and peer review. Read more about it at the Wiki Ed Blog.
To date, over 150 students have contributed science content to Wikipedia through my courses. For representative sites, see: fire safe polymers, RAFT, physical organic chemistry, and strain. In 2010, the Wikimedia Foundation recognized our efforts and asked us to advise them on how to implement the Public Policy Initiative, a nationwide project that recognizes the educational value in having students edit Wikipedia. Our courses are now involved with the Global Education Program.