Classroom embraces Wikipedia

By Ellen Baker

Wikipedia is now being incorporated into one UK classroom.

Students in Economics and Public Policy, taught by Eugenia Toma, Ph.D., are working on writing and editing articles for the free encyclopedia website.

The Wikipedia Public Policy Initiative partners with professors at 32 different universities across the country. These professors assign their students to write Wikipedia articles as part of their class.

The Wikimedia Foundation offers support in syllabus assistance, trains campus ambassadors and provides online ambassadors to be available to students.

Toma said she was excited to be part of the Public Policy Initiative.

“I got an email over the summer asking if we were interested in being involved. Usually I have a big project during the semesters; I’ve done term papers, I’ve done debates. I really like this idea of Wikipedia project,” Toma said.

Ben Norton, the UK Wikipedia Ambassador, was one of the first Wikipedia Campus Ambassadors to be trained in the program.

Part of his responsibilities include working with faculty members, giving presentations about Wikipedia, training students in editing and running in-class lab sessions for students to gain experience with Wikipedia.

“We are very, very rapidly moving into an Internet-based society,” Norton said. “Working with Wikipedia, understanding how it works and learning about the society that goes along with it is absolutely crucial. It would be hard for me to overemphasize how important these things will be in the years to come.”

James Woodward, a public policy masters student, is in Toma’s course and is working on a Wikipedia project this semester. He said he thinks that the Public Policy Initiative shows great promise.

“It is interesting to learn about specific issues of public policy economics and potentially share them with others through Wikipedia,” Woodward said.

LiAnna Davis, a communications associate at the Wikimedia Foundation, was also excited about the project and its potential to enhance the future of Wikipedia.

“Through this project, we’re hoping to both improve the quality of Wikipedia articles and make academia understand that Wikipedia’s a great first step in research — you shouldn’t cite it in a paper, but you should look at the references section of articles to find the primary sources you should use to cite,” Davis stated.