Centre for Internet & Society

This is a short study on the Wikimedia in Education (WIE) at Christ University, Bengaluru, which aims to offer an overview of the key objectives and challenges of this project and map its impact on teaching-learning practices in multilingual classrooms. The report has been authored by Ananth Subray, with editorial oversight and support by Puthiya Purayil Sneha, and external review by Sumandro Chattapadhyay. This is part of a series of short-term studies undertaken by the CIS-A2K team in 2019–2020.

Introduction

The growth of collaborative and open access platforms such as Wikimedia over the last decade has opened up new avenues to think about access to open educational resources by people across the world. The Wikimedia in Education (WIE) is one such instance of a collaborative effort undertaken with educators and learners across the world, to promote knowledge equity and rethink digital forms of pedagogy, both inside and outside the classroom. The Wikimedia movement has collaborated with diverse partners around the world as part of WIE. These collaborators are using Wikipedia as part of educational content, with the objective of  enabling better access to content, fostering various skills among students and augmenting content on Wikipedia in local languages As part of this program, students work on new articles, improve existing ones or work on sister projects of Wikipedia such as Wikisource, Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata.

In 2011, the first pilot Education Program in India was started with the help of the Wikimedia Foundation in Pune. The following were some of the motivating factors

  • “India has the world's largest youth population of 1.2 billion people and it has 28 languages with hundreds of dialects.

  • Consumption and creation of content on the Internet is growing fast in India. In 2018, India had over 480 million internet users across the country.[1] 

  • There are 23 Indic languages Wikipedias - but they all have limited content compared to English Wikipedia. The average article count is less than 40,000. There are many strong reasons to increase participation from India - and that is a primary objective of the India Education program.”

Later in 2013, after an assessment of the pilot project in Pune, discussions with CHRIST (Deemed to be University) in Bengaluru were initiated by Centre for Internet and Society - Access to Knowledge (CIS-A2K). After preparing a detailed plan about Wikipedia in Education and CHRIST, the program was started with the help of community members, faculty members from the Department of Languages and people from CIS-A2K. Some of the main objectives of the program were to [2] : 

  • Strengthen critical thinking skills in students;

  • Develop language proficiency in terms of cohesively presenting an idea or concept;

  • Develop the ability to closely read/assess information or data;

  • Develop the ability to collaborate in a team environment; and

  • Cultivate the ability to be a producer of knowledge than a passive consumer.

CHRIST has been running Wikipedia in Education for the past 7 years. This study aims to understand the progress of this initiative, and its opportunities and limitations so far, especially with respect to Indian educational institutions engaging with a virtual community through Wikipedia. In particular, students, teachers, and other stakeholders have been an integral part of this online community at CHRIST.


Context

 

“ Wikipedia is the best tool available to us to go digital. We are happy that Wikipedia builds in the process and our students also learn.”
                                                                                                                                                 - Dr Anil Pinto, Registrar, Christ University

Wikipedia is a collaborative knowledge platform, with a vision to "imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge”.[3] The word "Wikipedia" is derived from the Hawaiian word wiki, meaning "quick" and encyclopedia. Wikipedia's articles provide links designed to guide the user to related pages with additional information. Wikipedia is written collaboratively by a community of language speakers. Wikipedia currently has more than 54 million articles in more than 300 languages and is supposed to be the largest reference website in the world.[4]

After the effort of the Wikimedia Foundation in initiating a pilot program at Pune, a similar collaboration was discussed between CIS-A2K and CHRIST (Deemed to be University). As both institutions have a keen interest in developing content in  Indic languages on the Internet, it was an encouraging factor for this collaboration They discussed the various ways in which the program can engage  students of the university, including promoting content creation in natural sciences in regional languages, publishing CHRIST (Deemed to be University) books on Wikisource, digitising old/ rare books, in addition to editing and creating articles, especially in their subject areas of study.

Faculty members from the Department of Languages supported the initiative, with the following objectives in mind [5]:  

  • Modern forms of teaching/learning such as learning/contributing to Wikipedia are a life-long process that learners can access anytime and anywhere. 

  • Information explosion is an ever-increasing phenomenon, and it is imperative to be able to access such information easily.  Modern education should meet the needs of a diversity  of learners, and Wikipedia being an open platform may be an important aspect in meeting this need. 

  • Open knowledge platforms such as Wikipedia are a crucial component  of the information society so individuals should possess technological literacy and grasp digital tools of teaching/learning so as to access them easily.   

Later in November 2013, CHRIST & CIS-A2K signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to officially start a Wikipedia in Education initiative to introduce the creation/editing of Wikipedia articles as a component of the Continuous Internal Assessment (CIA) for all undergraduate students studying Kannada, Hindi or Sanskrit as a second language at the university. 

Around 900 students were involved in this project in the first iteration. To monitor and train the students the position of Class Ambassadors was created, where two students proficient in the language were selected and given special training to help their peers in the class. The participating students themselves decided upon the topics of the articles to be created/edited by them. Since then every year the WIE at CHRIST has been modified according to the requirement of different stakeholders after undertaking a needs assessment.

 

Research Method and Questions 

This study is qualitative in nature, with a focus on key stakeholders of the program, and explores the experience of the participants (student, teacher, trainer, and Wikipedian) to understand their learnings from this experience. Interviews were conducted with students, community members, faculty members, and members of the CIS-A2K team to understand their perspectives on different aspects of the project. A total of 14 interviews were conducted, which included 5 faculty members, 6 students, and 3  community members who were involved with the program in the earlier days of Wikipedia in Education at CHRIST. 

The research questions of the study are as follows: 

  • What were the motivations and challenges for different stakeholders (students, faculty and community members) in conducting and participating in the WIE at CHRIST (Deemed to be University)? 
  • What was the impact observed by these stakeholders as a result of their engagement with this program, (including personal changes/improvements if any)? 

The responses were then analysed to consolidate a set of observations about the program. 

 

Observations

Benefits of using Wikipedia in teaching

Using Wikipedia as a pedagogic tool trains students on how to share information related to advanced topics in every discipline with the general audience in an effective manner, as this is sometimes not covered in academic training. Teaching this style of writing is helpful and has a high impact on the way information is accessed by most readers regularly. As the readers and consumers of information on the Internet are increasing day by day, it also offers a lot of scope for students to add content on diverse topics.  The first step for CHRIST towards incorporating Wikipedia in the curriculum was to understand that it can be used as an educational tool, for the benefit of the students, such as improving digital literacy skills, writing skills and using the local language on the internet.


How to inculcate Wikipedia in higher education?

When the WIE was started at CHRIST, there was a small change in the plans for the course and the continuous internal assessment (CIA). Students contributed to Wikipedia projects by making edits or creating articles, proofreading pages on Wikisource, etc. Here faculty members or community members with the help of the CIS-A2K team  introduced the students to Wikipedia and its interface, and also monitored the student's activity and progress.    

Students created articles related to subjects of their specialisation,  and academic topics which are mostly read by the students of the same age group. Since these sets of articles are widely read, it attracts the attention of the Wikipedia communities. They correct mistakes if any and teach the students basic aspects of editing and article creation. 

Wikipedia in Education is facilitated with the help of a faculty member who is familiar with Wikipedia and its community. Having faculty members with no experience in editing Wikipedia is not efficient and as they can't effectively use Wikipedia as a pedagogic tool. Also, it will be difficult to answer the students’ queries and properly guide them. While it may not be possible for faculty members to equip themselves with advanced skills, they are encouraged to learn the basic aspects of Wikipedia before teaching the students. This gives them the confidence to respond to the concerns of the students in doing assignments on Wikimedia platforms.

 Changes made in the WIE at CHRIST based on the students’ feedback and community requirements are as follows[6]:

Year

    Changes made in the program at CHRIST (Deemed to be University) over the last 7 years

2013-14      

  •  Wikipedia in Education was started to increase the awareness about the Wikimedia community among  students.      

2014-15 

 
  • The use of sandbox was explained and it was introduced to students
  • A peer review system was started to enhance the quality of the work
  • New evaluation methods were adapted. 
  • Wikisource was Introduced to the students.
 

2015-16

 
  • A certificate course & Wikimedia internship was introduced to attract more students to the Wikimedia world.

  • Ambassadors were selected to have multiple touchpoint systems. 

2016-17

 
  •  Different methods were chosen to increase awareness of the work done by the students, such as social media promotion. 
  • Students were involved in a  national conference to meet different community members. 

2017-18

 
  •  Community members were involved in different steps. 
  • Faculty members started to do the evaluations of the articles.

2018-19 

  •  New methods were adopted to promote the work done at the University.
  • Community members started reviewing the articles written by the students.

   

 How is students writing a Wikipedia article for their assignments helpful in  achieving larger learning objectives? 

Wikimedia in Education opened up a number of ways in which students get to choose and work on their favourite topics, areas of interest, and aid teachers in designing new and innovative assignments. Faculty members have also found different tools to evaluate the assignment,  track the student’s work and to spot plagiarism of assignments among students.   Writing assignments on a Wikimedia platform helps students to understand the importance of group collaboration and teamwork. Wikipedia helps the faculty members to imbibe group collaboration among students  and monitor individual progress with the help of "User contribution". Some of the tools developed by the Wikimedia Foundation, such as the Program & events dashboard help aculty members to evaluate the work of the students and monitor each edit done by all the students. 

 

 How is  Wikipedia in Education helpful for community members? 

A group of 20-25 students from over 1000 students from each batch contributing to various topics on Wikipedia helps the community to generate more content and enhance the usefulness of the Wikipedia projects that have been engaged with as part of the program.  

The content created as part of the WIE is reviewed by language experts and subject experts which helps the community to create more quality articles in less time. Since the articles created by students are in the sandbox, after reviewing these articles they are moved to the main namespace by the community members with minor changes. In Wikimedia in Education, more students gain skills and knowledge related to Wikipedia which can result in a good number of student volunteers in the community and potential long-term contributors. Some of the students make it a hobby to write articles on Wikipedia even after completing the course;  this increases the potential of having more long-term contributors and helps to strengthen the existing community.

Last but not least, it has benefits beyond the Wikipedia community and classroom. Wikipedia content is under a free license for the entire world. As such, the students' work translates into aiding all those who use Wikipedia — which, as recent studies indicate, means most Internet users.[7]


What do students think about Wikipedia assignments?

Some students communicated that they are very confused about Wikipedia, and some feel it is easy to contribute and engage with it. Some students shared that they initially faced difficulty but when a faculty member helped them clear their doubts, it enabled them to improve their perception of learning this tool. 

The majority of the students who responded to interviews prefer a Wikipedia assignment over a traditional one when they are provided with frequent training on how to contribute to Wikipedia. The students who disliked the assignment usually noted that it was more difficult than just writing a regular paper in an offline word processing software. Those who liked the Wikipedia assignment commented that their project resulted in an above-average group paper that would be seen and appreciated by others. 

Some of the students at the university appreciated Wikipedia in Education as their work is read by the wider public, and the fact that they are creating useful digital content on the internet, rather than just writing assignments on paper to be read by faculty members.  


Limitations of the program

Despite its many positive aspects, the project comes with certain limitations as well. Students may or may not be well versed with the language, especially with respect to the community standards on quality and expectations of active community members, and they may not be able to create the article as per the same.  In this situation, sometimes the community may get annoyed by looking at such articles. Trainers/faculty members should pay more attention to these kinds of students or class ambassadors to guide these students in the whole process.

During the orientations, some of the students may not pay attention properly and won't follow the instructions, which leads to incorrectly prepared articles and edits. Also, students may vandalise the Wikipedia pages while contributing and burden the communities. In such cases, the trainer/faculty members should monitor them thoroughly with the program & events dashboard and correct them if any students vandalise a Wikipedia page. 

 

Conclusions and Recommendations

This study helped us understand the challenges and advantages observed by the students with both the opportunity and access to Wikipedia platforms to communicate on advanced topics in science/higher education to the general public. One observation from the students who took part in the WIE was that they had improved their own capacity  to assess the quality of the material they used in order to write the articles, because of the visible nature of Wikipedia. 

While implementing Wikipedia in Education at Christ we became aware of several aspects that should be kept in mind before introducing students to the Wikipedia movement. These are a few observations from the interviews: : 

  • The faculty members who are part of the WIE should be  Wikipedians, or at least they should know the basic aspects of editing Wikipedia, as this will help them to create more awareness and interest among the student community. If the faculty members are not well versed with Wikipedia and its editing skills it will be difficult for them to use Wikipedia as a pedagogic tool in an effective manner. Some efforts to train the faculty members of CHRIST were made at regular intervals during the program.
  • The number of students involved in the education program should be proportionate to the number of in-charge faculty members. This helps them  give more attention to the students and they will be able to learn more about Wikipedia. 
  • In order to help the students learn and contribute effectively, , they need to be trained at regular intervals and provided with the user manuals/videos, etc. This will enrich the student's knowledge about Wikipedia and editing skills. Also, monitoring the students will be helpful to know the progress of the student's activity. 
  • Wikipedia has articulated style guidelines, and students should be given information in detail on these at the beginning of the project, as this helps them to avoid many mistakes.

  • Students need to create their own illustrations/diagrams and upload them to Wikimedia Commons on a free license, and then use them on Wikipedia articles. This will help them to understand the workflow of creating an illustration and also give more value to the article. 
  • Strategies to follow up with the students who have graduated need to be prepared before starting the WIE. This will help us to retain the interest of students who have graduated, and potentially convert them to Wikimedians who will continue to contribute in the long-term. 

 

This short report is an attempt to consolidate and analyse our experiences and learnings from working on the WIE at CHRIST( Deemed to be University) over the last few years. We have also tried to capture some of the many challenges and opportunities with initiating and building strategies for teaching-learning with Indian languages and open knowledge platforms like Wikipedia in the classroom. As we move towards increasingly online modes of pedagogy and training, we hope that these observations will be helpful in the process of building and sustaining such initiatives in education programs across various Indian language Wikipedia communities. 

 

References

[1]  Keelery, Sandhya. “Total Internet Users in India.” Statista, October 16, 2020. 

[2] The objectives are as per the discussion among the stakeholders in the early days of Wikimedia in Education at CHRIST.

[3] “Jimmy Wales - The Sum of All Human Knowledge.” The On Being Project. Krista Tippett, September 8, 2016. 

[4] “Wikipedia:About.” In Wikipedia. Accessed February 3, 2021.

[5] These objectives are paraphrased from the MoU signed with CHRIST ( Deemed to be) University in 2013. 

[6] Wikimedia Meta-Wiki. “The Centre for Internet and Society/Progress Report”  Accessed February 3, 2021. 

[7] Weiqin Chen and Rolf Reber, 2011. “Writing Wikipedia articles as course assignment” Proceedings of the 19th International Conference on Computers in Education, accessed February 3, 2021.


Notes 

[1] See Annexures I, II and III for the interview questionnaires for students, faculty members and community members. 
 
[2] Read this report on Wikimedia Meta-Wiki here. 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
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