Editing, enhancing Wikipedia becomes project at colleges

Some professors believe Wikipedia has no place in the footnotes of a college paper. But could it have a place on the syllabus? The Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that does fundraising and back-end support for the popular open-source encyclopedia, says yes, USA Today reports—and so do the nine professors at prominent colleges who have agreed to make creating, augmenting, and editing Wikipedia entries part of their students’ coursework. “We’ve known for a long time that students are the fuel of Wikipedia,” said LiAnna Davis, a Wikimedia spokeswoman. “We feel there is a place for Wikipedia in the classroom.” Wikimedia’s new alliances with professors stem from its Public Policy Initiative, an effort to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of topics relating to U.S. public policy. On a grant from the Stanton Foundation, Wikimedia started recruiting public policy professors who were willing to have their students create content for Wikipedia. This fall, the foundation will help nine instructors—four at George Washington University, two at Georgetown University, and one each at Indiana University at Bloomington, Syracuse University, and Harvard—integrate Wikipedia-related assignments into their syllabi. “The social media trend is something that students have definitely latched on to, and regardless of what everyone else thinks, they’re going to continue to be involved with it,” says Carol Ann Dwyer, a public affairs instructor at Syracuse. “I would prefer, particularly if they’re going to become ‘Wikipedians,’ that they do it properly.”

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Laura Ascione
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