Skip to Main Content
askus Ask us

Teaching to Impact: A Toolkit for Embedding Wikipedia Editing in Asian Studies Curriculum

This toolkit provides practical guidelines on embedding Wikipedia editing in Asian Studies curriculum .

Challenges in the Teaching and Learning Process

For the three students who participated in the focus group, this was their first time editing Wikipedia. They generally gave positive feedback about the course design and indicated that they preferred the Wikipedia editing assignment to traditional writing assignments such as papers. 
The main challenges shown from the focus group discussion and the students’ self-reflection papers in PAAS 302 focus on three areas: the Wikipedia editing process, the Wikipedia review, and evaluating and citing sources. Here we discuss each challenge in detail and try to provide some possible solutions in each scenario. It will help instructors anticipate possible problems that students might encounter while working on Wikipedia editing assignments and take actions to prevent them in advance.

Anxiety Associated with Publishing Online

Many students felt anxious about publishing their edits in the Wikipedia entries for the final project because the audience is much larger than a typical academic paper read only by the instructor. They hesitated whether their edits were "good enough" to be shared with readers around the world, and were afraid of being judged. Others felt that it didn't make sense to officially post the final project on Wikipedia because there was a high chance that the edits would be deleted by other editors anyway.

To ease the students’ anxiety, the instructor might consider: 

  • Sharing their own experience of creating online information about their research through various social media or academic platforms and discussing online publication and the impact. 
  • Encouraging students to reflect on their own online writing, discussing and publishing activities and share their experiences with the class.
  • Clarifying the learning objectives and emphasizing that whether the students’ edits are accepted or not by external Wikipedians will not affect their grades.
  • Explaining why editing Wikipedia is important, especially for sharing qualified information about Asian cultures, and the review process used by Wikipedia. This content will be addressed in the first workshop led by the librarian in Week 3. 
  • Introducing the Wikipedia Education Dashboard and its usage for tracking editing efforts and conducting peer-review for classmates. The sandbox feature allows for users to share their work drafts without publishing them on Wikipedia. It is important to explain to the students how this process mimics the online publishing and review process that scholars are increasingly involved in and to prepare them for it. 

Technical Challenges While Editing Wikipedia

Initially, most students found the editing process confusing. They struggled with tasks such as source editing/encoding, adding audio or video files through Wikimedia, saving changes in the sandbox, and citing online sources. Feedback from students indicated that they tend to learn how to edit only towards the end of the course through peer help and online video tutorials. Therefore, it would be beneficial to provide more editing practice earlier in the course.

We recommend the following possible solutions to the problems described above:

  • In Week 5, when the librarian and TA give the second workshop on editing Wikipedia, the difference between source editing and visual editing, using multimedia content, and copyright issues should be emphasized.
  • In the librarian's second workshop on teaching Wikipedia editing skills, we recommend considering the flipped classroom approach to replace the structured demonstration by designing an in-class assignment for students to lead their own learning [See Appendix 6]. Make sure students know that the only way to save their edits in the Wikipedia sandbox is to press the "Publish" button.
  • In Week 10 or 11 when most students are in the middle of Wikipedia editing, the TA and the librarian may provide a 30-minute in-person Q&A session. Students are encouraged to contact the librarian or TA with specific questions. 

Challenges in Communicating with Other Wikipedia Editors

Some students expressed frustration with the external Wikipedia reviewers who deleted their changes without providing any explanation. Communication problems with other editors were a common challenge, and some students faced difficulties due to the lack of academic resources on their chosen topic. In some cases, Wiki editors rejected rejected students' edits to articles without providing sufficient reasons, or did not grant permission to edit an article. 

In these cases, the instructor could try: 

  • Creating a course page through the Wiki Education Dashboard to track all of the Wikipedia pages that the students are working on and their draft versions in the sandbox. If it is not possible or convenient for each student to create an individual Wikipedia account, the instructor may choose to create one account for the entire class and give the user logon and password information to the students; alternatively, each group could create one Wikipedia account for group members’ shared use. In all cases, each Wikipedia account must be linked to one email address.
  • Warning students against using their real names to create Wikipedia accounts. There are some sensitive topics or content in Asian Studies that are subject to political censorship. The Wikipedia discussion pages may be accessible through Internet searches. Please proceed with caution and help protect student privacy and confidentiality.
  • Clarifying the learning objectives, the peer-review process, and emphasizing that whether students’ editing is accepted or not will not impact their grades.
  • Encouraging students to reflect on the rejections they encountered, and on how the review process helped maintain quality. The Wikipedia review process provided some external validation and pressure to the students working on the Wikipedia assignment, giving them real-life experience with the online editing and review process. This is part of the desired learning outcome.
  • When discussing reliable sources with students, librarians might expand beyond academic sources to include guidance on how to evaluate online sources, fake news, and the contextual nature of authority.

Choosing Topics and Wikipedia in Multiple Languages

Some students expressed confusion about group editing in the Chinese version of Wikipedia, as it excluded non-Chinese speaking students in understanding and reviewing their classmates’ work. This led to questions about the acceptability of using other languages in the Wikipedia editing assignment. Students also noted discrepancies and imbalances in the content of Wikipedia articles across different languages.

To address this issue, one solution could be to recommend that students edit their articles in English Wikipedia and cite sources in other languages as they see fit. This approach aligns with essay writing assignments in many other Asian Studies courses in North American institutes. Depending on the course topic, instructors could require at least one source in another language for the Wikipedia editing assignment.

Challenges in Evaluating and Citing Sources

Students encountered various issues while editing Wikipedia articles, including the lack of reliable sources on recent topics, an imbalance of sources by language, the absence of scholarly and peer-reviewed sources, difficulty in finding sources with a neutral point of view, and an inability to access some sources mentioned in Wiki articles. Asian Studies students, in particular, may face challenges in citing sources in languages other than English.

To address these challenges, the instructor or librarian could assist students by:

  • Emphasizing that evaluating sources, whether academic or non-academic online, is not a simple process but rather a complex one that requires critical thinking skills, information validation, open-mindedness, and self-reflection on personal biases.
  • Introducing library resources during the second librarian’s workshop in Week 5 to help students find academic sources and other reliable sources, such as government publications and newspapers.
  • Conducting a 30-minute in-person Q&A session in Week 10 or 11 when most students are in the middle of Wikipedia editing. Students are encouraged to contact the librarian or TA with their specific questions.
Creative Commons License
This work by The University of Victoria Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License unless otherwise indicated when material has been used from other sources.