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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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: