Professor Amanda Hollis-Brunsky teaches an Introduction to American Politics class at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., where students are required to research, compose and post an Wikipedia entry on various topics. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/MCT)
Professor Amanda Hollis-Brunsky teaches an Introduction to American Politics class at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., where students are required to research, compose and post an Wikipedia entry on various topics. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Writing a final paper can leave students feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Some courses offered at Weber State University bypass the final paper and allow students to contribute information they’ve learned in class to Wikipedia.

The idea of the courses are to use Wikipedia as a tool in the class. The courses objective is to use the facts that the students are collecting in order to contribute information to a Wikipedia article.

The course that offers this Wikipedia outlet is history theory and practice of policing taught by Monica Williams, an assistant professor at Weber State’s Criminal Justice department.

“In my class, one of the assignments that students have to complete is to edit a Wikipedia post,” said Williams. “They try to improve the article somehow, either adding sections or adding sources.”

Each professor decides whether or not they incorporate Wikipedia into their course. Williams decided to incorporate the assignment because she liked the idea that her students would be adding to the knowledge out there, while learning the topic so as to teach a class this way.

Professors still look for primary research in final papers, but with these classes, it gives students a more resourceful place to start a research project or paper.

This program is looking to have students contribute facts to Wikipedia rather than simply relying on it when it comes to homework.

Instead of students turning in a paper at the end of the semester, which will never be seen again, others can learn from what these students have written.

“Our foundation helps professors who would like to do that with Wikipedia,” said Eryk Salvaggio, from the communications association at Wiki Education Foundation. “We just offer our guidance as far as, ‘here are good ways to set up a course’ and ‘here are things to do with students’ and ‘here are things to not do with students.’”

Since this program began in 2010, Wiki Education Foundation has supported 12,000 students. Wiki Education Foundation became their own non-profit organization in late 2013.

Students take online training or read through brochures that the Wiki Education Foundation produces in order to competently write information for Wikipedia.

Most instructors who chose to teach their class this way set up their course and structure it as if it were a normal class.

All class topics can use this Wikipedia program, although the Wiki Education Foundation does lean towards classes that offer information that is missing on Wikipedia. Women studies and sociology are often topics that are missing information on Wikipedia.

In both United States and Canada, around 98 schools are participating with this program through the Wiki Education Foundation.

“I think it is a little more of a motivation to actually research the topic and write well on the topic because you know other people will see it,” said Williams. “I think any project that has real world applications is likely to be more fulfilling.”

Williams goes on to say that Wikipedia requires writing that is submitted to be written in a neutral point of view, which requires students to look at both sides of an issue.

“If you write a term paper, the teacher just gets rid of it when they are done grading it versus Wikipedia where it’s there until someone else comes along and changes it,” said Justin Marley, microbiology major at Weber State.

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