This article by Eryk Salvaggio originally appeared at the Wiki Education Foundation blog and is shared here with permission.
The Wikipedia Year of Science has had a significant impact on Wikipedia’s coverage of STEM fields. But we’ve also seen significant improvements of articles in political science.
One of the best examples comes from Columbia University’s Order and Violence course, led by Dr. Christopher Blattman.
The Arab Spring was a series of revolutionary protests across the Arab world, starting in Tunisia in 2010. The wake of those protests in inescapable among foreign policy discussions today. A student in Dr. Blattman’s course reworked the Wikipedia article on the Arab Spring, contributing nearly 3,500 words to the article. It had been flagged for improvement for at least a year. Thanks to this student editor, the article was expanded to include a summary of expert analysis and the role media played in the protests.
Incredibly, since that student took it on, it’s been seen 238,798 times. It’s the first search result for “Arab spring” on Google. That’s a pretty staggering impact for an undergraduate homework assignment. It’s clear evidence of the power that Wikipedia has for classroom assignments. It transforms passive learning into an act of contributing knowledge.
It’s just one example of the kind of Wikipedia article likely to be referenced by the public, particularly during an election year. Students in the course tackled a broad scope of topics. The article on Warlords was just a list. It’s now a deep, thoughtful summary of thinking about the forms of warlords around the world. Another tackled the article on the broad, and difficult to write, topic of Rebellion itself. Two student editors expanded the timely article on Ethnic conflict. Those interested in the refugee crisis can find an excellent article on Western European colonialism and colonization.
Articles from Dr. Blattman’s class have been seen, collectively, a staggering 3.5 million times. That shows what’s possible when higher education classrooms connect to Wikipedia: Literally millions of people gain access to thorough, thoughtful, and deeper information about the political issues that move the world.
We’d love to help more courses like this one get on board. If you’d like to find out more about what’s possible for your own course, get in touch with us: firstname.lastname@example.org.