Critical issues presentations/"Imagine a world in which every university has a wiki-advisor and every student takes a wiki course"

From Wikimania 2016 • Esino Lario, Italy
Submission no. 190
Title of the submission

"Imagine a world in which every university has a wiki-advisor and every student takes a wiki course"

Author of the submission
  • Shani Evenstein
Country of origin



Outreach, Projects, Technical

  • Wiki in higher education
  • Academic Wikipedian in Residence
  • Integrating Wikipedia teaching into higher education

Target: Wide audience, of special interest to Wikipedians and Education

Purpose: Present an existing model that can be replicated by other wiki communities in higher education institutions around the world and facilitate a discussion regarding nature of such course.

Approach: by integrating Wikipedia teaching into core academia we not only spread Wikipedia tools and knowledge, but we also teach new generations of students new literacies. What is the best way of doing that -- that is at the core of this "critical issue" presentation.


Three years ago I have initiated a ground breaking academic course called “Wiki-Med” at Tel Aviv University. Today, after its third year, 84 students completed it, after reporting on an innovative learning experience. They have written together more than 170 articles, which have been viewed over a million times.

No doubt, these are great results. However, only medical students can participate in this course, a fact that limits its impact and influence.

I felt it was crucial to offer such a learning platform to the wider student body, to scale it to and students from all faculties. I therefore adapted the course model so it suit students from all disciplines. I then approached the inter-faculty academic body responsible for offering university-wide elective courses. After getting them on board, I’ve opened this year the first ever university-wide, for credit, Wikipedia elective course, called "Wikipedia: Skills for producing and consuming knowledge".

The first class has just graduated from this course last week. The best testimonial for this university wide course’s impact was evident during students’ final presentations. On top of mentioning a strong and enjoyable learning experience, students felt that this type of eye-opening course should not be an elective but a mandatory course offered to all undergraduate students.

This naturally reflects my own thoughts on the subject, but at the same we need to consider several issues:

1. First and foremost, despite my clear belief in this course, we still need to ask should such a course indeed become a mandatory one? In other words is there a “price” that we, as a community, will need to pay to make it mandatory? Can it create antagonism toward Wikipedia? Will it lower the standard of articles –currently kept high by the fact that only interested parties are contributing

2. Looking at the broader perspective, how can we, as Wikipedians focusing on higher education, convince institutions to make such course-offering mandatory in the first place? It is clear that if so decided, the course will have to come instead of / combined with other mandatory courses, and putting ourselves in the academic staff's shoes we must prove it is academically-wise and community-wise justified.

3. If so, in what capacity can it be offered? How can a mandatory course be cross-faculty? Does this mark the time for new positions, such as a wiki-advisor to academic institutions, sort of an academic Wikipedian in Residence?

4. And finally, is it scalable? What are the implications of having many thousands of new contributors? How will the respective local Wikipedia communities, crucial to the success of these courses, support such a dramatic growth?

5. What are the tools needed to do that efficiently?



Interested attendees and comments