Submissions/Assignment 1: Become A Wikipedian

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This is an accepted submission for Wikimania 2015.

Submission no.
Title of the submission
Assignment 1: Become A Wikipedian
Type of submission (discussion, hot seat, panel, presentation, tutorial, workshop)
Author of the submission
Benjamin Mako Hill, Aaron Shaw
E-mail address;

User:Benjamin Mako Hill. User:Aaronshaw

Country of origin

United States

Affiliation, if any (organisation, company etc.)

University of Washington, Northwestern University

Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)

This talk will describe three undergraduate classes about online communities taught in the last year in which learning about Wikipedia was not only a side effect but a central learning goal of the course. In all three classes, students learned about online communities in part by becoming Wikipedians and reflecting on the process. The talk will discuss the benefits and challenges involved in working with students to become Wikipedian as a way of teaching about social organization in online communities. We will also address how the Wikimedia community can learn from these student and faculty experiences.

Wikimedia's education initiatives have primarily involved either (1) using high quality Wikimedia content to help students learn about a given topic or (2) assigning Wikipedia editing to allow students to demonstrate their learning of course concepts by contributing to, improving, or creating Wikipedia articles on topics related to the course material. For example, in a class on physics, a teacher might (1) use diagrams, simulations, or examples on physical concepts from Wikimedia projects or (2) have students demonstrate their learning about thermodynamics by contributing to the Wikipedia article on the topic.

Although classes about online communities and computer mediated communication can follow both of the approaches described above, they can also go a step further and make learning about Wikipedia a central learning goal. Wikipedia is, after all, one of the largest, most successful, most impactful, and most complicated online communities. As thousands of academic studies on Wikipedia have shown, it also a community from which people can learn enormously. Over the 2014-2015 academic year, three professors of communication who are also Wikipedia researchers coordinated to build courses at their respective US universities that attempt to do just this.

A primary goal of each class was to teach students about Wikipedia and to encourage them reflect on the process using theories of social organization taught in the course. In all three cases, undergraduate students learned how to join Wikipedia using a variety of different on-boarding tools (e.g., the Wikipedia Adventure, the WikiEd's student training material, and more traditional welcome messages). The students then reflected on and compared these tools to each other in terms of their experiences and broader research about online communities. In addition, students used what they learned to engage with the Wikipedia community, improve existing articles, select appropriate topics, and create articles of their own.

Learning to become Wikipedian is difficult and our students ran into many challenges common to new Wikipedians. Their articles were tagged, templated, deleted, restored, redirected, merged, and improved. In the process, students took notes and reflected on their experience using concepts they were learning about online communities. In all three courses, students wrote critical analyses of Wikipedia that focused on their own experience and described what they felt could be improved in Wikipedia from the perspective of a new user.

Note: The three classes were all taught in Communication departments: Interpersonal Media: Online Communities and Computer Mediated Communication (COM 428) at University of Washington in Seattle, Washington by Assistant Professor Benjamin Mako Hill, Online Communities and Crowds (COMST 378) at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois by Assistant Professor Aaron Shaw, and Online Communities (COMM 4625) at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts by Assistant Professor Joseph Reagle. Although the courses were developed and taught independently, the instructors coordinated in advance, shared and borrowed from each others syllabuses in the design of their courses, and shared their experience with each other afterward. This talk will be a natural outgrowth of those conversations.

Education Outreach
Length of session (if other than 30 minutes, specify how long)
30 minutes
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
Slides or further information (optional)
Slides (pdf) from the presentation

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  1. Correogsk or Gustavo (Editrocito or Heme aquí) 21:08, 28 February 2015 (UTC)
  2. KrystleChung (talk) 22:09, 1 March 2015 (UTC)
  3. --L235 (talk) enwiki 00:02, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
  4. --iopensa (talk) 13:37, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
  5. -Another Believer (talk) 18:38, 4 March 2015 (UTC)
  6. Sage (Wiki Ed) (talk) 00:16, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
  7. Quiddity (WMF) (talk) 04:39, 14 March 2015 (UTC)
  8. I JethroBT (talk) 17:17, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  9. AKoval (WMF) (talk) 18:25, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
  10. Melina Masnatta (WMAR) (talk) 19:31, 18 July 2015 (UTC)
  11. Darafsh Kaviyani (Talk) 20:28, 18 July 2015 (UTC)