My big experiment this semester: Making my class a public good

I was wondering what to do with my undergraduate seminar for seniors, when three weeks ago this arrived in my inbox:

Hi Christopher,

My name is Samantha, and I work for the Wiki Education Foundation, a nonprofit that helps university instructors and their students contribute to Wikipedia. Here at Wiki Ed, we believe that science and political literacy matters. We also believe that your students can make a difference. But we need your help!

In a Wikipedia assignment, students are asked to critique, write, illustrate or expand Wikipedia articles as an assignment for your course, in place of or often alongside a traditional term paper. This gives them a chance to write for a live audience, to hone their research skills, to engage in discussions of media literacy, and to have a real impact on the breadth and depth of Wikipedia’s coverage, among other things.

Wiki Ed has been doing this for 5+ years now, and the more we work we do to close content gaps, the more knowledgable we become about those that are left. In April, we officially launched our partnership with the Midwest Political Science Association in order to increase the breadth and depth of political science content on Wikipedia. With the help of the MPSA, and as part of our 2016 Year of Science, we’d love to support more political science courses in order to improve science literacy in our students and the world. We have resources to help you create a detailed assignment plan, to train you and your students on the Wikipedia basics, and to keep track of your class as the project develops.

Are you interested? If so, take a look at the teach with Wikipedia section of our website or browse our online dashboard for a look at the courses we are currently supporting or to get started setting up a Wikipedia assignment in a course of your own. After you’ve had a chance to review our resources, email me with any questions you may have. I’d love to help you design your perfect Wikipedia assignment.

I immediately loved the idea–students contributing to the quality of social science free online to the world. And after talking to the helpful WikiEdu staff I am extremely optmistic about the practical bits. I think students will like this too. I mean, who wants to write one more meaningless term paper not even your professor whats to read?

You can see my course overview here including the entire (draft) syllabus and assignments.

I’ll blog a little about my experiences in the coming semester.

Meanwhile, they want to support more instructors and courses. Email Samantha or go to the contact page for more info. And email me your course page if it’s relevant to the political economy of development.