College Students Work On Wikipedia

    October 30, 2007

The typical college professor warns students to steer clear of Wikipedia – even the use of that term is likely to result in red ink and a lowered grade.  But one professor actually created a project that revolved around the site.

There was still no “taking from” the collaborative encyclopedia; instead, Martha Groom’s students at the University of Washington, Bothell added to it by creating or editing entries.  These contributions may have been more “universally valuable” than term papers, which rarely escape students’ folders and get trashed at the end of the semester.

Some of the Wikipedia entries were even less long-lived, however.  John Timmer writes, “One article didn’t survive for 24 hours following its introduction, and four additional ones were ultimately deleted following extensive discussion, their contents merged into existing entries.”

As for the manner in which those executions occurred, “Groom also noted that some of the comments in the ensuing discussions ‘were delivered rudely,’” according to Timmer.  And there’s no word as to what sort of average grade the students managed to achieve.

Still, this experiment seems like a good idea – the articles that survived presumably made Wikipedia a better resource, and those that didn’t should help reassure onlookers that Wikipedia does indeed have a form of quality control.