Why this professor will teach online students to edit Wikipedia in “every future course”

Maikel Alendy is a Lead Instructional Designer with Florida International University Online. He taught with Wikipedia during the Fall 2017 term in his course, Digital Fairytale. Here, he reflects on the value of teaching with Wikipedia in an online course, especially when it comes to teaching students digital literacy skills and how to identify plagiarism.

Maikel Alendy
Image: File:Maikel-Profile-Pic.jpg, Malendy, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

At an institution that services 57,000 students and has ambitious burgeoning online offerings, our faculty and administrators are constantly looking for innovative and substantive assignments. However, this pursuit is frequently inhibited by concerns with digital literacy and academic dishonesty. We constantly discover tools that create incredibly engaging assignments, but have little instructional value, or tools that are extremely effective learning devices but result in mediocre engagement. This struggle was additionally exacerbated by a growing commitment to deliver instruction and courses that adhered to the highest standards of academic integrity.

Upon exploration of this topic at various roundtables and presentations, I came to the conclusion that our students, especially incoming freshmen, lacked fundamental digital literacy and had issues identifying instances of academic dishonesty. Moreover, most attempts to address academic dishonesty were either optional or so difficult that students left these resources with more questions then when they began. Fortunately, as both an Instructional Designer and Faculty member with FIU’s Honors college, I have a unique experience with educational technology and online pedagogy.

Often, faculty feel that they have to deliver their content utilizing very complex tools or highly technical strategies. In my experience, the focus of effective and engaging assignments all hinge on a marriage of relatable and motivational content with synthesis-type assignments. Teaching with Wikipedia using Wiki Education’s free tools offered a very manageable and innovative solution to our university’s online pedagogical problems. By leveraging Wikipedia’s intuitive platform, my students were able to navigate their assignment with little to no technical issues or frustration. Additionally, with Wiki Education’s many assignment options I was able to create assignments that developed my student’s digital literacy and technical skills. With the assistance of Wiki Education staff and the Wikipedia community, my students developed more effective writing behaviors and skills. Additionally, my students quickly discovered what is and is not considered plagiarism when the content they added to Wikipedia was challenged or removed for not having appropriate citations. In a discussion about the assignment, my students mentioned how they:

  • were shocked how easy it was to contribute content to Wikipedia,
  • were frustrated when their text or images were removed but felt so “accomplished” when their work met standards and was commended,
  • and had “fun” contributing content to topics that were personally meaningful to their families, majors, or careers.

Wikipedia assignments have proven to do so much more than traditional papers or plagiarism modules. This one assignment used citizen learning to develop my students appreciation and understanding of academic integrity and create meaningful artifacts that my students will visit and possibly contribute to even after completing my course. Moreover, during this semester alone, 4 of my peers are utilizing Wikipedia assignments in one way or another in their online or face-to-face courses.

I am so fortunate I discovered this excellent tool for effective and engaging assignments that circumvent traditional obstacles of academic integrity and limited digital literacy, with online students. There is no other more complete tool that can both demonstrate the significance of academic integrity while giving our students the ability to learn, discover, and contribute to global knowledge. I intend to use a Wikipedia assignment in each and every course I teach in the future and ensure my colleagues appreciate it similarly.

Image: File:FIU walkways.JPGComayagua99, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.


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