OER Citations

Student Learning Outcomes with Wikipedia-Based Assignments


McDowell, Z. J., & Stewart, M. D. (2019). Student Learning Outcomes with Wikipedia-Based Assignments. International Journal of Open Educational Resources, 1(2), 63–89. https://doi.org/10.18278/ijoer.1.2.5


A goal of higher education is to ensure that students learn information that enriches both their lives and their careers. Instructors constantly seek out new tools to help students engage and thrive in a shifting marketplace of ideas, technologies, and career paths. Students must master new skills to prepare for the world beyond the classroom and improve their careers, lives, and future scholarship. Among the most cited skills deemed valuable are digital/information literacy, critical research, teamwork, and technology skills. In Fall 2016, over 6,000 students used a Wikipedia-based assignment in lieu of a traditional paper assignment. We conducted a mixed-methods research study using surveys and focus groups to study attitudes, context, and skills transfer. Surveys employed a variety of quantitative and qualitative questions administered online. Thirteen focus groups were also conducted. A total of 1,627 stu- dents and 97 instructors completed the surveys. Preliminary statistical analysis suggests that both students and instructors valued Wikipedia assignments more for learning digital literacy, critical thinking, learning to write for the general public, and learning about the reliability of online sources. Students reported that they were proud of their work, spent more time, and were more satisfied with their class assignment than with traditional coursework. Qualitative findings suggest overwhelmingly that respondents’ perceptions of Wikipedia positively change after having edited Wikipedia. While many students expressed having perceived the space as unreliable prior to editing Wikipedia, their perception shifted through completing the Wikipedia assignment to show more trust in Wikipedia as a reliable information source. Triangulating focus group responses and quantitative survey responses showed that overall students perceived the assignment as useful for developing researching, writing, and information literacy skills, in addition to demonstrating mastery in these skills. Students found their assignments valuable because their work was useful for a public audience as it contributed to conversations outside of the classroom. Responses suggest that students directly engaged con- cepts outlined in the Association of College and Research Library’s (ACRL) Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education, particularly when engaging understandings of systemic biases, construction of information, and value of information. This research suggests that in addition to their value in learning digital/information literacy, critical research, teamwork, and technology skills, Wikipedia-based assignments also help increase students’ motivation to complete work over traditional writing assignments.

Citation Type: Journal Article