Academic Minute Podcast

Diana Ceballos, Boston University – Wikipedia in Public Health

On Wiki Education Week: Getting information out there in the right way is critical in today’s society.

Today on The Academic Minute: Diana Ceballos, assistant professor in the department of environmental health at Boston University, explores how to teach students to do so.

Dr. Diana Ceballos is an Assistant Professor and Director of the Exposure Biology Research Laboratory in the Department of Environmental Health at the Boston University School of Public Health. She is an exposure science expert and certified industrial hygienist, worked at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, and was a Harvard JPB Environmental Health fellow.

Wikipedia in Public Health


I have used Wikipedia as an in-class assignment for several years to instruct graduate students in public health. This assignment taught students to critically review, interpret, write, and effectively disseminate science information. The Wikipedia assignment proved to be an engaging approach for instruction and information literacy. It helped students improve their research translation and science communication skills. Students would first need to master the topic they want to write about, then edit their write up in a way that would contribute to Wikipedia, be understood by the public, and would also stand the public review. Students could write about topics that interest them and International students could also improve their English skills.

Instructors and teaching assistants and National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health partners in this educational endeavor served as reviewers of technical concepts for the students’ work. The WikiEdu help staff facilitated assistance with any trouble shooting of the platform usage and challenges, which provided a layer of support welcome for instructors. This work was later summarized in the peer review literature in an article about using Wikipedia as an in-class assignment. The article has a supplement with guidance for instructors and student’s syllabus to help others in the field include these efforts in their classes. We hope this effort to engage students as Wikipedia editors as they go into their careers in public health and continue to contribute valuable technical content.

Teaching with Wikipedia was particularly strategic during the pandemic when many students were taking the class remotely. The ripple effects from this effort go beyond the classroom. Students’ contributions help disseminate public health topics to the general population while addressing misinformation. The timing of this work is critical, as we are in a time when up-to-date public health content is highly sought and relevant, more than ever before.


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