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College credit for editing Wikipedia

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By Go Phightins!, Andrewman327, and Andreas Kolbe

The University of California, San Francisco attracted substantial media attention over its new course offering that will give credit to fourth-year medical students for editing Wikipedia articles about medicine. Fourth-year students at UCSF travel often, which makes the ability to perform work remotely an advantage. Amin Azzam, MD, MA, an associate professor at UCSF and an instructor for the new class, said:

The course is also designed to foster communication skills among medical professionals, and to help them accurately and efficiently share information using everyday language rather than medical jargon. Writing Wikipedia articles will help students in that endeavor. James Heilman, a Wikipedia editor himself (Doc James) and president of the WikiProject Med initiative, told the Signpost that most medical students ‘’use’’ Wikipedia, but the WikiProject would like to see most students contribute to it as well. Time will tell if this class can help achieve that lofty goal.

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  • In my experience, students editing wikipedia for grades have two major issues:
    • they are not volunteers (they are editing for grades, right?)
    • they have an inherent COI (they are editing for grades, right?)
This results in two major, diametrically opposite problems:
  • They fight claws and teeth for their contribution: content, structure (they have to prove heir grades, right?)
Quite often they start a fresh article on an existing topic, but with an essayish title (followed by essayish content meandering around the subject) not linked to anything in wikipedia, and I usually stumble upon them when doing a routine maintenance which involves wikipedia search for a phrase.
  • In a month their account is abandoned, nobody to ask a question for clarification.
(The fact that they are newbies with newbie-specific problems is easily forgivable.)
I say, they are not wikipedians. One may say that some of them ultimately become ones, but wikipedia is visible enough already for graphomaniacs like us, to join without extra prodding.:-) Staszek Lem (talk) 16:31, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
WP:COI says "How close the relationship needs to be before it becomes a concern on Wikipedia is governed by common sense." That someone is a student seems to me not to be a "relationship" that is of major concern; if it were, the COI guideline would mention students, and it does not. Nor does it follow that they will be graded based on anything other than article improvement (which addresses another concern - I've seen, at WP:VPT, that the focus is on improving low quality, high-value articles). Fighting (say) to keep poor quality information in an article isn't likely to impress their grader.
As for abandoning their accounts, what they do shouldn't require their subsequent assistance; it certainly is a fact that the vast majority of creators of articles here at Wikipedia are inactive (have "abandoned" their accounts).
And I believe WikiProject Medicine is helping out with the class mentioned in the article, as part of a larger effort. In short, this is quite likely to be very helpful, and I think we should avoid generalizing about this project. I personally think it's great that we can get subject-matter experts to edit Wikipedia. -- John Broughton (♫♫) 02:33, 11 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Yes so marking is pass/fail. Articles being worked on will be already existing articles of key importance. I and a number of others from WPMED will be very involved every step of the way. This is a pilot. The hope is that the prior students will help with future students. Otherwise it will not be scalable. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) (if I write on your page reply on mine) 04:51, 11 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • I think if they were giving pass/fail, or paid work-study minimum wage, I would not object. In fact, in the past, I have had work-study students conduct research on sources potential articles. However, I did all of the editing myself. Bearian (talk) 17:03, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • It's interesting that the Daily Dot's coverage often overlaps with that of The Registers own enthusiastic Wiki-watcher Andrew Orlowski, as seen here. Curiously, Orlowski's opinion piece on Sue's comments, as linked in this report, originally read "Wikipedia's internal newsletter The Daily Dot has a comprehensive summary of Gardner's report and related issues". Not sure whether the mis-naming is flattering to the Signpost staff or those of the Daily Dot, but it's certainly an odd coincidence. (A separate embarrassing slip-up in the piece - confusing administrators with editors - was corrected after being pointed out by the Registers fact-checking commenting community.) --Demiurge1000 (talk) 18:51, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]


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