Communications in Information Literacy, Vol 8, No 1 (2014)

Font Size:  Small  Medium  Large

Wikipedia and the Wisdom of Crowds: A Student Project

Greg Barnhisel, Marcia Rapchak

Abstract


Students examined the question of whether the ‘wisdom of experts’ or ‘the wisdom of crowds’ is more reliable and useful in a writing course by engaging in a parallel Wikipedia project. Each student either created a new entry or made significant changes to an existing Wikipedia entry, tracked changes to their contributions, and then wrote a paper and gave a presentation reflecting on what they learned; simultaneously, the class as a whole collaborated on a Wikipedia entry about a local landmarks controversy. Background readings familiarizing students with Wikipedia's procedures, as well as critical and philosophical interpretations of Wikipedia's significance, provided students perspective on Wikipedia’s utility. While the instructor expected students to enter with an uncritical understanding of Wikipedia's reliability, and then to see Wikipedia's fundamental untrustworthiness, student work demonstrated that they entered the class skeptical about Wikipedia and that their projects showed them that Wikipedia was mostly reliable and useful.

Full Text: PDF