Generation Wikipedia: How to change the world in just four years

According to estimates, 20 million students are starting their first year of higher education this fall.

We like to think big here at Wiki Ed, so we thought we’d ask: What would happen if just one tenth of those students wrote a Wikipedia article instead of a term paper just once in their academic career?

This isn’t a practical goal, of course. Think of it as our flying-car vision of the future: a way to imagine, “what if?”

So we crunched some numbers based on the impact of our Fall 2015 term, and came up with a model for the future of open education practices: If one out of every ten higher education students tackled one Wikipedia article by the time they graduated, we’d improve every single article on the English Wikipedia by 2021. We’d also help grow Wikipedia’s existing content by more than 500,000 new articles.

What impact would this Generation Wikipedia have? From what we’ve seen, they’d be more media literate than the graduating class of 2016. They’d spend more time questioning whether or not to trust what they read online. They’d be better prepared not just to know where reliable information comes from, but what makes one source more reliable than another.

It’s possible that this generation would transform the workforce. Equipped with better communication and research skills, and having tackled the challenge of applying their own knowledge to a new and complex problem, these students would have some advantages over the class of 2016.

We know that employers today say they can’t find students with demonstrable problem-solving or communications experience. Nearly half of employers say they can’t find students with good writing skills. By 2021, we’d have a graduating class that was exposed to the idea of writing as an action with meaningful public communication goals, rather than just the means to a grade. These students would already know what it’s like to consider not just what they’re learning, but how to share that learning with others.

Finally, we’d see improved access to an incredibly rich resource for science information at the world’s fingertips. More than 2 million science articles would be improved by these fledgling scientists with access to academic resources, and more than 200,000 science topics missing from Wikipedia today would finally be covered.

This may not be a future we can get to by 2021, but we’re inspired to try. And we’d love to hear from any instructors who would be willing to commit to this radical experiment through simple means: assigning students to write Wikipedia articles instead of term papers.

You don’t have to wait until 2021 to get started. Wiki Ed has a wide variety of tools, online staff support and printed guides to help your students tackle a Wikipedia project. You control your course content, and we help students navigate Wikipedia. It’s a small transformation for your course, and a powerful transformation of how your students learn.

Let us know if you want your students to be future-ready. Reach out to us:


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