Assessing Wikipedia contributions

It’s the end of the term which means grading season is upon us. The ultimate goal of a Wikipedia assignment is to simultaneously improve content on Wikipedia while providing students with important digital literacy skills. But doubtless, students are likely eager to find out their grades, and instructors may be wondering how exactly to assess their student contributions to Wikipedia.

Before you can begin evaluating the content your students contributed to Wikipedia, you’ll need to find where their contributions are. Hopefully, most students have moved their work into the article mainspace, but some work may still reside in sandboxes. The Dashboard is your one-stop shop for locating and assessing your students’ contributions. The Dashboard allows you to view student work in two important ways, either by individual student or by articles contributed to. Here are in-depth instructions on how to use the Dashboard to view and assess student work.

We recognize that what constitutes a quality Wikipedia contribution can vary in important ways from the traditional writing assignment. To help instructors assess the quality of their student contributions, we’ve developed a sample grading rubric.

When assessing student contributions to Wikipedia, consider the following key guidelines:

  • Never grade based on what sticks on Wikipedia! Work may be reverted for any number of reasons which is why it is critical to never grade work based on whether it remains in the article mainspace or not. You’ll always be able to find your students’ contributions regardless of whether it remains on Wikipedia.
  • Be flexible! There are many paths to improving content on Wikipedia. Some articles may be greatly improved by adding new content, while others may benefit from revisions and reorganization, while others may be greatly enhanced by removing inaccurate information or adding in important citations.
  • Quantity does not equal quality! When contributing to Wikipedia, less is often more. How much a student can contribute will vary greatly from article to article. A 500 word contribution may be as valuable as a 1000 word entry as long as it ultimately improves the article in question.
  • You’re the expert! Remember, you are the expert in your field, and can determine whether your students’ contributions reflect the latest work being done in your area of specialization.

Whether this is your first or fifth time running a Wikipedia project, remember, the process is as important as the final result. When students learn to contribute to Wikipedia, they obtain critical digital literacy skills that will hopefully serve them both in and beyond the classroom.


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