Use of Wikipedia Instead of a Textbook

Discussion in 'Online & DL Teaching' started by mattbrent, May 14, 2013.

  1. mattbrent

    mattbrent Active Member

    Alrighty, folks! I'm looking for some advice.

    I was chosen to receive a grant to put together a Western Civ course using Open Educational Resources. I'm sitting in Day 2 of a two-day workshop on OER materials. The instructor was showing us how to use Google to search for them. Of course, the first hits are usually always from Wikipedia. I voiced my concern about using Wikipedia as a resource when traditionally we advise students NOT to use Wikipedia as a reference source. The presenter's response was "Why not just let your students use Wikipedia?"

    The presenter is a PhD who teaches at BYU and heads a group that focuses on OER resources. He's clearly got clout, but I'm just having some issues accepting Wikipedia as a textbook replacement.

    What are your thoughts?

  2. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    I think you're right to be suspicious of Wikipedia.
  3. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    Wikipedia is a secondary source (granted, so is a textbook) but it's open for editing by anyone without verification. The presumption with a text is that you have access to the author's point of view and can guide them. I have used Wikipedia to locate primary research, it's easy and all in one easy place. The thing that might make that hard for most people, however, is that I have access via my university library, so I can look up something using Wikipedia, and then go pull it. The average student can't do that without paying.

    Also, did you view the Saylor dot org bookshelf? They have many you might be able to use. Bookshelf « – Free Online Courses Built by Professors
  4. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

  5. mattbrent

    mattbrent Active Member

    Thanks guys! Our goal in this project is to use things that are licensed under creative commons, which wikipedia is. I was worried about the fact that anyone could just randomly change articles, but after expressing additional concern with the facilitators, they pointed out that I could simply export the information into a PDF or something similar so that it can't be changed anymore. I can evaluate the information for accuracy and then save it. With that done, I really don't have any more concerns. It solved my problem of the potential for misinformation.

  6. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    I just realized that option (after exploring Steve's tutorial!) THANKS!
  7. RAM PhD

    RAM PhD Member

    Wikipedia is informative (of course, so is the Farmers' Almanac), but it certainly doesn't qualify as a scholarly source.
  8. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    No encyclopedia does, but he's not conducting research, he's putting together curricular materials. There's a big difference in what's acceptable between the two use cases, so I think for this it's very useful.
  9. ebbwvale

    ebbwvale Member

    i am sure that there has been research done that has shown that Wikipedia is an accurate secondary source of information or should I say valid. I will have a hunt around and see if I can find it. Wikipedia was frowned upon for universities here but suddenly it became more acceptable because of this research.

    The question is where is the research? i will get back to you on it.
  10. ebbwvale

    ebbwvale Member

  11. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    That "one encyclopedia" being Britannica, to name names.

    The thing is, if you're an expert and you do happen to see something that's incomplete, inaccurate, or biased in Wikipedia, you can simply fix it yourself before using that article in a textbook or otherwise as a curricular resource. But I think you really have to get into really obscure topics before that's at all likely.

    By the way, it turns out I did have a rough draft of my paper on turning Wikipedia articles into OER textbooks. Forgive its imperfections, I haven't polished it at all, but I thought some might want to see it rather than endure that video presentation.
  12. Randell1234

    Randell1234 Moderator Staff Member

    Here is what I post for each class I teach - it says it all-

    ***Using Wikipedia for research information***

    Here is a good story - don't believe everything you read online - especially in wikipedia! That site is great and I use it a lot but I also know to double check the information if I am really going to "use it". Did you realize ANYONE can add or change what is posted on Wikipedia? It is purposefully designed for everyone to contribute to the knowledge of the world. By definition a Wiki is "a collaborative Web site that comprises the perpetual collective work of many authors. A wiki allows anyone to edit, delete or modify content that has been placed on the Web site, including the work of previous authors."

    Gotcha! Student's Wikipedia Hoax Fools Mainstream Media

    When he posted a fake quote on Wikipedia and watched it leak into newspapers around the world, Shane Fitzgerald demonstrated the dangers of relying on the Internet for information.

    Gotcha! Student's Wikipedia Hoax Fools Mainstream Media
  13. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    That's a strength, though. It means that when someone engages in vandalism, which does happen, that those who want to make the resource better rather than worse can fix it just as quickly. Most purposeful defacing of Wikipedia information gets fixed within minutes, because editors who care about a subject will set up alerts to let them know when a change has been added to an article on their watch list.

    That's why that incident was so noteworthy -- because it was rare, not because it happens all the time.
  14. rmm0484

    rmm0484 Member

    I love Wikipedia for what it is. I tell my students that they cannot cite it as a source, but it is a great start for finding sources, and a general sense about a given topic. Most Wikipedia entries are maintained by people who take ownership of the subject, and they update it frequently. As an example, when the Queen of the Netherlands recently abdicated in favor of her son, Wikipedia was all over that.
  15. expat_eric

    expat_eric New Member

    Wikipedia is a great resource. It is often one of the first places I look when trying to pull my thoughts together for a paper or article. While it is never acceptable as a source in itself, it is often helps me find good sources. I think that universities and teachers in general do students a disfavor when they demonize Wikipedia.
  16. RAM PhD

    RAM PhD Member

    As I said, Wikipedia contains some good information. The site has merit and value for many. The caveat is that one needs to verify and confirm the content.
  17. ryoder

    ryoder New Member

    Like others said, it is a good starting point but never cite it and always check your sources.
    I have edited a Wikipedia article and if that doesn't raise your alarm bells I don't know what will.
  18. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    No worries. Like I said, it's easy for other editors to rollback mistakes.

    Kidding, kidding!

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