Students get Wikipedia attention, honors

Most students use Wikipedia to help with homework or fact checking. However, some Michigan State University students have turned the tables, helping Wikipedia by editing content and, more importantly, getting published as part of a class project.

The students recently participated in the Wikipedia Public Policy Initiative, which allows students to edit and produce detailed Wikipedia articles on public policy topics within their classrooms.

Out of 33 university classes from across the nation participating in the initiative, MSU was one of the top contributors this spring. The 94 undergraduate students in Telecommunications 210 - Media and Communication Policy course - ranked first in total bytes added to Wikipedia articles. The 11 graduate students in Telecommunications 850 - Telecommunications Policy Analysis - ranked third in average number of characters added to Wikipedia per student.

"Writing for Wikipedia and in a collaborative environment was a new experience for the students," said Johannes Bauer, who taught the graduate level-course. "It provided a strong incentive to produce a high-quality term project. The fact that the information remains available added considerable satisfaction."

"Both the students and the professors have been phenomenal with what they're doing," said Annie Lin, campus team coordinator for the Wikimedia Foundation, which includes Wikipedia. "It's the largest class by far and we're really impressed with the participation, and we are excited to work with MSU."

MSU visiting assistant professor Jonathan Obar, associate director of the Quello Center for Telecommunication Management and Law, said the project helped connect his undergraduate students to the online world. The undergraduates in TC 210 edited multiple policy articles and more than 300 other Wikipedia articles throughout the semester.

"Students are drawn to social media," Obar said. "This innovative initiative thrusts students into a growing wiki-culture while simultaneously teaching them course content. It's win-win."

The initiative started with 14 classes nationwide, but since has expanded to include 33 courses among 22 universities, including Harvard and Georgetown.

"Instead of a more traditional term paper that's only read by their professor, they're getting feedback from the global Internet community," Obar said. "At the same time, they're learning about public policy issues that affect media consumers every day. It's quite an initiative."

Several of the articles achieved the "Did You Know" awards from Wikipedia, including:,_Inc.

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