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Service Learning through Editing Wikipedia’s Health Content

Last Updated: April 3, 2020


Health professional educators actively discourage using Wikipedia, though it’s often the first source for students, faculty, and patients. Instead of fighting this ubiquitous phenomenon, educators can serve a larger social good by embracing Wikipedia-editing as a teaching strategy. Teaching health professional trainees to improve Wikipedia’s health-related content ensures that patients read high-quality information. Wikipedia articles become accurate and comprehensive through collaboration via Wikiprojects-- defined as collections of individuals interested in particular topics. Wikiproject Medicine consists of hundreds of active experienced editors, many of whom are health professionals. Individual Wikiproject Medicine volunteers improve Wikipedia health articles through collaborations with libraries, scholarly journals, and organizations such as Cochrane. Wiki Education (Wiki Ed) is a non-profit organization promoting Wikipedia integration into higher education coursework. Through Wiki Ed’s dashboard, instructors can designate and customize learning modules for students, track student progress and organize course content, such as work-in-progress sessions and assignment deadlines. Wikipedia-editing courses and/or assignments can thus be integrated anywhere into medical school curricula. Students gain 21st century skills including medial literacy, writing and research development, and critical thinking. Lastly, because the assignments are delivered as content on Wikipedia (instead of “throw away” assignments that are discarded at the end of the semester/term), students are deeply engaged and invested in their work. Over 97% of faculty who teach with Wikipedia report a plan to do so again in subsequent courses.


Amin Azzam, MD, MA, University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine (Amin.Azzam@ucsf.edu)
Helaine Blumenthal, PhD, Wiki Education