The Wikipedia Project

This spring semester, 2016, I have had the joy of working with 10 amazing undergraduate students to develop an American Cultures Engaged Scholarship project for IntegBio 35AC Human Biological Variation.

Clockwise from top left: Bailey Ferguson, Olivia Downs, Maddie Zuercher, Nirali Rahul, Christy Hulett, Jacqueline Morales, Alyssa Case, Jun Sin, TJ Ford, Nathan Shin, and Leslea Hlusko.

IntegBio 35AC is a large lecture (300 students), lower division, non-majors biology class that addresses modern human biological variation from historical, comparative, evolutionary, biomedical, and cultural perspectives. It introduces students to the fundamentals of comparative biology, evolutionary theory, and genetics as it relates to their everyday lives — how they view the diversity of people around them.

With funding and support from the University of California Berkeley’s American Cultures Program and the WikiEdu Foundation, the eleven of us developed a month-long project that students in IntegBio35AC will participate in through their discussion sections starting in the fall of 2016. Each discussion section will edit a Wikipedia article about a topic related to the class. Every student will be trained to be a wikipedian, and will develop the skills (and hopefully the motivation) to share their Berkeley-gained knowledge with the world through the improvement of Wikipedia.

We edited three Wikipedia pages as a trial run-through of the project. To see what they did, compare this 2014 article on Natural Fertility, with this revised one from April 2016. This has had 925 page views since they started working on it.

Check out the students’ edits to the Race and Health page. Here’s what it looked like before they made their improvements: January 2016.  There have been 7,701 page views since they started their edits in February (138/day).

And the third article they edited, Transgender in Sport went from this in January 2016 to this in April 2016. In the two months since they started working on this article, there have been 2,499 page views.

Talk about impact.

In addition to developing this project, these students helped me re-think quite a bit of how we do assessment in the class. They convinced me to drop the three formal in-class exams and move to six on-line quizzes instead. We exchanged the final exam for the paper (which used to be due right before Thanksgiving break). This will give students more time to really delve into their topics, and GSIs will have more time to critique the papers thoughtfully.

I’m very grateful to Berkeley’s Center for Teaching and Learning for an Instructional Improvement grant that will pay for a graduate student to help implement all of these changes to our online course website over the summer. Many thanks to Austin Peck for helping me with this over the next month.

After having been through the formal teaching environment of IntegBio35AC together in the fall of 2015, and now having this much more informal, collaborative classroom experience together, these ten students have each earned a special place in my heart. It has been a really rewarding experience for me as a professor.  These students trusted me enough to provide very honest feedback and creative ideas for how to improve the class. I also learned a tremendous amount about how students interface with their coursework and the campus. While quite a lot has changed since I was in college, it also wonderful to be reminded of just how much doesn’t change from generation to generation. If you don’t believe me, check out the YikYak app.

These students will give a guest lecture to the Fall 2016 IntegBio35AC course to introduce the project and show the students what the beginning and end of the Wikipedia Project looks like. I’m eager to see how much next semester’s students enjoy what we’ve created!

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