New College Lanarkshire: Become a Wikimedian Course

  • September 6, 2023

Levi White is an FE Lecturer in Social Sciences at New College Lanarkshire.  After working with Wikimedia UK on the West Boathouse’s “Play Like a Lassie” project, Levi got in contact with Programme Manager Dr Sara Thomas to develop work with the College.  NCL is one of two Further Education partners that Wikimedia UK has in Scotland.

This year marks the 10th Anniversary of the merger of New College Lanarkshire and as part of this the college offered a large number of free evening courses. One of these courses was the Become a Wikimedian Course which was an 11 week course that was conducted online. Throughout this course 10 students learned how to make positive contributions to multiple Wiki platforms, such as Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons.

For many years Wikipedia has been viewed in a negative light by educators, however, this course has highlighted what a positive tool Wikipedia can be for learners.  Knowing how to use the platform properly to bolster research is key to its success.  The students quickly understand how Wikipedia can be used as a springboard to delve deep into research on a specific topic. This course used the 12 week syllabus available on Wikimedia Commons to provide a basic structure to the course. We spent the first week exploring the ‘5 Pillars of Wikipedia’ and subsequent weeks looked at creative writing techniques, critical evaluation of Wikipedia articles and research materials. The course also focussed on research skills and allowed the students ample opportunity to work in small groups and peer reviewed each other’s research and edits. 

Furthermore, the course allowed plenty of time for students to make their contributions to Wikipedia. They all felt a great sense of achievement once their edits went live and enjoyed watching the dashboard and seeing the impact their edits were having. 

Lesley-Anne, a student on the course, stated “throughout the course, my eyes have been opened to the world of Wikipedia, and my previous negative perception of how useful a tool it can be has been blown out of the water. From a further education point of view, I can’t emphasise enough how useful this would have been when I was studying for my social sciences HND. It would have been incredible to have been able to enhance my research, writing, referencing and critical analysis skills by putting them into practice at the same time as making meaningful contributions to Wikipedia. I also feel it would be a really useful module for students to take alongside various Access/NC/HNC/HND courses, and I think that the group work and peer review element would undoubtedly help so many students build up their confidence in going forward in their studies. There is genuinely so much that can be gained from participating in the course.” While Ben said he “really enjoyed the course, going through college and university you are taught that using Wikipedia is wrong… however, it is clear that we need to be taught how to use it correctly instead of being shunned away from it. This course offered me the opportunity to be taught a new skill… Fundamentally, I believe that this course… would offer an accessible and easy to use stepping stone to more academic websites for research.”

Hopefully, this course will be offered again at New College Lanarkshire and we can build on the success of this one! Personally, I felt that the student engagement on this course was brilliant. They thoroughly enjoyed the whole research process and having a tangible outcome kept them motived to continue with their edits. 

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