"The key challenge for the scholarly community [...] is to work actively with Wikipedia to strengthen its role in 'pre-research.' We need to build stronger links from its entries to more advanced resources that have been created and maintained by the academy." —Casper Grathwohl, Oxford University Press
Edit-a-thons are day- or half-day events that bring experts, Wikipedians and sometimes the public together in a room to collaboratively improve Wikipedia. One goal is to improve a set of Wikipedia articles or upload images, while another is to give people the skills and confidence to contribute in future. Editathons can take place as part of another event such as a conference.
As well as contributors, Wikipedia trainers, wi-fi, and refreshments, an editathon needs reliable sources to be cited. So editathons are a chance to get Wikipedians, academics or students using research resources such as databases.
Wikimedia UK has supported editathons on a wide variety of topics, including World War I, women in science, endangered and threatened species, cancer, academic dress, music of black origin, sphingolipids, and spatial ecology & epidemiology.
A longer-term option is to assign students to use the research resource (alongside other sources) to improve Wikipedia articles over a longer period.
Wikipedia's volunteer community welcome genuine improvements in line with the site's goals and policy, and can be a useful source of feedback to students. However, they get understandably upset when people add copyright violations, out-of-scope material or otherwise breach policy. Hence it is important to work with the community rather than against it. This includes designing an assignment which is feasible and in line with Wikipedia's policies, and putting some information about it on Wikipedia to show which articles will be affected. It also involves running dedicated sessions with the students to prepare them for the Wikipedia style of writing. This reinforces the educational value of the assignment because the features of encyclopaedic writing (avoiding plagiarism, staying neutral and descriptive, citing sources for all claims) are good scholarly habits anyway. It is important to get on-wiki help in the form of experienced Wikipedians who can monitor and support the students, and to scale this support to the size of the class.
(more info to come)