American Univesity of Beirut

AUB Communication Skills Program and University Libraries collaborate on Wikipedia Education initiative

  The Wikipedia Education project at AUB seeks to educate students in digital composition and to enhance Wikipedia's content on Arab authors.

With help from Dr. Matthew Vetter from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) and in collaboration with Dr. Helaine Blumenthal from Wikipedia Education, Abir Ward (Communication Skills Program—English Department) launched the project in 2019 with the help and support of Fatme Charafeddine (AUB Libraries) who suggested the idea to Ward at AUB's Digital Humanities Workshop.

Digitizing Lebanese and Arab literary heritage started by recognizing a need to create articles about Lebanese and Arab authors, poets, and literary figures from Lebanon and the Arab region who have little to no presence on the web and are at risk of becoming forgotten in today's digital age.

So every Fall semester, English 203 students are invited to take part in a rigorous training with Wikipedia Education in how to edit and create Wikipedia content while abiding by the strict Wikipedia regulations on plagiarism and notability.

In addition to improving encyclopedic content and working on preserving Arab literary heritage, this project also enables participants to practice crucial skills related to critical thinking, digital literacy, online source evaluation, and writing for a global audience. 

During the process, the AUB librarians work closely with the course instructor to discuss the students' assignment and to identify notable authors to write about, especially those who are missing or underrepresented. The librarians then guide students in identifying relevant resources from the library's collection and in determining which sources are most authoritative (considering publishers, formats, dates of publication, and author bias).

 In the Fall of 2020, English 203 students managed to create 12 articles that were viewed 14.5 million times by Wikipedia readers around the world in under two months. These students also participated in IUP's fourth annual Wikipedia Edit-a-thon in collaboration with the English Department at IUP, IUP Libraries, Women's and Gender Studies, and the Center for Digital Humanities and Culture.

“Forty-two faculty and students participated in this online event, editing 53 existing Wikipedia articles and creating 4 new articles. Together, these participants added over 14,000 words and 109 references to improve Wikipedia's coverage of women and the arts," stated Dr. Vetter. He added that the “Art + Feminism Edit-a-thon is a distributed global event designed to diversify Wikipedia's coverage of women in the arts." 

In 2011, the Wikimedia Foundation revealed that only 17 percent of all biographical articles on Wikipedia focus on women. Through the Wikipedia Education project at AUB, Ward seeks to help students identify more notable women authors in the Arab world to write about. “In this way, we are helping students bridge the gender gap all while increasing content about Arab authors."​

Finally, the Emirates Literacy Foundation has expressed an interest in collaborating with AUB on this project and aims to create 15,000 articles in two years with the help of Google.

More about Wiki Education

Wiki Education engages students and academics to improve Wikipedia, enrich student learning, and build a more informed public.

Wiki Education envisions a world in which students, scholars, scientists, archivists, librarians, and other members of academic and cultural institutions are actively engaged in sharing their knowledge with the general public through Wikipedia, Wikidata, and other open collaboration projects on the web. 

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