Matthew Vetter, Indiana University of Pennsylvania – Understanding Instructor Motivations for Adopting Wikipedia-Based Assignments

On Wiki Education Week:  What are the benefits of using Wikipedia in the classroom?

Matthew Vetter, associate professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, asked around to find the answer.

Dr. Matthew Vetter is an Associate Professor of English and affiliate faculty in the Composition and Applied Linguistics PhD Program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. A scholar in writing, rhetoric, and digital humanities, his research leverages technology and innovative pedagogy to create meaningful connections between academic and public communities.

Understanding Instructor Motivations for Adopting Wikipedia-Based Assignments


Why would college professors teach Wikipedia-based assignments? This is the main question we set out to answer in a survey of over 100 instructors who recently partnered with Wiki Education.

Our findings suggest that Wikipedia-based assignments are adopted for a number of reasons beyond learning outcomes: including social influence, providing students an opportunity to contribute to public knowledge, and motivations related to addressing social equity. Two findings are of particular relevance to the current research.

First, over 40% of respondents were motivated to teach with Wikipedia because doing so allows them to address social inequity. One responding instructor articulates this motivation in the following words:

“My students were feeling frustrated that the issues we were learning and talking about in class (e.g., race, identity, and systemic injustice) were so vast and immutable … So with the Wiki project, I showed them how knowledge creation can be its own tool for social activism.”

Second, we also discovered that instructors often connected this motivation to their own professional identities, emphasizing how “social equity is at the center of [their] research [or teaching].”

Ultimately, these findings are valuable for stakeholders across Wiki Education, Wikimedia, and Wikipedia communities, because they help to identify a productive motivator for increased participation and adoption of Wikipedia pedagogies focused on social diversity and knowledge equity.

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