Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Tag: activity

Wikipedia – A positive force for learning

Wikipedia is in the crosshairs for many academics – but is it worthy of a student’s time? There is a concern over the academic relevance of websites that are available for the world to edit, as they may not be completely factually accurate.

Wikipedia understands its failings and has implemented the Wiki Education Foundation that is designed to combat misinformation. It is staffed by volunteer editors that help maintain the integrity of the stories and facts presented on the website. Episode 14 of Reply All (14 mins 37 seconds in) looks at one of the people who work hard to change just a small part of something on Wikipedia on a daily basis.

On the 22nd February 2017, an article was published on the NPR website ( entitled What Students Can Learn By Writing for Wikipedia . I found it a very creative and a useful insight into changing the assessments in which students take part in.

To summarise the article, it suggests that a student becomes an editor of Wikipedia. They choose their subject, research it and add it to the already developed pages of Wikipedia. The findings from the academics already employing Wikipedia as a means of assessment, have found that students engage at a more in-depth level because “they feel there is a higher stake than the difference between a B and an A-minus”. The fact that an article has the potential to be read by millions of people globally gives  students a real reason to do well at the task.

The article concludes that while Wikipedia can be a positive force for student development, it should still be held as a starting point to any research (especially at a university level) and never as ‘a footnoted source’.  With this in mind, getting a student to actively participate in learning activities can be a problem for many academics. Students often ask, “Is this part of the assessment?” or “Why do I need to do this?”. When using Wikipedia as part of a summative assessment, it seems to engage students in a way that more traditional assessments may not.

The workflow that students would be engaging with is very different to that of the traditional written essay. The framework that Wikipedia provides is open and offers public scrutiny. All those involved in Wikipedia are taking part and collaborating and checking the information for relevance and suitability. This appears to develop the students’ sense of pride and achievement in their work, and offers no place to hide. Rushing the essay or using quickly researched and poorly checked sources becomes much harder to do. There is no using Wikipedia to quickly paraphrase sections that are to be part of the essay; you are contributing to the narrative that Wikipedia provides.

Empowering a student into the traditional research methods of using ‘actual books’ (obviously there is now the world of an e-book but the principal is still the same). Checking internet hearsay for facts and truth, perception of a specific reality in the ever-changing nature of the world. Some parts of Wikipedia have been written and are essentially ‘finished’. Certain points in history are now not going to change drastically (although the interpretation of facts and data can heavily influence how the narrative of events is told). There is a wealth of knowledge and information pouring from our computer screens that needs to be verified, researched and potentially debunked or praised as genuine truth.

A geographer at the University of Portsmouth has been doing just this with his first-year students and in 2014 won the UK Educational Institution of the Year award, presented by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales. Professor Humphrey Southall assigned his students a very small and limited Wikipedia entry for an English village (outside of the Portsmouth physical boundaries), which the students then had to research digitally. They were unable to use Wikipedia and had to focus their research on other institutions and organisations. The assignment required them to write a 1000-word entry on the location. A fine example is the entry for Sawley in South Yorkshire that now provides a comprehensive look at the village.

Throughout this style of assessment the students are developing key research skills which they can take into their second and third years. Providing them with a strong research ethic for their future projects.

Echoing the opening of the NPR article, we are surrounded by ‘fake’ and invented news at worst or just poor journalistic standards at best. Wikipedia is attempting to tighten its own editorial process and hold the content of the site to a higher standard. This can only ever be a good thing for those starting research, but the bottom line is always to remember that Wikipedia can be edited by anyone. It may be the first website you visit when starting research, but it should not be your final source of information.Wikipedia is best used as a stepping stone to both online and offline literature, and even better a starting point for creating a different style of assessment.

Image courtesy of :

Edwin Andrade


Have you ever wanted to incorporate some online activity into your session, but don’t have the facility to do so?  Here, in the TEL department we have 30 Chromebooks which are available for morning and afternoon sessions or can be booked for the entire day.

So how do Chromebooks work?
The Chromebooks have two preset profiles that can be assigned through the admin panel. The first is defined as “Classroom mode”, the second is “Exam Mode”.

In Classroom mode the Chromebooks loads a Google login box where the users university details are added. Chrome OS then loads and allows the user to access their work Chrome profile, this will include access to email, drive and any other documents within their Google profile.

Exam mode is much more stringent, and automatically logs into the device and displays the exam landing page. The student would then choose the exam they are expected to take, at which point they are then asked to sign into Moodle with their credentials. They are taken to the title screen of that exam which will display start time, end time (if set) and duration of the exam.

Should there be another requirement for a different Chromebook profile then through discussion with IS it may be possible to create one that would suit the potential need. As an example: Science made a request for exam mode to be enabled with access to a shared Google Drive document that still limited any other web access. This took over a month of testing and development between Science and IS to get the framework working and in place to use. Some requests that have been made however, were not possible and subsequently implementation was not possible.

Unlike standard Chromebooks or laptops, the TEL Chromebooks require a University of Portsmouth Google account as they’re subject to authentication  by Google.  So if you’re thinking of borrowing the Chromebooks to use with external participants, IS will need at least 72 hours notice to give them time to create dedicated accounts. If you required a large number of external accounts you would need to contact IS directly:

Booking the Chromebooks
If you would like to borrow the Chromebooks we would require you to complete the TEL Chromebook Booking, Enquiry Form

This form asks:

  • How many Chromebooks do you require?
  • Which mode do you require?
  • Session Date
  • Session Start Time
  • Session End Time
  • Session Name
  • Session Location

You’ll need to complete an individual form for each session that you require the Chromebooks for. To make sure that the Chromebooks are in the correct mode we require a minimum of 72 hours from your initial booking to when you require the devices. Chromebooks are transported in wheel-able flight cases (15 Chromebooks per case), therefore it would be your responsibility to get them transferred to where you need them.  We’ll make sure that they’re ready at least 30 minutes before your session starts, for you come to collect them.

If you’re interested in borrowing the Chromebooks, but not sure in what capacity and would like further explanation or demonstration then please contact elearn by either telephoning extension 3355 or email us at and we can provide some advice on how they have been used before around the University.

Image credits: Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash

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