Creating Wikipedia Articles on Health and Tech-Related Topics Can Empower Editors and Benefit the Community | BMC medical training


Of the 28 students enrolled in the course, 13 participated in the described task and wrote 7 new Wikipedia articles in Hebrew in the field of medical imaging. None of the students decided to edit an existing Hebrew Wikipedia article. All but one of the students chose to do the assignment collaboratively in pairs.

All articles have been approved for publication by local community peer reviewers, and as of November 12, 2021 (fourteen months after the end of the course), these seven articles have been viewed 17,154 times.

All of the students who performed the task were in the second half of the undergraduate degree. Given the small number of participants and the choice to maintain confidentiality, we did not collect individual descriptive characteristics. Most of the students who participated had no previous experience in editing Wikipedia, except for one student. All students expressed a high level of literacy in English and Hebrew and did not expect reading, interpreting, or writing medical and scientific materials to pose insurmountable difficulties in preparing for the task. They also weren’t concerned with navigating Wikipedia’s technical environment.

Motivation to undertake the task: contributing to society

Students cited reasons for undertaking the task, including; a sense of accomplishment of an academic task accessible to all; an opportunity to contribute to society; and a personal desire to seek professional medical knowledge. Interestingly, students who passed and those who did not complete the task said that the extra mark (5 points out of 100) was perceived as inadequate for the time they felt the task would require.

Most of the students (9 out of 15) who did not undertake the task mentioned their apprehensions regarding their workload during the semester. Nevertheless, even students who did not participate perceived the task as meaningful.

Task performance challenges: topic selection

Students mentioned that science reading was the most time-consuming part of the assignment and that it significantly increased their workload, as they expected. However, they encountered little to no technical difficulties in running the Wikipedia website. According to the students, their main challenge was to select content that was important to both lay people and medical professionals. Only a minority of students (2 out of 13) revealed that personal medical experience was the primary consideration in choosing a specific topic.

Student satisfaction and concerns

Most (8 of 13) students who completed the task were satisfied with the results. Satisfaction was repeatedly expressed during the interviews in phrases such as – “It was one of the only practical works of my studies that could have an impact”. Those who were dissatisfied said they were limited in writing on medical topics due to their engineering background. Additionally, some have expressed concern that Wikipedia’s encyclopedic writing style requirements do not fully convey the desired message to the audience. These respondents felt that popular health media, such as health sections on news websites, could also contribute to society’s knowledge. Students said the task differed from other tasks in their college studies in many ways, including: the vscontribution to society, the uniqueness of the research experience and writing about medical knowledge for the general public.

When asked to elaborate on the aspects mentioned above, the students defined “contribution to society” as an action that reduces the gaps in medical knowledge between the general public and professionals. “Unique research and writing on medical topics” was described as the unique task of their training, which required them to go beyond just reading about technical engineering topics, and they enjoyed the challenge and the value of learning to translate and simplify these complex ideas to be understandable to the general public. The students said that unlike other academic assignments which were unpublished and kept within the “walls” of the academy, this assignment was released almost immediately to the general public as a Wikipedia article. , easily accessible from all search engines. Performing a task that crosses “classroom boundaries” has contributed to students’ sense that they can have an impact on society. As a result, most said they did not feel their skills and abilities to complete tasks under pressure or to summarize and edit information had improved.


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