The debate about Wikipedia

As I continue on my journey towards a master’s in education instructional technology, this week our technology instructors have introduced us to some useful tools such as open educational resources, blogs, e-portfolios and Wiki. Wikipedia, has had its share of misgivings. Being an older student, I remember the days of library catalogs and retrieving information from encyclopaedia’s and searching endless periodicals. Since 2001, a new source for obtaining information and reference material can be obtained by using Wikipedia. The argument, and why many instructors do not accept Wikipedia as a valid reference source, is that all of Wiki’s material is maintained and updated by everyday people. Wiki are basically pages that individuals can post information on any topic, event or person. User’s of Wiki like it because it’s a great starting point to gather general information on the subject matter they are researching. Because anyone can update the page the information is constantly being updated. However, the bone of contention is how does the information get validated and how credible is the content? Each page post an admission that possible errors in the post are likely. There’s a board of individuals that read the content and context being published and vote on its authenticity. Even then it’s still prone to error. So why we would use and trust Wiki? Thomas Chesney findings in the peer-review study on “An empirical examination of Wikipedia’s credibility” asked that question to 258 academic researchers. The criteria’s for rating the credibility of the information ranged from the knowledge base of the author, the ability to validate their findings by other credible sources and was the author reliable and trustworthy. Each participant was asked to review a page in which they have first hand subject knowledge about. Based on his findings, 13% of the pages reviewed were discovered to have credibility issues (Chesney, 2006).

In the context of educators allowing Wiki to be used as a reference source, many are still skeptical. Although most of the information is scanned and rescanned quite frequently and updated when errors are found, will Wikipedia ever win the approval of experts and educators as a valid reference source? There’s an upcoming assignment in our OMDE603 class in which we’re to use Wiki as a group to discuss varying definitions on distance education. Many educators have used Wiki as a tool in the research and learning process to gather information, but will discount it as a refernce source in a student’s written paper. I’m curious to see how our input will be validated for accuracy and content once published. I’ll check back in again after we’ve completed the assignments and give you my thoughts.

Chesney, T. (2006). An empirical examination of Wikipedia?s credibility. First Monday 11 (6).

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