To the Editor:
Despite discouragement from faculty due to variable quality, medical students and patients alike continue actively seeking information on Wikipedia. This creates a disconnect between educators and the future doctors and patients who consult Wikipedia as an initial resource. Although a few medical schools have offered instruction in improving medical articles on Wikipedia,1 adoption has been limited. Meanwhile, the online medical education platform Osmosis has accumulated tens of thousands of active medical student users. Through grants to promote open educational pedagogy,2 Osmosis’ director of open learning initiatives (A.A.) created a pilot Wikipedia-editing course for Osmosis subscribers. This formal instruction in editing Wikipedia’s health content exposed students to both resource evaluation and the peer-review process.
The Wikipedia-editing course for Osmosis subscribers was implemented through the Wiki Education course dashboard in July 2019.3 Novel elements included videoconference meetings, decentralized file sharing, and cloud-based collaborations. Students were mentored on resource retrieval, access, and vetting by a medical school instructor and a librarian. Weekly work-in-progress meetings ensured appropriate student progress. During the penultimate week, students completed open peer reviews of classmates’ work on Wikipedia. The final week was spent responding to reviewers’ suggestions.
In 4 weeks, 11 students from different medical schools on 3 continents added 8,775 words and 119 references to 11 Wikipedia pages, which were viewed 175,022 times during the course. Limitations included restricting eligibility to English-proficient Osmosis-subscribing medical students with adequate technological resources. Nevertheless, this decentralized Wikipedia-editing course enabled multiple positive outcomes. Students developed critical thinking through reference evaluation and participation in peer review. Additionally, students learned to navigate Wikipedia’s quality ratings, which they can share with future patients, thereby empowering independent evaluation of Wikipedia article quality. Yet, the greatest potential impact may be the direct improvements to health-related Wikipedia content. These outcomes bridge an information gap between the medical profession and patients, while benefiting future scholarship.
1. Joshi M, Verduzco R, Yogi S, et al. Wikipedia editing courses at three US medical schools in the 2017-2018 academic year. MedEdPublish. 2019;8:76
2. Hewlett Foundation. Knowledge Diffusion Inc (DBA Osmosis): For promoting open educational practice through scalable technology. https://hewlett.org/grants/knowledge-diffusion-inc-dba-osmosis-for-promoting-open-educational-practice-through-scalable-technology
. Updated April 10, 2018 Accessed July 24, 2020
3. Azzam AWikipedia: Wiki Ed/Osmosis/Osmosis Wikipedia-editing course July 2019 (Summer). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wiki_Ed/Osmosis/Osmosis_Wikipedia-editing_course_July_2019_(Summer
). Updated August 9,2019 Accessed July 24, 2020