Write a Wikipedia Article for Law School Credit — Really?
65 J Legal Educ 597 (2016)
25 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2016 Last revised: 9 Feb 2016
Date Written: 2016
Most law school assignments are produced and consumed in a dyadic relationship of student-writer and instructor-reader. But consider a different scenario, one in which the fate of the work is presumptive publication to the world; in which feedback from any interested reader is potentially instantaneous; in which the instructor’s role is that of coach or mentor through the writing and publishing process as well as assessor of the work; and in which the student’s work, in turn, contributes to providing worldwide access to free legal information. The world we are talking about is that of writing or editing Wikipedia articles for law school credit. In this Article, we describe that world and the small part we played in it as law professor and law student in editing a Wikipedia article as an optional component of an upper-year Canadian law school course.
In Part I, we set out some of the background to Wikipedia. This includes a discussion of its history, philosophy and policies; the relationship between Wikipedia and higher education; and the relationship between Wikipedia and law. In this Part, we make a pedagogical case for turning law students from “consumers” to “producers” of Wikipedia’s legal content. In Part II, we talk about what we did as professor and student in the course, focusing on the editing of a specific Wikipedia “stub” article — that is, an article clearly in need of editing and further development. In Part III, we consider the assessment of student contributions to Wikipedia. This includes a discussion of various rubrics and the Wikipedia Education Project Syllabus, which provides a general template for a twelve-week course emphasizing Wikipedia content. Part IV summarizes our reflections on the exercise, including both its limitations and opportunities. The Appendix provides some links to resources for professors and students who want to experiment with writing or editing Wikipedia articles for law school credit.
Keywords: legal education, legal writing, legal research, Wikipedia
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