Using Wikibooks/Class Project Guidelines
Wikibooks is a community for collaboratively writing textbooks and manuals. As such, it is uniquely suited for use in group collaborative projects. Several such projects have occurred on Wikibooks in the past, most with great success. Some of those projects are listed on our list of class projects. This isn't a comprehensive list, but if you are starting a new project, we would appreciate it if you would add your project to the list.
This page is going to serve as a quick-start guide for class or group projects. It's important that the group leader or class instructor reads this page through, and certain portions would be very good for the participants (students) to read as well. Wikibooks is an active community, and your project is going to end up interacting with that community in ways that may not be obvious.
Starting a Class Project
Typically, when starting a class project, it is important to define the scope of that project: What will be the title of your book(s)? What kind of materials will your book(s) include? How much depth will your book cover? What is the target audience? All these questions should probably be answered before your class starts working, to help keep things orderly and organized down the road. If class members are working on different chapters simultaneously, it is important to define the layout of each chapter, and whether there are sections (such as a glossary) that you would like each chapter to include.
Also, there are legal aspects to consider. All text and other materials on Wikibooks are released under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License and Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License and all participants in your project must agree to release their contributions under those licenses. Groups and individual students may wish to cross-license their contributions under the GFDL/CC-BY-SA and another compatible license, and some users may wish to release their contributions into the public domain. These are all acceptable options as well.
If your group is not going to be writing a textbook, or if it is going to be incorporating additional types of learning materials in addition to a textbook, it might be a good idea to consider organizing your project on Wikiversity. Wikiversity is an online community, related to Wikibooks, that focuses on learning new ways to create materials for classrooms of all kinds.
Register your participants
All participants in the project, especially the instructor or the project leader should register user names here on Wikibooks. Username accounts provide each user with a user page where they can write personal profiles, a user talk page where the user can receive messages from other users, and a contribution history, where the contributions made by that user are recorded. Course instructors have found the contribution history pages to be of particular interest, because those pages lay out precisely how much work a particular student has done on the project. It is important to note that the user's contribution history will not indicate whether the material added was original work, or if it has been copy+pasted from another source. For this reason, the instructor may need to spend some significant time testing student contributions for plagiarism.
List your project on Wikibooks:List of class projects, so that the Wikibooks community can follow your project, and provide you with extra help. Be sure to include information about who your participants are (a class, a study group, etc), and what your goals are (to write a new book, to improve an old book, etc)
Wikibooks cannot tell you, as an instructor of a class, how to grade your own students. However, we kindly ask that instructors who use Wikibooks for a class project leave us some feedback about their experiences, and we have compiled some of that feedback into a series of helpful suggestions.
One common problem associated with student projects is that students may focus their attention on their own work too much. Encourage students to review, edit, and revise the material written by other groups/students. Peer review can encourage students to learn subjects besides what they are themselves working on, and it can also produce positive feedback that will drive the creative process further. Wiki helps to spare students the details of formatting and presentation, so that they can focus on presenting their own information, and learning about the information of other students. Related to this is the common concern that students are learning, as well as simply writing. While the two processes are related, they are certainly not synonymous. You can ensure that students are learning by watching how their work progresses in the page history, and by watching how they respond to criticism and suggestions from other students. Because of the history pages that keep track of when and what a student is editing, it becomes more apparent which students are working hard on their pages for the duration of the project, and which students are procrastinating until the last moments.
Use the talk pages of your book, along with the user-talk pages of your students to communicate with each other, and to work to improve the content of your book. Ask students to add important pages (especially the user talk page of the class instructor) to their personal watch list. This way, when people leave messages, everybody in the class can be alerted about it. Ask students not only to work on their own pages, but also ask them to read and critique the work of other students. Tell students to help each other with grammar, spelling, formatting, and wording. Being both the writer and the editor and reviser all at once ensures that the students are engaged in the project. Each student's contributions page represents a complete history of all their authoring, editing, revising, discussing, and critiquing. These histories will not show communications between students via email, phone, or instant messenger, so you should ask students to try and keep their related work on Wikibooks, so that all their work is properly recorded and accounted for.
If all the students are working on a different page or topic, it can be hard to test and grade the class as one unit. However, if the entire class is working on only a single page/topic at once, there might not be enough work for everybody to contribute equally. Make sure to set specific guidelines, deadlines, and grading criteria out for your class. If everybody stays on the same pace and reaches certain milestones together, it will be easier to measure all the students against the same measuring stick. Don't hesitate to list your time line and grading criteria on the talk pages of your book, as a reference.
If you are a class instructor, and would like to provide us some feedback, we would love to hear from you! Post comments, suggestions, or concerns at the class projects discussion page.
Understand the community
Wikibooks is run by a group of regular volunteers, authors, editors, and other contributors. These people would like to help your class project, and will likely be in contact with your members to give you a warm welcome and some friendly advice. Also, if you have any questions, regular contributors tend to hang out in the reading room. Sometimes, the community may even have a question for you or one of your students, and it's generally polite to answer them. Plus, if a student does something a little strange, a volunteer might ask for an explanation before "fixing" it. If you don't want your edits "fixed" by someone else, make sure to explain yourself when asked.
Wikibooks is an active community, and there will be many opportunities for you and your students to interact with the community at large. One of the most important things to learn before your students begin working on their book is that they are becoming a part of the Wikibooks community. The community brings certain benefits, but also brings certain responsibilities. If you or your students violate Wikibooks policies, or if you are disrespectful to each other or other community members, disciplinary action can be taken.
The community can be a great resource. We can answer questions, and we can also come to your book to lend a hand. Community members probably know a few tricks that can help you present your information better, make your book look more polished and professional, or even to make your work more efficient. Don't hesitate to ask if you need something.
Wikibooks is open-content, which means that any user is free to edit almost any page at any time. This means that if your class is working on a book, other users from around the world may come in to help edit your pages as well. Many times, such random edits are small fixes in spelling, grammar, or formatting, but sometimes a contribution may be large and will affect your entire project. Besides blatant vandalism, edits made by other users in good faith should not be deleted or restricted.
To distinguish between the edits made by your students, and the edits made by other Wikibookians, use the history pages. The history pages maintain a listing of every edit to a particular page, in addition to the user who made the edit, and the time it was made. You can access the edit history of any page by clicking the "history" tab at the top of the page.
You and your students should also feel free to edit other books here on Wikibooks, or to participate beyond the term your class project.
Policies and Guidelines
Wikibooks also has a series of policies and guidelines in place to help govern the actions of its users. It is important, as an instructor of a class, to familiarize yourself with some of these policies, because they could affect your project in a profound way. Here are some important policies:
- Copyright infringement is taken very seriously. Materials that violate copyright could be deleted without warning. Make sure your group understands how to avoid such troubles. See Also: Wikibooks:Copyrights.
- Vandalism (editing in a malicious way), profanity, and other childish behavior is not well tolerated here, and users who act in these ways could become blocked from editing at wikibooks. If you would like to test the wiki software, you can make any edit you want to the Sandbox page.
- Content must maintain a neutral point of view. Wikibooks cannot be used as a soapbox for promoting a particular religious, political, or other viewpoint.
- Wikibooks is not the correct place to conduct Original research. All content on Wikibooks should be verifiable, and properly referenced (when possible).
- All Wikibookians are encouraged to be nice to each other. Treat this more like a rule than a suggestion.
If one of the students in your class violates these policies, it is possible that they could be blocked from editing Wikibooks, at least temporarily. This is unlikely, but it is not unheard of. Make sure to talk to your students about the importance of following the rules.
What is Wikibooks?
Wikibooks is a project where the community members (known as Wikibookians, colloquially) collaboratively write open-content textbooks on a variety of different subjects. Wikibooks has a number of sister projects, all of which operate under the banner of the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF). Some of our sister projects are:
- Wikipedia, a free encyclopedia.
- Wikiversity, a collaborative learning environment. See also: Wikiversity:School and university projects.
- Wikisource, a repository for free source text.
- Wiktionary, a free dictionary/thesaurus.
If your project doesn't fit on Wikibooks, perhaps it will fit on one of these other projects.
For further information about the kinds of materials that can be posted here at Wikibooks, you can refer to Wikibooks:What is Wikibooks.
One of the advantages of working on a Wikimedia project is the vast resources available for developing content.
- If you would like to use content from Wikipedia, you can request an import of articles for use as the basis for a project. Keep in mind that a book should not just be a collection of Wikipedia articles, but instead should have a central narrative.
- If you are looking for images (from photos to comic strips), try searching on Wikimedia Commons, which has free images on thousands of topics. Images located on Wikimedia Commons can be used on Wikibooks without any hassle. No need to download or upload the images to Wikibooks.
Get help when you need it
Wikibooks is a big place, and there are plenty of questions about how to do this, or why things are done like that.
If you would like to browse some of the various tools and pages that we have to offer, you can visit the Community portal. That page has a number of resources available, including help resources, and spotlights for particular projects.
For a complete overview of all policies and guidelines in effect on Wikibooks, please see Wikibooks:Policies and guidelines.
If you need help with the wiki text markup, you can read Editing Wikitext, a book we have been developing to teach about how to author and edit pages here and on other wikis.
If you need help dealing with vandalism you can leave a message in the administrative assistance reading room.
If you have any other problems, questions, comments, or suggestions, you can always leave a note in one of the reading rooms. They are well-monitored for edits by the users here, and you should get a response quickly.
Become Part of the Community
Just because you are working on a class project doesn't mean you can't explore all the other projects that Wikibooks has to offer. There are many books on many subjects here at Wikibooks, and all contributors are encouraged to get involved.
When your class project is over, your user accounts don't disappear either. After the conclusion of your project, you are more than welcome to continue editing your book, or even move on to other books or projects. If you find another book you or any of your group members would like to edit, feel free to dive right in and contribute to them as well. Wikibooks is an open community, and our success is dependent on the contributions of users like you.