Explaining teaching uses of Wikipedia through faculty personal and contextual features

Published date11 September 2017
Date11 September 2017
AuthorJosep Lladós-Masllorens,Eduard Aibar,Antoni Meseguer-Artola,Julià Minguillón,Maura Lerga
Subject MatterLibrary & information science,Information behaviour & retrieval,Collection building & management,Bibliometrics,Databases,Information & knowledge management,Information & communications technology,Internet,Records management & preservation,Document management
Explaining teaching uses of
Wikipedia through faculty
personal and contextual features
Josep Lladós-Masllorens
Faculty of Economics and Business,
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain
Eduard Aibar
Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya,
Barcelona, Spain
Antoni Meseguer-Artola
Faculty of Economics and Business, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya,
Barcelona, Spain
Julià Minguillón
Faculty of Computer Science, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya,
Barcelona, Spain, and
Maura Lerga
Faculty of Arts and Humanities,
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore which personal and contextual factors affect the use of
Wikipedia as a teaching resource in higher education institutions.
Design/methodology/approach This research question is approached by investigating faculty
perceptions and attitudes in two large Spanish universities. For this purpose, a comprehensive empirical
study has been employed, based on an online survey to faculty members and the inclusion of a decision-
making model in the analysis.
Findings Data provide evidence that a combination of cultural, social and subjective factors influences the
decision to use Wikipedia. This decision is not only associated with lecturersindividual characteristics, but
mostly with surrounding influences. Teaching uses are more frequent when academics have close reference
models and when they perceive that Wikipedia is being positively valued by their colleagues.
Research limitations/implications The present study provides a creative framework to analyze the
main determining factors of Wikipedia usage by faculty. The inclusion of both internal and external factors in
the decision process has proved to be a valuable novelty.
Practical implications The study detects the main factors affecting the negative or reluctant attitude
toward Wikipedia and provides some recommendations to overcome these barriers.
Originality/value The study widens the scope of previous investigations supplying a new research
framework and including, for the first time, a prominent online university in the analysis in order to discard
the potential effects of digital and information illiteracy among students and faculty members.
Keywords Wikipedia, Web 2.0, Collaborative knowledge production, Faculty perceptions,
Open educational resources
Paper type Research paper
The internet is used more and more for educational purposes. Web 2.0 tools play a
prominent role in contemporary studentsacademic life; they rely heavily on web-based
information for a wide variety of purposes, such as to retrieve information, to coordinate group
work, to share files, to handle brief questions or to complete certain academic assignments
Online Information Review
Vol. 41 No. 5, 2017
pp. 728-743
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/OIR-10-2016-0298
Received 26 October 2016
Revised 1 March 2017
8 April 2017
Accepted 15 April 2017
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
(Metzger et al., 2003; Hrastinski and Aghaee, 2012; Judd and Kennedy, 2010; Prasannan et al.,
2014). These new habits might challenge conventional educational practices and even higher
education institutions as well (Shull and McCann, 2010; Bennett et al., 2012; Blikstad-Balas, 2016).
The move toward the inclusion of collaborative learning techniques in higher education
is also increasingly yielding results. In particular, the use of Wikipedia as a learning
resource for higher education is also rapidly growing. The online encyclopedia has become a
prime example of the collective construction of knowledge through a virtual platform that
facilitates collaboration on an unprecedented scale. As with other initiatives based on the
use of the internet, it blurs the traditional boundary between producers and consumers of
information (Burke, 2012). And, as a gigantic open repository of knowledge, it may also
have great potential for use in learning processes at all levels of education.
There are many recent experiences around the world where Wikipedia is playing an
active role in the learning process because faculty members from different universities
around the world have begun to use Wikipedia as a teaching tool (Witzleb, 2009; Obar and
Roth, 2011; Roth et al., 2013; Miller, 2014). Most of these uses present very satisfactory
results and substantial improvement in various skills, as well as a positive influence on
student motivation (Lim, 2009; Whalley, 2012; Konieczny, 2014). While improving or
creating Wikipedia articles related to their courses, students not only engage in the
traditional approach to academic bibliographic research, but also in new forms of
collaborative work (Hernandez and Rector, 2013). A new compilation of these experiences is
included in Aibar and Lerga (2015).
Recent studies have explored faculty perception and use of Wikipedia in the California
State University System (Soules, 2015) and in a UK business school (Bayliss, 2013). In the
Californian universities, faculty perceptions of Wikipedia are growing more favorable over
time. The use of theencyclopedia is generally recommended for introductory informationand
some innovativeuses are promoted, though negative comments basedon its lack of reliability
do still exist. The author admits the need for further research about what creates the
difference in attitudes among faculty.In the case of the British school, the cautionaryattitude
in higher education seems to be caused by a lack of understanding of Wikipedia, a negative
attitude toward collaborative knowledge produced outside academia and the perceived
detrimental effects of the use of Web 2.0 applications not included in the university suite.
Since student attitudes usually appear to be influenced by the teaching approaches of
lecturers (Margaryan et al., 2011), we are interested in gaining an in-depth understanding
of what creates the difference in attitudes among faculty regarding Wikipedia usage.
The main aim of our investigation is to explore this issue in a different context and through
a new approach. We want to identify the main factors that determine university facultys
acceptance of, or resistance to, Wikipedia as a resource that may help students reach their
learning objectives. In order to do it, we not only analyze the individual attributes of
lecturers but also the characteristics of the environment where they undertake their
teaching activity.
And, because students need appropriate information-seeking skills to make the most of
online resources, we focus our investigation on an online university to discard the potential
effect of digital and information illiteracy among students. As a consequence, we have
conducted an investigation of all faculty members of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya
(UOC) in order to uncover the perceptions of, attitudes toward, and real usage of an open
collaborative environment such as Wikipedia. UOC is a 100 percent online publicly funded
university, physically located in Barcelona (Spain), which offers official university training
to 60,000 students. Its educational model is based on personalized and asynchronous
teaching through an intensive use of IT.
We have also included another traditional bricks-and-mortar university in the analysis,
the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), merely to figure out whether, in the context of the same
teaching uses
of Wikipedia

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