This paper is a good example of how to write articles for the "teaching with Wikipedia" field. The authors report their positive experiences with several under- and postgraduate classes at the University of Sydney, developing articles such as pregnancy vegetarianism, Cleo (magazine) or Slave Labour (mural). They describe in relative detail a number of assignments and assessment criteria, and discuss benefits that their Wikipedia assignments have for the community (improving valuable and underrepresented content) and for the students themselves (improving their writing, research and collaborative skills). The paper could benefit from a more comprehensive literature review, however: while it describes a useful set of educational activities, and rather well at that, these are not groundbreaking—practically all activities discussed in this paper have been discussed in peer reviewed literature by others. Unfortunately, the authors fail to cite many of related works (I count only about five citations to the other peer-reviewed works from the much larger field of teaching with Wikipedia). Furthermore, the authors seem unaware of the Wikipedia:Education Program. It does not appear that any of their courses so far have been registered on Wikipedia; sadly they have no on-wiki homepage allowing identification of all edited articles or participating students; it is also unclear if the instructors themselves have a Wikipedia account. This suggests a failing both on the part of the researchers (they spent years reading about, researching and engaging with the teaching with Wikipedia approach without realizing there is a major support infrastructure in place to assist them), as well as on the part of the Wikipedia community and the Education Program itself, which is clearly still not being visible enough, nor active enough to identify and reach out to such educators who have been engaged in several years of ongoing teaching on Wikipedia. Hopefully in the future we can integrate those and other educators into our framework better.
Using eyetracking to find out how Wikipedia articles are being read
- Reviewed by Tilman Bayer
Researchers from the University of Regensburg in Germany have used eyetracking methods to find out which article elements readers focus on while searching for information on Wikipedia, depending on the nature of the search task (factual information lookup, learning, or casual reading—a classification taken from a 2006 article[supp 1] about exploratory search in general).
In two 2012 articles the researchers summarized the methodology and results of one of their lab experiments with 28 participants, which besides eyetracking also incorporated data from survey questionnaires, browser logs and electromyography for two facial muscles that indicate emotional reactions (the corrugator and the zygomaticus major). Among the results of this first study (see also a related paper in English with illustrations explaining the various article elements):
- During lookup tasks, tables and graphical representations were preferred (but illustrative/decorative images were almost never looked at. As the authors point out, their test question, about the number of passengers on the Titanic, focused on textual information). On the other hand, "in 'learn' tasks users concentrate more on the introduction and lists. In the 'casual leisure' area, many different content elements are used." [this and other quotes have been translated from German]
- Users tend to skim the article during lookup tasks, but read more text parts in the other tasks.
- According to a post-task survey, user satisfaction in both the lookup and learn tasks was independent of the number of images.
A subsequent German-language PhD thesis  (see also 2012 conference poster) contains much more detail, e.g. reporting that in "lookup" tasks, readers spend >45% of their time on scanning the table of content and lists in the article, in "learn" tasks these only amount to <10% of the time.
A second PhD thesis, covered in a brief paper last year, examined for example which elements readers look at first within an article (from an experiment involving 163 German Wikipedia articles and 90 participants who were asked to prepare themselves for an course on the history of Bavaria in the 20th century, i.e. a "learning" overview task): The table of contents was the most frequent entry point (36%) followed by the lead section (31%) and the text body itself. The author observes further that "the article heading and images serve less often as entry point. The text heading [presumably the first section heading after the lead] and image captions very rarely occurs as points of first contact".
Another publication by the same author focused on "users' interaction with pictorial and textual contents ...[ The spread] of information within the articles and the relation between text and images are analyzed. ... By now 30 articles have been analyzed according to this scheme. [Within these, there] are 639 contact points leading to images. Results show that 39% of all contact points lead from image to image, in mutual directions (previous or next). All text contact points [e.g. citations] sum up to a total of 37%. In 5% of all cases, an introduction triggers a saccade to an image. The remaining types of contact points occur rather rarely."
A later overview article summarizes other aspects in less detail, e.g:
- More experienced readers used the table of contents less often.
- Overall, search strategies did not differ a lot between the "learning" and casual reading ("non-work-based") tasks. But there were statistically significant differences to the information seeking behavior in fact lookup tasks. The largest differences concerned the consumption of text, images and TOC (cf. above). Readers also spent a larger ratio of time navigating compared to analyzing content.
(For an overview over other new data sources shedding light on how readers navigate within articles, see also this reviewer's recent tech talk at the Wikimedia Foundation, and a research overview page on Meta about the question "Which parts of an article do readers read?)
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