Melbourne: Instead of denying its existence, academics should find ways to better integrate the use of Wikipedia in higher education and encourage students to edit the pages of the popular website, a study says.
"Wikipedia is here to stay, and universities should be getting more engaged with it rather than just trying to deny its existence," said Neil Selwyn, professor at Monash University in Australia.
"Lecturers should be encouraging their classes to edit and improve Wikipedia pages. At the very least, more academics should become Wikipedia editors - writing on their areas of expertise," Selwyn said.
The study involving more than 1,600 students found that while Wikipedia is a popular background resource with students, it had not supplanted traditional sources of intellectual scholarship and authority.
While Wikipedia was used by seven in eight students, the world's sixth most visited website wasn't seen as the most useful education resource, the findings showed.
Google and other internet search engines, library websites, learning management systems and Facebook all ranked higher. Most students used Wikipedia for background research.
"There are clearly many ways in which universities need to engage more directly in supporting and enhancing the role that Wikipedia is now playing in students' scholarship," Selwyn said.
"The early alarmist fears that Wikipedia would lead to a dumbing down of university study was not apparent. But neither is Wikipedia ushering in a new dawn of enlightenment and students and teachers creating their own knowledge."
The study appeared in the Journal of Higher Education Policy & Management.