Currently, Wikipedia attracts 400 million unique visitors each month and has 82,000 active contributors working on more than 19,000,000 articles in more than 270 languages (3,824,747 in English). Given these numbers, Wikipedia appears to be a success in online participation and collaboration.
This level of achievement is in part due to the following set of fundamental operating principles:
- Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia
- Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view
- Wikipedia is free content that anyone can edit, use, modify, and distribute
- Editors should interact with each other in a respectful and civil manner
- Wikipedia does not have firm rules
As successful as Wikipedia appears to be, my experience is that MBA faculty members do not widely use it in their courses or encourage their MBA students to use Wikipedia as a resource or to become contributors. Moreover, when I talk with MBA faculty members, there is little agreement regarding the extent to which Wikipedia is an appropriate resource for MBA students.
From my perspective, Wikipedia is an appropriate resource for MBA students. However, the following guidelines apply:
- MBA students should not assume Wikipedia is an acceptable resource for all MBA faculty members. MBA faculty members typically fall into three groups regarding the use of Wikipedia: 1) No, not in my course, 2) Yes, but not as the only authoritative source, and 3) Yes, but only for background.
- MBA students should familiarize themselves with “About Wikipedia” before they start using the resource. I suggest starting with the “Strengths, weaknesses, and article quality in Wikipedia” section and followed by “Using Wikipedia as a research tool” section.
- MBA students and other Wikipedia users should know that Wikipedia is the subject of many research projects. One recent study by Royce Kimmons may help us understand some of Wikipedia’s limitations and perhaps explain why MBA faculty members are reluctant to embrace Wikipedia as a useful resource for MBA students. Mr. Kimmons says, “This study raises some important questions about what collaboration may actually look like in Wikipedia and may cast doubt on idealized notions of open, community–generated knowledge. Rather than reflecting the contributions and expertise of a large group of people, the typical article in Wikipedia reflects the efforts of a relatively small group of users (median of 12) making a relatively small number of edits (median of 21). Further, the nature of revisions made and user contribution histories suggest that the majority of revisions made by users are micro–structural, stylistic, or typographical and, therefore, may have little impact on the validity of article content.”
- MBA students should consider limiting their use of Wikipedia to developing background on a topic and perhaps an entry point for more authoritative sources. Depending on the quality of the Wikipedia article, there are often links to other articles and experts on the topic. I use Wikipedia on a regular basis for this purpose.
Is Wikipedia an appropriate resource for MBA students? Share your thoughts below by adding a comment.
Rodney G. Alsup, D.B.A., CPA, CITP
Professor of Accounting
Founder of MyeEMBA.com
[Image from Wikipedia web site]