The face of education has changed drastically over the years. A few years back students were dependant on books and what their teachers taught them. This brought with it a series of problems. Firstly, it was not easy to be able to find the relevant books and secondly, even if one found the books, it took a lot of time to go through them and find relevant information. Students had to spend endless hours reading through the book and at times still not find the information they were seeking. Even encyclopaedias were very cumbersome to go through and it was a tough time to adhere to deadlines.
Wikipedia has made educational research extremely simple and quick. Wikipedia has emerged to be an indispensible source of information, and it is especially handy for students. One can research various kinds of information and collect detailed facts about almost anything. The only flip side to this is that anyone can edit information on Wikipedia and hence it would be prudent to always verify the information with other reference sites, rather than blindly relying on what you read on Wikipedia. Although Wikipedia has its own editing team that goes through all information added, it would not do harm to double check the validity of the information collected.
A major advantage of Wikipedia is that the information available is written in simple language that can be understood by one and all. Secondly, the webpage has hyperlinks to other related topics that may be required by you for better understanding. This way you do not have to do more research, and this saves on the time spent in gathering information. Wikipedia is not far from replacing the textbook in the life of students. Its information is regularly updated and, unlike textbooks, there is tremendous scope for change and revision.
Academics should understand and accept the role that Wikipedia plays in the role of students today. They should encourage online research using Wikipedia and use it as an appendage to their prescribed textbooks. As the student tries to gather information from outside his classroom, he gradually starts gaining more interest in the subject. In order to do research, he reads through related information which helps by enhancing his general knowledge of the subject. Wikipedia can be a vital tool in augmenting the interest of the student as he researches various topics.
Educators need not focus on the end result, but on how the students reached there. The information collected on Wikipedia may not always be completely accurate. However, the whole process of surfing through tons and tons of information and segregating the valid data from the irrelevant data is also a learning process which every student must go through. This exploration process must be encouraged by educators for the intellectual growth of the students. It helps the students make appropriate judgements, and in the process the information is embedded in their brains, which no text-book can easily do. The time has come for educators to accept Wikipedia as the second text-book in every student’s life.