A new study has shown just how important Wikipedia is in academia, and suggests ways to get it even more involved.

A major international study of digital technology use in Higher Education - led by Professor Neil Selwyn from Monash University's Faculty of Education - has recommended academics and students alike should be making better use of the incredible stockpile of information.

The study of more than 1600 students found that Wikipedia is used by seven out of eight students, but the world's sixth most visited website was not seen as the most useful education resource.

While Wikipedia is a popular background resource with students, it has not supplanted traditional sources of intellectual scholarship and authority.

Google and other internet search engines, library websites, learning management systems and Facebook all ranked higher than Wikipedia as learning resources.

Most students only 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,” Professor 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.

“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.”

“Wikipedia is here to stay, and universities should be getting more engaged with it rather than just trying to deny its existence.”

The study was one of a series on Technology Enabled Learning funded by the Australian Office of Learning and Teaching. The report will soon be published in the Journal of Higher Education Policy & Management and Studies in Higher Education.