Cairo Pilot – final report
Increasing participation, improving quality and supporting healthy diversity among Wikipedia's editors are three of Wikimedia's strategic priorities until 2015. The Wikimedia Education Program, started in 2010 and now supported by volunteers in more than ten countries, is contributing to each of these goals. Last year, the Wikimedia Foundation decided to expand the program to the Arabic speaking world. This is part of our effort to help catalyze the growth of the Arabic Wikipedia, which is still lagging behind other languages as it has not attracted a large contributor community.
The idea behind the Wikipedia Education Program is powerful and yet simple: students write Wikipedia articles instead of writing traditional term papers. That way, students reach a massive global audience rather than just an audience of one (their professor), which gives them a greater sense of accomplishment since the writing will outlast the class. For language classes, asking students to translate articles from other language Wikipedias to the Arabic Wikipedia offers a similarly useful assignment. By contributing to the Arabic Wikipedia, students engage in documenting the richness of Arab culture and making key information available to readers across the Arabic speaking world.
At the point when we first contemplated how to expand the Education Program to an Arabic speaking country, the Arabic Wikipedia had already seen a number of initiatives that had no long-term positive impact and did not succeed in getting a sufficient level of support from the existing community of editors. This, and the fact that we embarked on the project in a time of political instability in Egypt, made the Cairo Pilot a significant challenge.
The Cairo Pilot officially started in January with an orientation for professors at Ain Shams University and ended in early July 2012 with an end-of-term conference that gathered students, professors, Ambassadors and Wikimedia Foundation staff members. Between those dates, students from two Cairo Universities – Ain Shams University and Cairo University – improved and created 246 articles on the Arabic Wikipedia. On average, students in the Cairo Pilot contributed more content per person than American students did in the same term (Spring 2012) of the U.S. Education Program (6.9 pages per student versus 5.7 pages per student).
Importantly, students' articles have had a large impact on the wider public, i.e. on readers. In most classes, students picked topics that were of interest to them in this particular moment of Egypt's political and social history, hence some of the articles worked on were topics such as civil disobedience, bank panics, and presidential elections. These articles were also of high interest to people throughout the Arabic-speaking region, resulting in large numbers of views for Cairo Pilot students' work. The student who researched and wrote the Arabic Wikipedia article on the French presidential elections of 2012, for example, saw thousands of people reading his article during the month of the election. This speaks to the large public impact that Cairo Pilot professors and students were having, in adding to widely-accessed public knowledge.
For the Wikimedia Foundation, the Cairo Pilot served as a showcase that we are able to successfully roll out the Education Program in a country of the Arabic speaking world. Support materials, being now accessible in Arabic, as well as the rich learnings that we took away from the pilot pave the way for future expansion of the program beyond Egypt. The high level of enthusiasm among teachers and students are a clear testimony that people in the Arabic world are eager to contribute to Wikipedia in order to enrich the content in Arabic on the web.
With more than 1.1 million bytes of new content, first student articles being nominated for "Good Article" status, and 87 % of the students being female, the Cairo Pilot proved that priority targets of Wikimedia's strategic plan can be met by expanding the Education Program to the Arabic world. Although the results of this initiative exceeded our expectations by far, we consider the learnings during the pilot, as well as the strong support of the Arabic Wikipedia community, the biggest achievements of the project.
The status of the project and its outcome have been measured in two different ways: (a) a number of surveys conducted during the pilot, and (b) statistical analysis of the students' contributions to Wikipedia through dynamic webscripts.
- Pre- and post-classroom surveys – with support from the Wikimedia Foundation's Global Development Research Team, we conducted surveys among students and instructors who were participating in the classroom based model of the pilot. Participants answered two different surveys in the middle and at the end of the semester in Egypt. The paper survey that we distributed among students in the middle of the semester (April) resulted in a response rate of 87 %, which was the highest response rate ever for Education Program surveys. The post classroom based survey was distributed via email and got a much lower repsonse rate. That's why we decided to hand out another paper-based post survey among the participants of the end-of-term conference (see below).
- Dynamic webscripts running on the Wikimedia Toolserver – we developed three different tools that we used for monitoring the students' contributions during the semester as well as pulling statistical data at the end of the term. The first tool, called Wikipedia Education Program Editor statistics tool allowed us to measure the amount of content that individual students contributed to the Arabic Wikipedia. In addition to the data for individual students, it generated generated a bi-weekly report of cumulated data for the different classes. As we were using this tool for other countries as well, we achieved consistency between the results for the classes in Egpyt and those in the U.S., Canada and Brazil. The second tool, called Student-o-meter, gave both staff members and volunteer Ambassadors an on-the-fly overview of the students' activity level over the last 24 hours (see image). The third tool, called Courseinfo tool, enabled Wikimedia staff, Ambassadors and instructors to get a list of the articles that students of a specific course worked on (see image). Both the Student-o-meter and the Courseinfo tool allowed their users to query live data from the Wikimedia Toolserver, whereas the Editor statistics tool needed to be activated by hand twice per week in order to generate report data that could be accessed through a static page on the Wikimedia Outreach wiki.
- On-campus outreach event survey – in April 2012, Wikimedia contractor and Wikipedian Essam Sharaf conducted an outreach event on the Cairo University campus. As we expected a large number of students to participate in this event, we decided to use this opportunity for conducting a survey that would answer some of our more basic questions about the perception and usage of the Arabic Wikipedia among students. This survey was distributed on paper as well, which resulted in a good rate of 109 respondents. As a result, this survey provided us with some highly relevant data that we used for further improving the design of our outreach and classroom based model. Amongst other things, we learned that 92 % of the students would use the Arabic Wikipedia if it contained more and better information. Also, students indicated that they were motivated to edit Wikipedia by the prospect of providing more information about Arabic topics (particularly about Egypt) to the web.
- Post survey handed out at the final conference – Due to the low response rate for the post survey that we sent out via email, we decided to take another try and handed out a printed post survey during our end-of-term conference on July 5th. We got every participant on the second day of the conference to fill out this printed survey. That way, we compensated for the low response rate of the survey that was distributed digitally.
Almost all surveys conducted during the pilot project (except for the last one) were translated into Arabic before distribution. Essam Sharaf provided the Global Development Research Team with the biggest amount of translations. He also designed and conducted the on-campus outreach event survey and provided the San Francisco Team with invaluable feedback on cultural issues and inconsistencies in our survey design.
- Learnings: Evaluation methods
- Whenever possible, translate surveys into the local language.
- Printed surveys on paper work way better than surveys that get distributed via email.
Setup of the pilot
The preparation of the Cairo pilot started during a difficult phase for the San Francisco Education Program team. The team was in the middle of transitioning from the Public Policy Initiative to the Global Development department. Also, in fall 2011 it turned out that the first India pilot was not a success. As a result, the San Francisco team had to deal with finding its role in a new environment and at the same time react to the heavy criticism brought forward by members of the English Wikipedia's community. Moreover, some former Public Policy Intiative team members left (contracts ended on schedule), other team member's role changed and new team members joined as contractors. Also, Wikimedia contractor Sarah Yap provided additional support in form of initial research and admin-related tasks.
- The Arabic Wikipedia Roundtable in Qatar and the first visits to Jordan and Egypt
The Arabic Wikipedia Roundtable, held in October 2011 in Doha, Qatar, was an important milestone for creating excitement and lining up support for the program. During two and a half days, Wikimedia Foundation staff started relationship-building with some key members of the Arabic Community. The event in Qatar was organized by Moushira Elamrawy and paid for by the Qatar Foundation. It was the first of its kind in the Arabic world and laid the foundation for everything that followed. Looking back, the event was indispensable in laying the cornerstone for strong community support for the Education Program. Having former Public Policy Initiative participant Professor Adel Iskandar being at the event in Doha also helped with building trust in the program.
Directly after the event in Doha, Frank Schulenburg, Moushira Elamrawy and Sarah Yap embarked on a trip to Jordan and Egypt. The information they got during this trip helped to make some key decisions on the pilot design: Egypt was chosen as the first country for the Education Program in the Arabic speaking world and both Cairo University and Ain Shams University were identified as potential candidates for the first term.
- Second visit to Egypt: recruiting professors for the program
In December 2012, Annie Lin and Frank Schulenburg went on a second trip to Egypt (Sarah Yap's contract with the Wikimedia Foundation had ended at this point of time). Supported by Moushira Elamrawy and Essam Sharaf, we had a number of meetings with professors from Cairo University and Ain Shams University. It became clear very quickly that we would have no problem with recruiting enough instructors for the program. Everybody we talked to was convinced that growing and enhancing the Arabic Wikipedia would be a good idea – in fact, many professors and students told us they felt the responsibility to make free knowledge in Arabic better.
We also used this second trip to Egypt for reaching out to the small group of Wikipedians in Cairo. Having had the impression that our interaction with community members during our first trip to Egypt was not very engaging, we decided this time to organize a photo walk through the old part of Cairo. It turned out that this kind of event was a much better opportunity for building trust and getting to know each other. As a result, Annie and Frank got formally accepted into the community with getting Arabic names (Annie:سمر, Frank: حازم) that are still in use in informal settings and emails. The second trip to Egpyt left us with the impression that we were dealing with a group of enthusiastic, smart, and motivated volunteers that was treating us exceptionally friendly and obliging. At this point of the preparation, we were just not sure whether this group of Wikipedians would be large enough to provide us with the support we needed to set up a pilot with 4–6 classes and about 50–60 students.
- Third visit to Egypt: trainings and orientations for Ambassadors and instructors
Prior to embarking on a third trip to Egypt, Frank Schulenburg published two key documents on the Outreach Wiki: the Cairo Pilot program plan and a document that summarized the differences between the Pune and Cairo pilot (both mid-January 2012). The program plan was informed by all the information that we had gathered at this point and it clearly outlined both the process and the measures of success.
In the second half of January, Annie Lin, Frank Schulenburg and Rochelle Davis traveled to Cairo in order to set up the support infrastructure. During this phase of the project, we got support from the Arab Digital Expression Foundation (ADEF), a non-profit organization based in Cairo. The contact with ADEF got established through Moushira Elamrawy and it turned out that ADEF's support was crucial for our project, as they were providing us with trainers and rooms. Also, two long-term Wikipedians from the Arabic Wikipedia work for ADEF and they managed large parts of both the Ambassador training and the professor orientations.
Rochelle Davis, professor for Arabic culture at Georgetown University, joined us on our trip. She led parts of the professor orientation and discussed the individual instructor's syllabi in one-on-one meetings with the participants. Rochelle's involvement was beneficial in several ways: (1) as former participant of the Education Program she brought her experience with the program to the table, (2) in her role as a professor of a prestigious university she added credit to our project and (3) her Arabic skills enabled her to build trust with the instructors. After seeing how beneficial her involvement was, we also invited Rochelle to the end-of-term conference in early July 2012.
Arabic Wikipedians and Foundation staff members getting ready for the photo walk through Old Cairo
First Campus Ambassador training in Egypt
Professor Rochelle Davis during the faculty workshop in January
Longterm Wikipedian Ahmad – a key supporter for the program
- Learnings: preparation
- Building strong personal relationships prior to the pilot (both with key members of the Wikipedia community and academics) is essential. This was perhaps the most important learning for us: the Arabic world is very different in this regard than some countries of the Western world. Personal relationships and trustbuilding are preconditions for the successful execution of a project.
- Taking enough time to analyze the situation on the ground prior to the start of the pilot is key. Also: asking the right questions is essential. Don't underestimate how important it is for a professor to "get Wikipedia" and its underlying culture of sharing knowledge. For us as staff members, the most important skill during the preparation phase of the Cairo pilot was "listening", not "talking".
- We could not have done the preparation of the project without the dedicated help of Moushira Elamrawy and Essam Sharaf on the ground. Their knowledge of local culture and customs made a huge difference. Without their help during our stays in Egypt everything would have been many times as laborious (and in some cases, also more dangerous).
- Regularly discussing and documenting learnings — and involving various stakeholders in that process — is crucial. On Frank and Annie's first visit to Cairo, they sat down with Moushira and Essam to talk through their observations, concerns, suggestions, and learnings. Having everyone together discussing these topics was very important for diverse perspectives to be represented and also to bring everyone onto the same page. Having these discussions about learnings regularly was important to prevent us from forgetting important insights or holding on too long onto incorrect notions that could have been clarified early on if discussed in a group.
- Relationship-building in a relationship-oriented society makes only sense if the Wikimedia Foundation contractor / staff member follows through. Our contacts were confused when we "replaced" our former main contact Sarah by Annie. Don't put contractors into key roles for a pilot project like this.
- Also organize fun activities when interacting with the community. Flying in today and leaving tomorrow is a no-go. Instead: organize fun events like a photo-walk with community members. You'll not only learn a lot about the local culture and customs but you'll also might make some friends while interacting more naturally than if you just hang out in a café. Finally: one member of your core team being a Wikipedian has proven to be beneficial in other countries as well.
- Neither staff members nor local contractors must lead the trainings/orientations. Their role is to empower the volunteers and to support them wherever needed.
- Involving subject matter experts like Adel Iskandar and Rochelle Davis in an advisory role during the preparation phase (both teach Arabic at universities in the U.S.) helps with gaining essential cultural knowledge.
- Partnering with a local non-profit organization can provide some major advantages. Without Ahmad's help, the Ambassador training and the orientation for the instructors would have had a totally different outcome. His support (and the support of the organization he's working for) was not only beneficial from the logistical standpoint – Ahmad is also perceived as a strong leader within the Arabic community.
The organizational setup of the Cairo Pilot derived directly from our learnings from previous education programs, including our activities in the United States, Canada, and India. The participating professors had students edit Wikipedia either as a mandatory, optional, or extracurricular assignment. Students were supported by trained Campus Ambassadors and Online Ambassadors, who mentored students on Arabic Wikipedia editing skills and policies.
Assignment and class types
Our experiences in the Pune Pilot in India showed us that giving students a mandatory Wikipedia assignment — i.e. making all of them edit Wikipedia — could result in some bad-quality edits because some students are simply not interested or not qualified. We therefore decided that for the Cairo Pilot we will ask most professors to make their Wikipedia assignment either optional (meaning that students could choose to do the Wikipedia assignment or a different assignment, which will be graded) or extracurricular (meaning that students will be encouraged to edit Wikipedia if they want, but they will receive no grade or credit for doing so). We made only one exception, for Dr. Hany Hosseiny's mathematics class: the Wikipedia assignment was mandatory for his students because his entire class consisted of only 5 students.
Of the seven participating classes:
- One had a mandatory Wikipedia assignment
- Four had an optional Wikipedia assignment
- One had an extracurricular Wikipedia assignment
- One had a setup we had not planned for: a student "working group" (the professor gathered a group of graduate students in the department who are interested in doing translations for the Arabic Wikipedia, not as part of any formal "class")
We also wanted to experiment with translation assignments, where students translate articles from another language version of Wikipedia rather than do research and write brand new content for Wikipedia. This is something that the Wikipedia Education Program has never done before, but we felt that the Cairo Pilot was a good testing ground for it because according to a lot of the Egyptians we spoke with, many subject areas (such as medicine) do not have sufficient sources in Arabic, which would make doing research and writing from scratch more difficult. As part of the Cairo Pilot, we involved two classes whose participating students would do translations (one from Spanish and the other from French).
Participating universities, instructors, and students
Seven professors from two universities — Cairo University and Ain Shams University — were part of the Cairo Pilot. A total of about 55 students (5–10 from each class) participated.
We intentionally kept the number of participants in the Cairo Pilot small, in order to (1) not overwhelm the existing Arabic Wikipedia community, which is fairly small, and (2) make sure we know more about what works and doesn't work in an Egypt-based Wikipedia education program before we expand it in size. We also involved only the most interested and most qualified instructors and students in the Cairo Pilot, to make sure that the program participants would have both the drive and capacity to contribute high-quality work throughout the academic term.
Below are the specific criteria we used when selecting instructors for the Cairo Pilot:
- Alignment with the Wikimedia Foundation's mission
- Interest in the Wikipedia Education Program and the idea of growing the amount and quality of Arabic content on the web
- Basic understanding of Wikipedia and its core values
- Ability to fulfill certain other criteria that are necessary to participate in the pilot: e.g. flexibility in grading; teaching their classes in Arabic; writing and research skills of their students; teaching topics that can be written about in Arabic (e.g. engineering or medicine contain many technical terms that cannot be translated into Arabic)
- Responsiveness and communication skills
- Their students in general are used to research and writing in Arabic
We asked each professor to select only their 5–10 best, most interested students to edit Wikipedia, in order to keep the pilot size small and to make sure that only the most qualified students will be contributing content to the Arabic Wikipedia. Below are the specific criteria we asked professors to consider when picking which students to involve in the project:
- The student has good Arabic research and writing (or translation) skills.
- The student is highly interested in contributing to Wikipedia.
- The student is reliable and self-motivated (will get work done on time).
Orientation for instructors
Participating professors from our U.S., Canada, and India programs repeatedly told us that they would like to have a Wikipedia orientation (training) at the beginning of the academic term, so that they can learn more about how Wikipedia works, core Wikipedia policies, and best practices and tips around designing an effective Wikipedia assignment. Taking this learning to heart, we required all participating professors in the Cairo Pilot to participate in a 1-day faculty orientation, which covered the following topics: what is Wikipedia, basic information about how the Wikipedia-editing process and community works, Wikipedia's core policies and guidelines, how to work with Campus Ambassadors and Online Ambassadors, tips on assignment design and syllabus design, and working with students on Wikipedia assignments. A local Arabic Wikipedian led the sections about how Wikipedia works. Rochelle Davis — an Arabic-speaking Georgetown University professor who had been a successful participant in the U.S. Education Program — shared her own experiences and learnings assigning students to edit Wikipedia and guided the Cairo instructors on thinking through their own syllabus design. The orientation was almost entirely in Arabic.
Support for students and professors: Campus Ambassadors and Online Ambassadors
20 Campus Ambassadors provided face-to-face Wikipedia support for students, while 15 Online Ambassadors mentored students on Wikipedia-editing remotely.
Campus Ambassador role, selection, and orientation
Role: We selected and trained 20 Campus Ambassadors in Cairo to support students. We've learned from our activities across countries that many students learn better through face-to-face instruction, because the in-person interactions allow them to build greater rapport and trust with the person teaching them, and they feel more comfortable asking that person for help. This is why the Campus Ambassador role has been so crucial in the Wikipedia Education Program — as literally the "face" of Wikipedia in the classroom, Campus Ambassadors were responsible for the following:
- Teach participating students — on a face-to-face basis — about how to edit Arabic Wikipedia. This means doing in-class presentations and out-of-class workshops;
- Provide ongoing face-to-face support for participating students on Arabic Wikipedia-editing skills, to make sure that student contributions are high-quality and follow Wikipedia policies;
- Advise participating professors to make sure assignments are in line with the Arabic Wikipedia's policies and guidelines.
Selection: Past programs also taught us that not everyone can be a good Campus Ambassador; the face-to-face teaching nature of the role requires someone who is comfortable talking in front of groups, who enjoys mentoring people, and who believes in Wikipedia's mission. The four main criteria we used when selecting Campus Ambassadors for the Cairo Pilot are: presentation and teaching skills, technological competency, a friendly and approachable personality, and genuine interest in Wikipedia. We based these criteria not only on our learnings from the U.S. and Canada programs, but also on extensive feedback from Essam Sharaf (a local Wikipedian and a student leader). Capacity to meet the role's time commitment requirements (which is 3–5 hours a week on average throughout the academic term) is also required.
Being an experienced Wikipedia editor is not a prerequisite for the Campus Ambassador role because we've learned from the U.S. and Canada programs that even brand new Wikipedia editors can be effective Campus Ambassadors if they are genuinely interested in Wikipedia and in teaching; in addition, new Wikipedia editors can often relate to students' Wikipedia-editing challenges more easily because they've also just experienced similar challenges. However, to make sure that there is also enough Wikipedia expertise in the Campus Ambassador group, in the Cairo Pilot we also required for 50% of the Campus Ambassadors to be experienced Arabic Wikipedians.
Orientation: To ensure that the Campus Ambassadors know what to expect in their role and have the appropriate skills to perform well, we required all Campus Ambassadors to participate in a two-day orientation, which was led by two local Arabic Wikipedians and took place almost entirely in Arabic. Topics covered include: overview of the Wikipedia Education Program and Cairo Pilot, expectations and responsibilities for Campus Ambassadors, presentation and public speaking skills, how to teach newbies to edit Wikipedia, tips on working with professors and students, and fundamental Wikipedia-editing skills. During this orientation, the Campus Ambassadors also paired themselves up with classes. We had to hold two such orientations because not everyone could make it on the same two days.
Online Ambassador role, selection, and orientation
Role: 15 Arabic Wikipedians signed up to be Online Ambassadors, to mentor students remotely. Past programs showed us that having experienced Wikipedia editors review students' on-wiki contributions is very important for ensuring that students are contributing good content and not violating Wikipedia policies. Online Ambassadors — who could be physically located anywhere in the world (in fact we had Online Ambassadors who lived in Canada, Spain, Saudi Arabic, Syria, and other countries in addition to Egypt) — were responsible for the following:
- Loosely monitor students' work on Arabic Wikipedia and provide feedback via talk pages on student articles, to make sure that students' contributions are high-quality and align with Wikipedia's policies;
- Officially approve students' edits if they look good (on the Arabic Wikipedia, new editors' contributions have to be "approved" by more experienced editors before those contributions can show up live on Wikipedia);
- Answer students' questions about how to edit Wikipedia in a timely manner, via Facebook groups set up for each class
Selection: In order to answer students' detailed Wikipedia questions and appropriately monitor student contributions, Online Ambassadors were required to be experienced Arabic Wikipedia editors. In addition, they had to have a friendly persona when interacting with people online, and they must be able to meet the role's time commitment (which is 3–5 hours a week on average throughout the academic term).
Orientation: A four-hour online orientation took place for Online Ambassadors, to ensure that the Online Ambassadors knew what was expected of them. The orientation happened via Skype because the Online Ambassadors could be physically located anywhere in the world. The orientation was led by two active Arabic Wikipedians, was entirely in Arabic, and covered these topics: overview of the Wikipedia Education Program and Cairo Pilot, expectations and responsibilities for Online Ambassadors, how to effectively mentor newbies online on Wikipedia-editing, and tips on working with professors and students. Local Wikipedians will be in charge of leading the orientation.
During our preparatory trips to Cairo we witnessed a lot of excitement from students whenever we talked about Wikipedia. Students who came to our presentations, question-and-answer sessions and to our table on campus were highly energized when we talked about growing the Arabic content on the web. We experienced much more desire to "be a part of Wikipedia" than we can fulfill with the class-assignment model. We therefore decided to implement on-campus outreach activities separate from the in-class activities described above. As part of this effort, Essam Sharaf (a local Wikipedian and student whom we engaged on a half-time contractor basis as the Outreach Coordinator, Cairo) planned and carried out several large outreach events with help from other Campus Ambassadors — including a conference at Ain Shams University that attracted hundreds of people and that taught participants more about how Wikipedia works and how to contribute to Wikipedia.
Wikimedia Foundation staff
For the Cairo Pilot, the Wikimedia Foundation also provided support in the following forms:
- Planning and designing the Cairo Pilot
- Participating in the recruitment and selection of program participants
- Ensuring that high-quality orientations were provided for all participating instructors, Campus Ambassadors, and Online Ambassadors, so that all participants are ready for their responsibilities in the program
- Providing printed materials in Arabic that explain how Wikipedia-editing works
- Facilitating the smooth day-to-day operating of the program during the academic term, including helping to resolve problems that may arise
- Documenting program progress and learnings
- Organizing an end-of-the-term conference in Cairo, during which professors, Ambassadors, and students shared learnings and celebrated their achievements in the Cairo Pilot
- Providing financial, legal, and logistical support as needed
These are the Wikimedia Foundation staff and contractors who were directly involved in the Cairo Pilot:
- Global Education Program Director: led the high-level strategic planning of the Cairo Pilot, ensured that program activities met overall strategic goals
- Arabic Projects Consultant (contractor): provided local guidance and knowledge on program planning and implementation
- Global Education Program Manager: supported the strategic planning process, oversaw the operations of the Cairo Pilot (directly managed the Education Program Coordinator, Cairo), oversaw the documentation/sharing of progress and learnings
- Global Education Program Communications Manager: oversaw the creation and localization of printed support materials, as well as local storytelling
- Education Program Coordinator, Cairo (half-time contractor): directly coordinated with participating professors and Ambassadors on the ground
- Outreach Coordinator, Cairo (half-time contractor): planned and executed outreach activities in Cairo to involve more people in editing Wikipedia outside the classroom context
- Learnings: organizational setup
- When selecting professors to participate in the program, it is often useful to ask to see samples of previous student writing in order to get a clearer understanding of the students' Arabic writing skills.
- Asking professors to go through orientation before classes start tends to lead to better assignment design and outcomes.
- Having the Ambassador and professor trainings in Arabic have led to greater comprehension of expectations and a stronger sense of local community.
- For the faculty orientations, it is very useful to involve a professor who has already participated in the Wikipedia Education Program who can share his/her learnings and experiences with the new professors. Professors are more likely to listen to a fellow professor than to Wikimedia staff members who have not taught university classes themselves.
- Don't underestimate people's ability to self-organize. Some tasks such as the assignment of Ambassadors to classes can often be decentralized to the Ambassadors themselves, instead of relying on top-down coordination. This also leads to a greater sense of ownership over the program among volunteers.
- Having a responsible, active Wikipedian like Faris El-Gwely (in the "Education Program Coordinator, Cairo" role) — who also manages to keep recruiting friends to become Ambassadors and who frequently checks in with professors and Ambassadors — is highly beneficial. He already has a good rapport with the Online Ambassadors, Campus Ambassadors, and Arabic Wikipedia community in general, and is able to monitor the students' and Ambassadors' work regularly.
- Language barrier is a common challenge in a global program like the Wikipedia Education Program. One effective way to work around language barriers is to move a large proportion of the communication from verbal to written format (for example doing Skype text check-in's rather than Skype audio/video check-in's, or communicating heavily over email), because written communication allows both sides more time to respond, often makes the non-native speaker feel more comfortable, and allows for effective simultaneous use of Google Translate.
Communication and support materials
- Communication among participants
The United States program has always faced problems with encouraging communication among Campus and Online Ambassadors. In part this is due to geographic difficulties, but it also comes from different communication styles and preferences. This problem was lessened significantly in the Cairo Pilot because we asked Ambassadors how they would like to communicate and they all agreed that they would like to talk on a Facebook group. Professors, Campus Ambassadors, and Online Ambassadors all joined a group started by some Campus Ambassadors, and they discussed the plans for the classes and shared learning points.
Wikimedia staff in San Francisco overwhelmingly found that prior relationships were key to having successful communication with participants in Egypt. Annie and Frank's trips to Cairo enabled them to work more effectively; when LiAnna tried outreach to various professors, she had a lot more trouble because she had no prior relationship with any of the participants. Personal relationships are very important in working with people in the region, and we learned that all staff who will be working with people in the region need to have established those relationships prior to trying to work with the professors.
- Communication about learning points
As part of his contract, Faris El-Gwely maintained an updates page on the Arabic Wikipedia education portal which kept community members update about the activities of the Campus Ambassadors, Online Ambassadors, instructors, and students. Program participants added their own views on success stories, challenges, and other updates. Thus, information about the program was very transparent to the greater Arabic Wikipedia community.
We also tried using the open source microblogging service identi.ca to provide updates. We provided Ambassadors with the username and password to the feed, which automatically updated to identi.ca, Twitter, Facebook, and a page on the Arabic Wikipedia, updated by a bot. Ambassadors seemed to prefer just updating the wiki page, however, so the microblogging idea was abandoned mid-pilot.
- Support materials
Support materials developed through the Bookshelf project were open for the local team in Cairo to translate and localize. Volunteers chose to translate the Welcome to Wikipedia brochure, which some students found useful in introducing them to the basics of editing Wikipedia. Not all students received the Welcome to Wikipedia brochures in print form, though, which was an error. Future programs should do better to ensure that materials get delivered to students. Ambassadors also pulled together links of important Wikipedia policies like the Five Pillars on the Arabic Wikipedia and included links to them on the portal. As a much smaller Wikipedia than the English Wikipedia, the Arabic Wikipedia is blessed with easier and simpler general help documentation, which students made use of.
Students requested more printed materials and videos forming help documentation. Students said the Arabic on many of the existing videos was difficult to understand, and they'd like to see better videos available. Printed documentation handouts to go with each workshop led by Campus Ambassadors was also requested. Students wanted samples of other good articles on the Arabic Wikipedia that they could model their articles after as well.
- Learnings: communication and support materials
- Let program participants chose the best way to communicate amongst themselves; for this group, Facebook worked best.
- Personal relationships with professors was key to getting them to respond to messages.
- An updates page on wiki maintained by a staff member in-country and volunteer Ambassadors helped keep the community abreast of developments in classes.
- In general in Cairo, calling people is much more effective than emailing people.
- Microblogging wasn't an effective communication channel in Egypt.
- Only a few students received the Arabic version of the "Welcome to Wikipedia" brochure. We need to make sure next time that our printed materials get distributed more reliably.
Final end-of-term conference
A conference and celebration took place on July 4-5, 2012, at Ain Shams University in Cairo. More than 50 professors, Ambassadors, students, and program supporters gathered to discuss their experiences, celebrate successes, and share learnings from the Cairo Pilot. The conference featured talks from each professor on their experiences with the program, a panel of Ambassadors, and a panel of students who shared what worked and what didn't from their perspectives. All participants echoed the themes of how important it is to improve the quality and quantity of information available on the Arabic Wikipedia, either through translations from other language Wikipedias or through writing original content. Common problems reported by students included lack of internet access at home or school, difficulty uploading photos, issues communicating with community members on talk pages, and challenges with getting their changes approved because the Arabic Wikipedia has the Flagged Revisions MediaWiki extension enabled and the small community has challenges keeping up with the backlog of revisions. Despite these issues, all participants expressed their excitement at participating in the project and said they were looking forward to continuing their work on Wikipedia. Most professors said they would be definitely using Wikipedia in future courses, and students overwhelmingly volunteered to serve in Ambassador roles in the future, a good sign that students had good experiences.
All student, Ambassador, and professor participants received certificates acknowledging their accomplishments in the first term of the Cairo Pilot. The certificates proved quite popular among all three groups. Throughout the conference, individual sessions brought groups of Ambassadors, professors, and students together to discuss how to make the program grow in the future. Program organizers left the conference with a much better understanding of what each group felt like was needed to expand the program beyond the initial pilot stage.
- Learnings: final end-of-term conference
- The information delivered to students varied across classes and across Ambassadors. We need to find ways to standardize the knowledge we give to students on crucial Wikipedia-editing topics.
- Campus Ambassadors wanted more concrete guidance and structure on what exactly they should teach students in each workshop.
- We need to improve how we get our printed materials (and support resources in general) to students. During the Cairo Pilot, this was a multi-step process that involved multiple chains and people, and the result was that very few students actually ever received our printed materials. We have to streamline the process and remove unnecessary chains.
- Professors, students, and Ambassadors were highly enthusiastic about participating in the program again.
- Having an on-the-ground coordinator (Faris) was crucial to maintaining good communication among professors, students, and Ambassadors.
The in-class assignments in the Cairo Pilot led to highly successful results. Students contributed a significant amount of high-quality content to the Arabic Wikipedia, either through doing research and then writing new content, or through translating content from another language version of Wikipedia.
High-quality contributions and high impact overall
On average, students in the Cairo Pilot contributed more content per person than American students did in the same term (Spring 2012) of the U.S. Education Program (6.89 pages per student versus 5.7 pages per student). Altogether, as of June 2012 students in the Cairo Pilot had added about 1,116,512 bytes worth of content onto the Arabic Wikipedia, which translates to about 372 full pages, and students edited (either created or improved) 246 Arabic Wikipedia articles. The median number of bytes added per student to the Arabic Wikipedia article namespace is about 1,178 bytes, and the range is 0 bytes on the low end and 202,955 bytes on the high end — this shows that some students made drastically more edits than other students, likely because some classes had students work in groups (so some students who did work on the Wikipedia project did not make any edits with their own user account) and also because in general there is a wide range of student quality even though we asked professors to pick their most dedicated students.
The heaviest month of editing was April, with students still learning how to edit Wikipedia in February, starting to make real edits in March, and wrapping up edits in May. Preliminary review by professors and Wikipedians also indicates that the quality of students' contributions are high. On the Arabic Wikipedia, contributions made by new editors have to be approved by experienced editors before those contributions show up live, and in the Cairo Pilot the vast majority of student contributions were successfully approved by Wikipedians.
Importantly, students' articles have also had a large impact on the wider public, i.e. on readers. In most classes, students picked topics that were of interest to them in this particular moment of Egypt's political and social history, hence some of the articles worked on were topics such as civil disobedience, bank panics, and presidential elections. These articles were also of high interest to people throughout the Arabic-speaking region, resulting in large numbers of views for Cairo Pilot students' work. The student who researched and wrote the Arabic Wikipedia article on the French presidential elections of 2012, for example, saw thousands of people reading his article during the month of the election. This speaks to the large public impact that Cairo Pilot professors and students are having, in adding to widely-accessed public knowledge.
Below are just a few examples of student work:
- Article (Civil disobedience):
- improved by the French translation class at Ain Shams University
- before students worked on it (December 12, 2011)
- after students worked on it (April 12, 2012)
- this article has already been viewed by more than a thousand people in the past 30 days
- Article (French presidential elections 2012):
- written from scratch by the French non-translation class at Ain Shams University
- exactly what the student added
- another Wikipedian also started contributing content and references to the article — great example of friendly on-wiki collaboration between a Wikipedia newbie (the student) and a more experienced Wikipedian
- this article was viewed by more than 2,000 people within 30 days during the period of the French presidential elections
- Article (Juan José Arreola — Mexican writer & academic)
- translated by the Spanish class at Cairo University (created from scratch)
- the student contributed practically all of the article's content so far
- this article has been viewed by hundreds of people in the past 30 days
- Article (Bank Panic of 1907)
- French translations class at Ain Shams University created this article from scratch on the Arabic Wikipedia, by translating from the French version of this article
- what the article looks like now, after students worked on it
- more than 150 people viewed this article viewed this article in the past 30 days
Professor, student, and Ambassador satisfaction
We measured the satisfaction among professors, students and Ambassadors through a survey that we distributed at the end-of-term conference on July 5th. We asked the participants about (1) how happy they were with the results of the pilot project, (2) whether they would participate again, and (3) what their level of comfort with editing Wikipedia was.
Among the students, 80 % reported that they were "very happy" or "somewhat happy" with the results of the pilot. 7 % indicated they were "neither happy nor unhappy". 13 % reported that they were "somewhat unhappy" with the results. None of the students indicated to be "very unhappy" about the results. All of the Ambassadors and all of the professors reported to be "very happy" or "somewhat happy" with the results of the pilot.
When asked whether they would participate in the pilot again, 87 % of the students and all of the Ambassadors and professors who took the survey said they would partipate again.
Asked about their level of comfort with editing Wikipedia, 73% of the students reported to feel either "very comfortable" or "somewhat comfortable". Only 66 % of the Campus Ambassadors indicated that they felt either "very comfortable" or "somewhat comfortable" with editing Wikipedia. This result reflects the high number of Campus Ambassadors that needed to be trained especially for the pilot, as the community size in Cairo was very small prior to our pilot.
We also got a lot of valuable qualitative feedback from both professors and students during our end-of-term conference. Professors suggested that the communication between Online Ambassadors and students needed to be improved. Some female students didn’t want to write to someone that they didn’t know. So they had a male student in the class write to them. Also, some of the professors were unhappy about the response time of the Online Ambassadors when it came to flagging the students' contributions as approved (the Arabic Wikipedia introduced the FlaggedRevs Extension in August 2009).
Also, it became clear that the Campus Ambassadors' skills for effectively helping the students need to be improved. At the same time, a larger number of the students from this term signed up as Campus Ambassadors for the next term. Overall, we consider most of the problems with in-person support to be caused by the very low number of local Wikipedians in Cairo prior to our pilot. With the high level of excitement among the students and their willingness to help the next generation of partipants, we expect to provide an increasingly better support structure in the future.
There was one challenge that was mentioned over and over again by the professors and their students: the difficulty of handling Wikipedia's editing interface. Although this came up in other countries as well, the Arabic students face particular challenges with the interface. Whereas the Arabic text of an article is written in one direction (right to left), the English wikimarkup has to be written in the other direction (left to right). This extra difficulty makes contributing to Wikipedia even more challenging than it is anyway. Making a visual editing interface available on the Arabic Wikipedia was the first priority when we asked the participants about what should be improved.
One of the Wikimedia Foundation's strategic priorities is to diversity Wikipedia's editor base, which includes involving more women in editing Wikipedia. One of the impacts of the Wikipedia Education Program across countries has been bringing on board a large number of female students to edit Wikipedia. This was especially true in the Cairo Pilot: according to a survey we ran near the beginning of the academic term, about 87% of the participating students in Cairo are women. In addition, 5 of the 7 participating professors (71%) are female. The difference in gender composition between the Campus Ambassador group and Online Ambassador group also shows what a large impact this program could have on the gender landscape of Wikipedia — while none of the Online Ambassadors are female (because Online Ambassadors draw only from the pool of experienced Arabic Wikipedia editors), about 42% of the Campus Ambassadors (who consist of both existing Wikipedians and new Wikipedians we brought on board) are female. This is promising sign that as the Wikipedia Education Program engages more professors, students, and Ambassadors in the Arabic-speaking region, the proportion of women involved with the Arabic Wikipedia will increase significantly.
Active community involvement and sharing of progress
One of our main goals in the Cairo Pilot is to actively keep the Arabic Wikipedia and larger Wikimedia community involved and informed about what is happening in the Cairo Pilot. We were able to successfully involve Arabic Wikipedians from the very beginning of the Pilot; we've built up particularly strong rapport with the Cairo-based Wikipedians, but Arabic Wikipedians in general were involved in the following ways:
- Provided feedback on the original project plan of the Cairo Pilot
- Signed up enthusiastically to be Online Ambassadors or Campus Ambassadors
- Led almost 100% of the training for Campus Ambassadors, Online Ambassadors, and professors — in Arabic
- Coordinated trainings
- Came up with — and currently run — their own communication system
- Provided friendly support for student editors
- Supported the Cairo Pilot in general
We also met our goal of regularly sharing progress, updates, and learnings. At the very beginning of the Pilot, we publicly released our program plan and asked for feedback from the community to make the plan better. During the academic term Faris El-Gwely — an Egyptian Wikipedian whom we engaged on a half-time contractor basis as the Education Program Coordinator, Cairo — provided frequent updates on the Arabic Wikipedia about the participating classes, professors, Ambassadors, and students. His pages of updates — complete with great photos — are a rich record of what transpired in the Cairo Pilot. In addition, Wikimedia Foundation staff wrote multiple public blog posts (see Appendix below) to document progress and learnings throughout the Cairo Pilot, and this Cairo Pilot Final Report itself is a thorough documentation of what we did and learned this academic term. As we plan for the upcoming terms in the Arabic-speaking region, we will also soon be publicizing our preliminary program expansion plan for community review and feedback.
Understanding of the road ahead
The Cairo Pilot gave us a clear picture of what works and doesn't work in a Wikipedia education project in Egypt. To start with, we now know that this program works — and can be highly successful — at least in Egypt and possibly other Arabic-speaking countries, and that our students could have very positive and significant impact on the Arabic Wikipedia. While we were not able to come to definitive conclusions on some questions (for example, whether translation or research-and-write assignments are more successful) due to the small size of the Cairo Pilot, we were able to identify patterns that will guide our work going forward (see the "Learnings" box below for the most important patterns we identified), and we were able to use Cairo Pilot results to come up with concrete hypotheses that we would like to test further in the upcoming terms. The forthcoming plan for the next term in the Arabic-speaking region will spell out these hypotheses and will be based heavily on the learnings from the Cairo Pilot.
- Learnings: classroom based project
- Allowing program participants to conduct their assignments in the way they want (for example, group projects vs. individual projects, holding Ambassador workshops during class time or outside class time) tends to lead to better results.
- Some classes prefer to do their writing and peer reviews offline or in sandboxes first, and then upload the content onto Wikipedia after it's already in very good shape. One downside of this is that students often don't transfer their writing from offline documents or sandboxes into the article namespace until much later in the academic term. Another consequence of this practice is that some classes have low edit counts even though they've contributed extensive content (because they move their already-near-finalized writing in few batches to Wikipedia).
- The Arabic Wikipedia community has been much more supportive and welcoming toward students than seems to be the case on the English Wikipedia.
- On average, the Cairo Campus Ambassadors are spending a lot more time with students than is the case in the U.S. or Canada. Most classes met with their Campus Ambassadors at least two or three times each, and each workshop seems to take several hours.
- Having the support of Wikipedia community members — and actively involving them in the program — is crucial to the program's success.
- Making the Wikipedia assignment optional in class and involving only the top, most interested students appear to lead to better results, because the students who participate are more motivated and more qualified.
- Even after involving only the top, most interested students, there still appears to be a wide range among students regarding how much content each student contributes to Wikipedia.
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Due to the great enthusiasm witnessed during the preparatory stage of the Cairo Pilot among students and professors alike, it was decided to start a series of outreach events in addition to the classroom activities taking place in seven classes in both Cairo University & Ain Shams University. Several types of event types were tried in order to reach a definite list of recommendations for the expanding of the project in the coming semesters and to figure out exactly what works and what doesn't work in Egypt specifically and the Arabic-Speaking countries in general.
It was found that the youth and especially university students are the best candidates for the outreach activities. Unlike in other countries, the elderly in Egypt and the Arabic-Speaking Countries are not very comfortable with computers, technology and Internet. The rule of thumb that can be used is "If he used Wikipedia in his studies, he will be interested in contributing". Although some elderly professional photographers were willing to upload some of their pictures to Commons, they weren't able to use The Upload Wizard and/or putting the images on Wikipedia articles.
Also it was found to be extremely valuable to collaborate in the outreach events with existing student activities, cultural centers or NGOs. They provide administrative and logistical assistance like getting permissions (due to bureaucracy in Egypt that's very important), advertising for the event, working as volunteers in the day of the event as making Registration sheets, distributing brochures, etc... However, it is valuable to monitor and coach them throughout the required organization so as not to ruin the event just because of lack of proper organizers.
Several outreach events were held in Cairo ranging in number of people organizing, number of people attending, size of advertising, purpose of the event and results:
|Event Type||Venue||Date||Number of attendees|
|Introductory Session||Mostafa Mahmoud's Center of Astronomy||January, 2012||32|
|Photography Workshop||InFocus Photography Club Office, Giza||16|
|Tabling||Faculty of Alsun, Ain Shams University||6th & 7th of April, 2012||+600|
|Forum||Conference Hall, Faculty of Alsun, Ain Shams University||8th of April, 2012||+200|
|Tabling||Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University||2nd of May, 2012||+300|
|Introductory & Editing Workshop||Faculty of Economics & Political Sciences, Cairo University||of May, 2012||14|
|Introductory & Editing Workshop||Alexandria||July, 2012|
- Learnings: outreach project
- People are extremely enthusiastic about Wikipedia in general and wants to contribute but are wary of the technicalities and coding
- YOUNG people are your first choice as an audience
- COLLABORATE with other existing student activities, cultural centers or NGOs in any outreach activities. At least until the formation of Wikipedia clubs.
- Smaller groups of people are more effective to work with
- Some people their will to start contributing in Wikipedia & its sister projects (Students from Mass Communication showed interested in participating in WikiNews, etc...)
- Follow-Up sessions are always useful
Overall conclusions and the road ahead
Appendix A: List of participating professors
- Professor Ahmed Abd Rabou, Political Science – Asian Politics (Cairo University)
- Professor Dalia Al-Tokhy, French Department, School of Alsun (Ain Shams University)
- Professor Iman Ezzeldin, Drama (Ain Shams University)
- Professor Hoda Abaza, French (Ain Shams University)
- Professor Amany Fahmy, Mass Communication (Cairo University)
- Professor Abeer El Hafez, Spanish (Cairo University)
- Professor Hany El-Hosseiny, Mathematics (Cairo University)
- Sara Yap: Building a story for the Arabic Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation blog, November 8, 2011
- Annie Lin: Education program gets ready for Cairo pilot, Wikimedia Foundation blog, December 31, 2011
- Annie Lin: Classes start in Cairo pilot, Wikimedia Foundation blog, March 19, 2012
- مرفت عادل: تطوير ويكيبيديا العربية في جامعة عين شمس (The Egyptian conference in Al-Alsun Collage to enrich the Arabic content in Wikipedia), April 8, 2012 (Arabic)
- Annie Lin and Faris El-Gwely: Cairo Pilot of Wikipedia Education Program nearing end of term, Wikimedia Foundation blog, May 25, 2012
- LiAnna Davis: Wikipedia Education Program Cairo Pilot participants gather to celebrate successes, Wikimedia Foundation blog, July 8, 2012
- Ain Shams University: الطلاب المصريون يتفوقون علي الأمريكيين في ويكيبيديا, July 8, 2012 (Arabic)
Appendix C: Detailed results for the different classes
- Professor: Dr. Hany Hosseiny (who has edited Wikipedia himself before, and knows a lot about how Wikipedia works)
- Students participating in Wikipedia project: 6 undergraduate students (the entire class)
- Wikipedia assignment structure & timeline:
- Unlike all other participants in the Cairo Pilot, the professor required 100% of his class (6 students) to work on the Wikipedia project, so the assignment is not optional for these students.
- He required all students to edit in sandboxes.
- Challenges / red flags:
- Because all students were required to complete the Wikipedia assignment, they generally appeared less motivated and interested in the project compared to students in the other classes, who had the option of doing or not doing the Wikipedia project.
- Things to smile about:
- Hany suggested creating a seminar at "Science Club" in his faculty to display Education Program to excited students and professors by his class Campus Ambassador.
- Four students made some progress, although didn't meet the goals set for the class.
- Professor: Dr. Ahmed Abd Rabou
- Students participating in Wikipedia project: 7 students
- Wikipedia assignment structure & timeline:
- This class got off to a late start because the co-instructor for one of Ahmed's classes was not supportive of the project. Ahmed ended up having to change plans last-minute, deciding to incorporate the Wikipedia assignment into his other class instead.
- All students are doing research, then giving their new text to Dr. Ahmed, he will correct it and give it to them again to add it to Arabic Wikipedia.
- Challenges / red flags:
- Bureaucratic obstacles — as a junior faculty, Ahmed is required to have a more senior co-instructor (i.e. he is not allowed to teach classes by himself). In this case, the co-instructor for one of his classes was not enthusiastic about the Wikipedia project, which delayed the start of the project for several weeks and led Ahmed to change plans and incorporate Wikipedia into his other class (whether the co-instructor is more supportive).
- Not much time to create workshops for students and only one Campus Ambassador was active.
- Things to smile about:
- Ahmed's students are pretty much all women.
- Despite all the bureaucratic complications (see above), Ahmed maintained his interest in the project and was willing to change plans last-minute in order to stay try out Wikipedia assignments.
- One student made significant progress, but the rest only made minor edits.
- Professor: Dr. Amany Fahmy
- Students participating in Wikipedia project: 8
- Wikipedia assignment structure & timeline:
- No specific timetable, and most students want to finish editing before final exams.
- Challenges / red flags:
- Students didn't attend Campus Ambassador workshops. One of assistants said that most students lost their enthusiasm.
- Things to smile about:
- Amany Fahmy and her students want to participate in other projects in Wikipedia: Radio of Arabic Wikipedia, Spoken Wikipedia.
- They want to participate in Wikinews in Arabic.
- A handful of students made very minor edits.
- Professor: Dr. Abeer El Hafez
- Students participating in Wikipedia project: 13 pre-Master's students total (out of 20 in the class)
- Wikipedia assignment structure & timeline:
- Abeer has two classes this term: a 20-people pre-Master's class, and a 150-people undergraduate class. She decided to do the Wikipedia project in the former to avoid having to choose just 5–15 students in the huge undergraduate class.
- Students have 3 assignments total in this class (all involving translating from Spanish to Arabic): translate Wikipedia articles, translate short poems/stories, and translate political/scientific texts.
- Students' Wikipedia assignment will be graded based on their Arabic style and grammar.
- Participating students chose which Wikipedia article they want to translate, but Abeer had to approve their choice. Ideally the articles chosen would be Good Articles of similar length. The topics chosen were of famous Latin American writers (see the course page for the exact topics chosen).
- In March, students used sandboxes, and then in April students started in the article namespace.
- Most of students want to translate Featured Articles from Spanish Wikipedia to Arabic Wikipedia after final exams in June.
- Challenges / red flags:
- Some students seem to be much more active on-wiki than other students. It is unclear whether all students will be able to finish their Wikipedia assignment before the term is over.
- Things to smile about:
- Abeer seems very engaged in the project – she attended the CA workshop and practiced editing Wikipedia with her students during the workshop.
- Among the participating students, about 90% are women.
- Abeer had some great outreach ideas and offered to help organize these events if we want.
- Students created a workshop for themselves without a CA, when CA couldn't attend a workshop.
- All thirteen students made significant contributions on wiki.
- Professor: Dr. Dalia El-Toukhy
- Students participating in Wikipedia project: 6 pre-Master's students total. This is not a formal class by itself; Dalia picked the best 6 pre-Master's students to do this project. Many of these students are training to be professional translators.
- Wikipedia assignment structure & timeline:
- The plan was that students should translate 4 full Wikipedia articles from French to Arabic this term.
- Students finished translating the first article — Désobéissance civile
- Before they started working on it, this article on the Arabic Wikipedia was only 2 pages long (when copied to Microsoft Word); now, after students' work, the article is about 12 pages long, which is the length of the French version of the article.
- Dalia assigned 2 pages to each student to translate, and during the translation process students closely reviewed each other's work. Dalia also provided feedback to the students at multiple points during the process.
- Both the students and the professor also collaborated via a Facebook group that they created for the class, and they added their Campus Ambassadors and Online Ambassadors to the group too to make it easier for students to ask them Wikipedia-related questions.
- Students did the majority of their translating and peer reviews in sandboxes first. Then, during a Campus Ambassador-led workshop, they moved their content to the article namespace. At another Campus Ambassador-led workshop soon after, they learned the wiki syntax for citations, and added the appropriate references onto the Wikipedia article.
- The article then translated was the Bank Panic of 1907, which is recognized as a Contenus de qualité on the French Wikipedia (similar to GA on the English Wikipedia). The students are following a similar review process and workflow as when they edited the Désobéissance civile article.
- Finally, students translated Cholangiocarcinoma.
- Challenges / red flags:
- On the Arabic Wikipedia, Dalia's students will keep their references in their original language (e.g. not translating references from French to Arabic). There is a chance that some Arabic Wikipedians won't like this.
- Things to smile about:
- Gender ratio: 5 women, 1 man.
- Dalia thinks that the quality of her students' translations in the Wikipedia project so far is very good.
- The class is choosing long, ambitious, high-quality articles to translate — and so far their record has been great. Each article that Dalia's 6 students translates means the addition of a huge amount of text to the Arabic Wikipedia.
- It's great that Dalia is giving active and regular feedback on students' translations, and that students are giving feedback to each other.
- Dalia's students seem to think that editing Wikipedia is simple.
- The students contributed three long articles to the Arabic Wikipedia, falling just short of their goal but more than making up for it in terms of amount of content added.
- Professor: Dr. Hoda Abaza
- Students participating in Wikipedia project: 11
- Wikipedia assignment structure & timeline:
- The Wikipedia project is completely extracurricular in this class: it does not count for credit at all; Hoda is simply encouraging students to do it if they want to.
- Challenges / red flags:
- Because the Wikipedia project is extracurricular in this class, some students who originally signed up to do it have dropped out from the project.
- It's an extracurricular project, so Hoda is not being super involved in the process, although she thinks the project is great.
- Things to smile about:
- The students who are actually participating in this extracurricular project are super motivated, and have also contributed large quantities of text to the Arabic Wikipedia.
- One of the CA's is a TA in the same faculty, which is making coordination/communication easier for Hoda and the students.
- Two students really took to the assignment and contributed significant content to the Arabic Wikipedia, and a handful of other students made edits in the article namespace.
- Professor: Dr. Iman Ezzeldin
- Students participating in Wikipedia project: 7 students
- Wikipedia assignment structure & timeline:
- Students did research and writing off-wiki then posted it on-wiki.
- Challenges / red flags:
- Students in this class seem particularly intimidated by the technical aspect of editing Wikipedia.
- Things to smile about:
- The female-to-male ratio in this class is approximately 95:5.
- Only two students made edits, but those two students contributed a significant amount of content.