Wikipedia Education Program Strategy
This page is the working area for a strategy paper about how to expand our university based program activities globally.
Overview and context
Outreach to university students around the world has much untapped potential to bring in new contributors who are educated, teachable, and diverse. Students are immersed in a culture of learning, so sharing that knowledge with the world is a logical next step deserving of facilitation and elicitation. Moreover, in the developing world, the university students are the key to unlocking the knowledge from the most literate and engaged population.
Wikimedia's core asset is its community of active contributors, and the decline of active contributors to the Wikimedia projects in recent years raises questions of community health. In addition to the need for active contributors, the movement is only so strong as the depth (i.e., quality) as well as their breadth (i.e., diversity of participation). In recognition of these truths, the Wikimedia Foundation set five-year goals specifically regarding these topics:
- Increase the number of Wikipedia articles offered to 50 million
- Ensure information is high quality by increasing the percentage of material reviewed to be of high or very high quality by 25 percent
- Encourage readers to become contributors by increasing the number of total editors per month who made >5 edits to 200,000
- Support healthy diversity in the editing community by doubling the percentage of female editors to 25 percent and increasing the percentage of Global South editors to 37 percent
In 2010, the Wikimedia Foundation launched a pilot project to explore the potential of formally using Wikipedia as a teaching tool in higher education. Professors at universities in the United States are participating in this pilot project by asking their students to improve articles on the English-language Wikipedia as part of the curriculum. The Wikimedia Foundation is providing professors support in the form of lesson plans and coordination with the community to provide Wikipedia Ambassadors, who are serving as mentors for the first-time Wikipedians.
Also in 2010, the first Wikipedia student clubs in the United States were founded. These student clubs provide a community for students to learn how to edit Wikipedia, teach each other how to edit, and actively participate in the process of peer-review. Activities include editing Wikipedia training sessions, photo excursions for Wikimedia's media repository Commons, Editing Jams and Wikipedia booths on campus.
The preliminary results of the higher education outreach programs are promising. Classes using Wikipedia more than doubled by the second semester, quality of articles edited for classes improved approximately 60 percent on average, and student clubs emerged without much support from the Wikimedia Foundation. Moreover, approximately half of the students involved in the classroom have been female – a much higher participation rate to the rest of the Wikipedian community.
Students and professors across disciplines, universities, and countries have increasingly expressed interest in using Wikipedia as a teaching tool. These early successes in addition to the impact potential of universities encourage us to expand our university based program activities globally. Our vision is to:
|Mobilize and empower the next generation of human knowledge generators and stewards to contribute to Wikimedia projects.|
This document explores the different models that can be used to achieve this vision. It develops recommendations for how to best approach a global university outreach program and what support is needed from the Foundation and community.
Goals and requirements to reach these goals
Executing university based program activities serves a number of goals:
- Increasing and diversifying participation to build stronger and more sustainable communities
- Creating quality content in local languages in order to expand our reach
- Improving the understanding and the perception of Wikipedia
- Encouraging an environment of open-knowledge and the use of Open Educational Resources
In order to reach these goals, the Wikimedia Foundation and its volunteer communities will have to:
- Understand the incentives for students, faculty members and other university staff members (e.g., librarians) to engage in Wikipedia related activities (on a country/regional level)
- Understand the perceptions of Wikipedia in academics
- Foster relationships between the Wikimedia movement and institutions in the field of higher education
- Provide infrastructure for the development and promotion of new tools for teaching and learning with Wikipedia in higher education (e.g., an open repository for course syllabi and other free support materials)
- Monitor the success of the program activities and develop measures for constant improvement
- Encourage and support an ongoing dialogue between academia and Wikipedians
- Document and share success stories and best practices
The university based program activities would be considered successful if
- the program is sustainable and mostly driven by volunteers
- various Wikipedia language versions participate in the university based programs
- over 300 universities participate by 2015
- more than half of the participating universities are in the global south
- half of university representatives and new contributors are female
- representatives at universities include a balance of professors/staff/students/librarians etc.
- articles get improved by 60 percent
- repository of all materials being created; materials being created, translated and collected
- participants of the program are interacting with the community and documenting/sharing success stories
The university ecosystem revolves around three primary constituents: professors, students, and staff. When pulling in a Wiki[p/m]edia project, the Wikimedia community becomes an outside force to also take into consideration as a potential player. While there are various ways university-targeted activities could be orchestrated, we will classify the general levels of models from a leadership point of view:
|Class approach||Student approach||Staff approach||External approach|
Pros and cons
The different approaches to the different universities have various benefits and drawbacks.
The different models can do many of the same activities or potentially help feed each other (e.g., student club members serving as Ambassadors for the classroom model), but each is also slightly advantaged and predisposed to do certain activities over others. For examples of the different activities of the models:
- University classroom - example activities
- Student clubs – example activities
- University staff - example activities
- External approach - example activities
Overall, the different models should be examined across the likelihoods of the reaching the goals and success factors, as well as the difficulty in getting the models established and continuous. See: Model evaluation.
In order to determine which level of support is needed and who will provide this support, we have to be clear about what steps it takes to implement the four models above:
- How to build a class-based university program
- How to build a student-based university program
- How to build a staff-based university program
- How to build an external-based university program
The sustainability and growth of the university programs (i.e., year-to-year sustainability, growth within universities, growth of overall global programs), the Wikimedia Foundation and the broader Wikimedia community must be involved at some level. The following list breaks down what support is necessary to get the program running. (Support List)
Written support materials and video how-tos
- Step-by-step guides (see above; need to be fleshed out and finalized)
- Sample syllabus (exists, needs to be adapted and translated)
- Training & teaching materials (existing, some might need to be uploaded to Commons)
- How-to guide "Grading the student's work" (not yet started)
- "Example package" that documents a case of a professor using Wikipedia in the classroom successfully (not yet started)
- Basic materials about how Wikipedia works (Welcome to Wikipedia, Evaluating Wikipedia article quality exist, need to be translated)
- Handout: Wikipedia's educational values, also debunking the myths about Wikipedia (not yet started)
- Screencasts: how to start editing (exist, need to be adapted)
- "Student flags" showing that certain user names are part of a class (it may be userboxes)
- Wikipedia in Education Portal (tech: combined Content Management System / Blog / Wiki)
- Hub for teaching related resources
- Repository for teachers to share their syllabi
- Contact/network database: connecting professors who are planning to do it with professors who have already done it, local ambassadors, chapter members, student club members, students who are/have been in the program
- Sharing updates and success stories (blog style)
- Idea: "What is currently happening" functionality
- "Find a Task" Wizard?
- See Sparked.com for an example
- Optional: LiveHelp system
- Hub for teaching related resources
- Tool that pulls out all of students' contributions by grouping exactly what one user account account added vs. what was there existing -- professors need an easy way to see what their students did for grading purposes. Existing diff functionality doesn't do this enough.
Structural support / facilitation
- Set-up of framework on Wikipedia (e.g. course pages)
- Facilitate the adaptation and translation of existing materials
- Setting up an IRC channel for technical Wikipedia assistance ("IRC help team"); recruiting volunteers to be on the team
- Setting up an OTRS-account for the group that screens Ambassador candidates
- Coordination: somebody who reminds people to participate on the portal and who updates the portal pages on a higher level
- Coordinate WikiProjects to ensure there is a community receptive to category editing
Legal support / guidelines
- Establish criteria for use of Wikipedia Ambassador designation (legal implications on use of logo etc.)
- Support the creation of Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs)
Ambassador / support volunteers training
- Initial Ambassador training (first semester)
- Initial Ambassador Trainer training (second semester)
- Online/IRC help team training
- Recruit professors and other university staff members for support
- Recruit students to form student groups
Monitoring / overall progress tracking / documentation
- Track overall progress
- Document progress and current status
- Monitor progress and quality of support of Ambassadors / Ambassador Trainers (first and second semester)
- Provide "swag"
- Coordinate travel
- Organize yearly "Wikipedia in Education Summit"
Sharing of success stories and best practices
- Provide support for journalists / student newspapers
- Gather and document success stories
- Gather and document lessons learned
- Encourage professors to add their syllabi to the curriculum repository
- Aid in providing media attention to progress
- Conference attendance
- School visits as needed
- Yearly "Wikipedia in Education Summit"
Given successful implementation, the Wikipedia movement could greatly benefit from the execution of a Global University program. Beyond the sheer quantity of active editors estimated to become involved and the bytes created, there is also the assumption that these bytes are of the highest quality (see PPI Assessment). Moreover, these contributors are assumed to be across a broad array of countries and language projects, developing content covering much of the world. The following numbers are estimates of the potential scale targeted university program could have.
Note: where possible, the following estimates are based on the actual seen results of the Public Policy Initiative.
Long-term growth estimate
|Est. university programs||Est. students involved in university programs||Est. bytes produced by university programs|
|Assumptions: 1.4 classes/university in Y1 (based on PPI), increasing to 3 classes/university in Y2, and +1 class each following year; Growth of classes participating by 200% in Y1 and by 100% Y3-5||Assumptions: CLUBS - Growth of student clubs by 200% in Y2, 100% in Y3, and 75% in Y4-5; 20 active students/club; CLASS - Growth of classes participating by 200% in Y1 and by 100% Y3-5; 19 students/class (based on PPI)||Assumptions: CLUBS - See left for growth & size estimates; 5K bytes/student per semester (50% of class activity) ; CLASS - See left for growth & size estimates; ~10K bytes/student (based on PPI)|
Growth estimate for year 1 by country
There is much value to the involvement of university constituents (see also Incentives for using Wikipedia as a teaching tool). For example:
- Having students that are far more motivated by writing for a global audience
- Being recognized as a Wikipedia Teaching Fellow and thus being affiliated with the Wikimedia movement
- Opportunity to correct the way students use Wikipedia inappropriately, supported through free educational materials provided by the Wikimedia Foundation
- Experimenting with an innovative teaching model, including the opportunity to publish research papers on their experiences on student learning
- Getting attention at their university through media coverage, campus newspaper, and recognition from senior faculty members
- Improving the student's media literacy by placing Wikipedia in the context of other media
- Having students construct knowledge (i.e., summarize information from secondary sources) instead of deconstructing it
- Teaching the students skills that they might need in their future professional life (i.e., the use of wikis)
- Improving their area of expertise/research on Wikipedia (i.e., giving back to the public; drawing more attention to that area)
- Learning more about Wikipedia and how it works
- Collaborating with colleagues in their field
- Having the opportunity to - and learning how to - write for a large, global audience instead of just the professor
- Improving critical thinking and research skills
- Improving writing skills (learning how to write an encyclopedia article; learning the difference between fact-based and analytical writing style)
- Improving knowledge about how to conduct a literature review and what sources are more reliable than others
- Interacting with readers & writers in real-time (i.e., getting feedback from a "real" audience; learning and practicing collaboration skills)
- Gaining a deeper understanding of media literacy (i.e., learning to evaluate article quality; placing Wikipedia in the context of other media)
- Acquiring first-hand familiarity with web markup; improving tech fluency in general, including how to communicate effectively in online communities
- Engaging in a community of practice - interacting with scholars interested in similar topics
- Creating something you can be proud of / you can show your friends, family, etc.
- It's fun
- Getting media coverage / attention for your innovative teaching approaches
- Avenue of giving back to the broader public
- Having motivated professors who receive a fresh dose of inspiration from applying a new teaching tool
- Having motivated students who acquire fresh interest in learning/researching from doing an innovative, far-reaching assignment
- Wikimedia chapters/movement
- Improving the quality of Wikipedia articles
- Consistent flow of volunteers / editors
- Diversification of editor base (gender, race, etc.)
- Chapters can invest their money/time in a program "that actually works"
- Greater public credibility - and understanding - for Wikipedia
- Having an "official role" in the Wikimedia movement (as Campus and Online Ambassadors)
- Improving their own leadership, teaching, communication, and outreach skills (through Ambassador trainings and hands-on practice)
- Engaging in something you can mention on your CV (Campus Ambassador; organizer of a student club)
- Increase your knowledge about Wikipedia, free knowledge, and collaborative writing
- Create a name for yourself and network with a great team of people who help to create one of the biggest online communities ever
- Work closely with established university professors
- Receive Wikipedia swag to give out at events
Target locations of expansions
While theoretically the university program should be expandable across all geographies in the future and open to any interested universities, we recommend concentrated and supportable efforts be made in the immediate future. Target countries were selected based on the following sets of criteria.
- General criteria
- Educating the general public is a shared value among professors/institutions
- High receptivity to OER & to Wikipedia
- Existing/potential large volunteer base which is interested in participating
- A local champion / leader in community exists (e.g., professor, student)
- Key questions for Wikipedia in classroom
- Who controls the curriculum (e.g., Ministry of Education? Professor?)?
- Is there a functional WikiProject (in a subject matter)?
- What is the classroom setting (lecture based? class sizes?) (required)
- Are there good educational resources for professors (e.g., teacher & learning centers)?
- Key questions for student clubs
- Does this country have a tradition of student clubs/movements? (required)
- How difficult is it to start clubs?
- Key questions for staff/librarians
- Are there good educational resources for professors (e.g., teacher & learning centers)?
- High receptivity to OER & to Wikipedia
- Key questions for non-university stakeholders
- Is there a local Wikimedia chapter?
- How organized is the local Wikimedia chapter (i.e., at which phase are they)?
- How interested is the local chapter in being involved?
- Are there many Wikipedians with track records of helping newcomers who could support new contributors?
Year 1 Country candidates
Interest exists across a variety of universities, but based on the anticipated support, we recommend the following countries of prioritization going forward:
|Country||Active Community/Chapter||Other Rationale||Challenges||Level of support|
|India||Chapter + Office||
|UK||Chapter (+ funding)||
|Germany||Chapter (+ funding)||
Existing country programs
As the global university program expands and succeeds, support ought to be provided by WMF to those areas which have successfully running programs. For example, the current programs in the United States, as established in the 2010-11 academic school year via the Public Policy Initiative, should have some level of support for maintenance and expansion.
A Global University Program has amazing potential to increase participation, improve quality content in local languages, and diversify participation in the Wikimedia projects. If appropriately structured, great scale can be reached over the next five years with minimum direct investment from the Wikimedia Foundation. In order to reach these goals, we recommend focussing on the following activities:
1. Support the implementation of new class-based university programs and sustain existing programs
The class-based university program as explored in the Public Policy Initiative has been highly successful in turning students into Wikipedia contributors. Since its focus is explicitly on article improvement and creation, it has proven to be an effective way of both increasing participation and quality. Also, its benefits for professors and students are apparent and easy to grasp. Over the 17 months of the pilot project, we have built a strong knowledge base about running a class-based program as well as the tools needed to implement it (training handbooks, brochures on how to start editing, how-to videos, sample syllabi, etc.) We are now at a point to make these investments pay off.
We therefore recommend supporting the implementation of class-based university programs in other countries. Our priorities will be India and Brazil, since both countries are part of our 5-year strategic plan and also meet a number of requirements needed for making a campus-based program a success. A prerequisite for implementing such a program will be to create the role of a Global Ambassador Program Manager within the Global Education department. This position will support the development of an initial infrastructure in the targeted countries, develop guidelines and step-by-step guides for Ambassadors, and monitor the success of our global class-based university program. We also recommend providing low-level support for the implementation of class-based university programs in countries that are a "quick-win" (e.g., Germany, which has a chapter that is able to handle complex tasks and which – at the Berlin workshop – showed strong interested in building a university program). Finally, we recommend providing a budget for the existing university program in the United States (for training events, swag, teaching materials, etc.)
2. Create a platform that facilitates the exchange of news, best practices, sample syllabi, and educational materials and the building of relationships between educators and volunteers
In the first two semesters of our class-based university program in the U.S., the pairing-up of professors with volunteers on campus has been coordinated by the Wikimedia Foundation's Campus Team Coordinator. We have also experimented with organizing this process on-wiki. We created a page on the English Wikipedia where interested Campus Ambassador candidates and professors can list themselves. While this list – which grew rapidly – made clear to us that there is very high international interest in this program, it soon became clear that a wiki page is not the best way of connecting people with each other. This will become even more evident, if we start reaching a larger number of participants in our program. In order to make the initiation of relationships between professors and potential Campus Ambassadors scalable, we will therefore need a database-driven website that facilitates this process. We recommend building an online infrastructure that includes mapping, calendaring, and contact database functionalities simplifying and facilitating communication and collaboration across campuses.
Presently, best practices, news about the program, educational materials and sample syllabi are being shared through a large variety of channels: the English Wikipedia and the Outreach Wiki, weekly email newsletters, a Google group, Facebook pages, and blog postings. Instead, we recommend creating a central hub for all stakeholders involved in the university-based program activities (professors, libarians, volunteers, etc.) to communicate and to share their experiences with each other. The database-driven nature of this website will allow it to serve many interactive and highly useful functions that a wiki simply cannot accomplish right now; for example, unlike a wiki, this database-driven portal can allow educators to easily find the contact information of other relevant educators and volunteers in their geographic area, by clicking on a map or other user-friendly solutions. Transferring this kind of data and processes onto a website will significantly reduce the amount of time and effort that any Wikimedia staff member or volunteer needs to spend on these tasks.
3. Start pilots to further explore the possible impact of student clubs
Thus far, student clubs have not been very effective in creating impact (i.e., encouraging other students to start contributing to Wikipedia). They have engaged in a number of activities – including hosting trivia nights and informational presentations – some of which were not results-driven and directed at turning readers into editors. However, these student clubs have been started without much support from the Wikimedia Foundation. We have also seen that students from other countries than the U.S. are interested in starting such clubs.
The possible impact of student clubs has not yet been fully explored. We therefore recommend starting a series of pilots in different countries to get a better understanding of how student clubs could fit into a university program that aims at turning students into active contributors to Wikipedia. We would consider these pilots a success if the outcome helps us to decide whether we want to continue supporting the student-club model or not. We recommend creating a temporary position in the Global Education Department with the option of it becoming permanent if the pilots can prove that student clubs are able to recruit new contributors on a large scale.
4. Build a community of volunteers who engage in education-based outreach activities
Volunteers engaged in our Wikipedia Ambassador Program come from a variety of different backgrounds. Some of them are Wikipedians, some are librarians or members of on-campus teaching and learning centers, and others are tech-savvy graduate students and undergraduate students with strong teaching skills. This mix of people with different skill sets has been one of the reasons for the success of the Public Policy Initiative. It will be crucial to bring these highly diverse people together and form a community of volunteers who engage in education-based outreach activities.
A first step toward this goal will be the first "Wikipedia in Higher Education Summit," to be held in July 2011. The event aims at celebrating the volunteers who participate in Wikimedia's university based program activities; building a community of Wikipedia Ambassadors, professors, university staff members, and other interested individuals; sharing skills, best practices, and success stories; and shaping the future of Wikimedia's Education Program. Local Wikipedia meetups and the Wikimania conference have shown that nothing is better suited to build mutual trust and a feeling of being one community than face-to-face meetings. We therefore recommend making the Wikipedia in Higher Education Summit a yearly event and staging it in alternating countries.
5. Explore opportunities for institutionalizing the use of Wikipedia in higher education
Institutionalizing the use of Wikipedia in higher education is both the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity to make our university-based program activities sustainable. Once universities integrate the use of Wikipedia as a teaching tool into their curriculum and university centers become permanently engaged in using Wikipedia as a means to improve the students' media literacy, we will have achieved the highest level of sustainability. This requires that institutions in the field of higher education understand the necessity and the advantages of integrating Wikipedia into their core operations.
We have made some progress on this front, but we've only begun to tap into the possibilities. At Louisiana State University, the Public Policy Initiative team has worked with the university's Communication Across the Curriculum (CXC) office to incorporate Wikipedia-editing into the office's certification program. CXC works with 300 professors at LSU to certify both that the professors and the course materials meet the CXC requirements for innovative teaching. Wikipedia-editing is now officially one of the pedagogical tools that give professors certification, thus creating an institutionalized incentive structure for faculty to give students Wikipedia-editing assignments. As part of this process, Louisiana State University has enthusiastically put about ten staff members through our Wikipedia Campus Ambassador training in January 2011, and the Communication Across the Curriculum office has actively reached out to multiple professors on campus about the benefits of using Wikipedia in the classroom. The outcomes of this partnership, however, remain to be determined. Initial steps for making it mandatory for students to contribute to Wikipedia have also been undertaken by students at the University of California, San Francisco. At this point, we don't know if this initiative will be successful. We also have not yet tried to reach out to decision-makers on the governmental level. Given the fact that sustainability is key, we recommend further exploration of these opportunities for institutionalizing the use of Wikipedia in education.
6. Build tools to facilitate the use of Wikipedia in the classroom
The Public Policy Initiative has clearly shown the strong need for tools that facilitate the use of Wikipedia in the classroom. Among the biggest frustration of educators was the fact that student contributions to Wikipedia are hard to track and therefore grading takes a lot of time and effort. Some teachers also had a hard time using IRC clients to connect with the Online Ambassadors due to the technical skills required. The need for a Live Chat Help system has become apparent and would not only have a large impact in supporting students but also in offering help to new Wikipedia contributors in general. Also, the class and students "leaderboard" has proven to be a highly effective way of motivating students. We have reason to believe that leaderboards will be even more popular in other cultural regions of the world, especially in India, where competition is an important part of the culture.
We therefore recommend adding a considerable amount of money to the Global Education department's budget to pay contractors for building tools that facilitate the use of Wikipedia in the classroom, such as tools that ease the tracking of student contributions and that provide easier means for students and any other Wikipedia contributor to get Wikipedia support. We see this as critical for the success of the class-based model, as technical hurdles have been proven to be the biggest problem and time-sink for educators.
7. Promote the idea of using Wikipedia in higher education
One of the findings of the Public Policy Initiative pilot was that university professors are much more open to using Wikipedia in their teaching than we initially assumed. Whenever we reached out to academics and introduced the idea of using Wikipedia as a teaching tool, we were met with a great level of interest and willingness to join the program. The limiting factor for a broader use of our class-based model therefore seems to be the dissemination of the general idea behind that model and not the willingness of educators to implement it.
Both pro-active work with media and in-person outreach at teaching and learning conferences have proven to be highly effective for spreading the idea of using Wikipedia in the classroom. We therefore recommend creating a position in the future Global Education Department that is designed to coordinate and facilitate the outreach to journalists, university communications offices, and campus newspapers. We also recommend doing face-to-face outreach at national and international teaching and learning conferences in order to create more awareness and to actively recruit educators for our class-based activities. Also, we recommend exploring ways of encouraging scholars to get involved in scientific research about the use of Wikipedia in the classroom. Several university researchers have already expressed interest in doing this kind of study, so we are confident that there is strong potential here.
We recommend $xM with four staffing positions in WMF resources to be planned to support the development of university based programming for the first year. Pending resources, immediate next steps for the rolling out of the program include:
- Communicate with community the ideas for expansion, and create a database for those willing to help and support the growth in their languages and countries
- Deep dive into target countries with recommended universities to target (including subject areas, as appropriate) and proposed plans for reaching out (e.g., example student or teaching conferences to attend)
- Create rules & guidelines surrounding allowances of Wikipedia trademark
- Create detailed outline of steps for different university constituents to be involved
- Finalize list of metrics to track and work with tech team to ensure potential of and possibility to track
- Set up online infrastructure to support university programs (est. time: 1 FT staff for 3 months)
- Create directive website that easily points professors, students, and interested ambassadors to appropriate places of involvement
- Mapping, calendaring, and contact database functionalities simplifying and facilitating communication & collaboration across campuses
- Repository for presentation and classroom materials
Notes & references
For more information, see FAQs.