Wikipedia:Education Working Group/Proposal
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This is a revised version of the document that the Education Program Working Group submitted to the Wikimedia Foundation for comment. The Working Group will submit a further revision to key players[clarification needed] at the Wikimedia Foundation (in order to receive feedback about whether this plan aligns with the Wikimedia mission and makes sense legally[clarification needed]) and then to the Affiliations Committee to request approval to form a Wikipedia Education Thematic Organization in the United States and Canada. User:JMathewson (WMF) reports that the proposal for the Affiliations Committee "will derive its content from much of what is here, though it won't be nearly as detailed regarding org[anization] structure" and will "focus more on improving Wikipedia" as well as on "student learning objectives."
- 1 Background
- 2 Objectives from January 2013—May 2013
- 3 Future picture: July 2015
- 4 Details of Proposed Organization
- 5 Programmatic work
- 6 Governance
- 7 Engaging the Wikipedia community
- 8 Needs from Initial Board and Central Staff
- 9 Transition and timeline
- 10 Appendix
The United States and Canada regions of the Wikipedia Education Program have matured over the past two years with Wikipedia Ambassadors supporting thousands of students' first edits under the direction of innovative professors. More and more academics are interested in using Wikipedia as a teaching tool, but the current infrastructure of the Wikipedia Education Program lacks sufficient support for these instructors. The many successes of the programs are incredibly exciting, both for academics who see the value of using Wikipedia in the higher education classroom and for Wikipedia, whose articles improve from student contributions. However, in order to make the program more successful and minimize any negative experiences, for either students or Wikipedia editors, the Education Program needs to restructure its available support and resolve some repeated issues.
As the program gained more traction among professors, the current program leaders became eager to establish a more sustainable program led not by the Wikimedia Foundation but by those who have made it successful: Wikipedians and Academics. In June 2012, the Wikimedia Foundation's Education Program team established a group of 14 volunteers (“Working Group”) to strategize about the future of Wikipedia in the classroom and how to expand our support to more students, professors, Wikipedians, and Ambassadors.
The Working Group has collaborated and worked hard over the last 6 months to reconsider the internal structure of the Wikipedia Education Program, establish goals for its future, and propose a method for supporting students, professors, Ambassadors, and Wikipedians who are using Wikipedia in educational settings. We agreed upon a spin-out plan for the current Wikipedia Education Program in the US and Canada, and now we are seeking feedback from the Wikimedia Foundation before asking the Affiliations Committee to support this Thematic Organization.
Objectives from January 2013—May 2013
At the first in-person meeting, the Working Group established the following objectives we hoped to meet by the end of November. Here is the summary of the goals that were the driving force behind the current proposal for the Wikipedia Education Program in the United States and Canada.
- The Working Group will establish a process for open collaboration among all members.
- The Working Group will propose a legal structure to create in January 2013 that will assume full responsibility for the Wikipedia Education Program in the United States and Canada by May 2013.
- The Working Group will develop a clear position on the “free knowledge” scope of the new organization.
- The proposed Wikipedia Education Program for the US and Canada gains consensus for its activities via a Request for Comment.
- The Working Group will establish clear roles among Board members and the hired Executive Director of the new organization.
- The Working Group will develop a transition plan regarding existing volunteers and Ambassadors.
- The Working Group will ensure that the broad interests of academia, including students, faculty, administration and support staff, as well as Wikipedia and the Wikipedia community, are met.
- The established initial board will seek seed funding through the Wikimedia Foundation grant process. The Working Group will submit this application in early January 2013 so as to fund necessary staffing and activities for January—May 2013 to effectively transition the program.
Future picture: July 2015
At the first in-person meeting, the Working Group also developed a “future picture” of the current Wikipedia Education Program in the United States and Canada. In other words, if the program, in July 2015, meets the following vision, the Working Group will consider its efforts in creating a functioning program independent of the Wikimedia Foundation to have been successful. The following summary of the “future picture” paved the way for most Working Group decisions in this document:
WEF-USCA can sustain the annual budget set forth by the Executive Director and Board. The program can deliver quality services to all its members and partners while still expanding its volunteer resources.
- Organization has sufficient funding and funding commitments to sustain itself, meet financial obligations, and meet all stakeholder commitments for at least two years of operations.
WEF-USCA will provide resources to support ongoing and innovative uses of Wikimedia projects in education. Program work should promote free knowledge and information fluency[clarification needed] throughout the education community while also improving the breadth, diversity, scope, and quality of Wikimedia sites. Members and staff will document progress and work collaboratively as much as possible.
- WikiEd Groups (defined below) are supporting instructors and courses in higher education with volunteers, tutorials, workshops, etc.
- WEF-USCA program participants are improving the scope and quality of Wikipedia content.
- WEF-USCA program participants are generating greater interest in the use of Wikipedia in higher education (please see the “Wikipedia Studies” appendix for a more thorough explanation of this).
Relevant educational communities perceive WEF-USCA as a valuable and integral partner in improving student learning and information fluency[clarification needed] through Wikimedia classroom assignments. Benefactors and funding organizations value WEF-USCA and its work as a professional, innovative way to improve education and are providing enough financial and marketing support to sustain the organization's activities. The English Wikipedia community, as well as any other communities involved at this point, respect and actively participate in the program.
- The organization has enough online and in-person volunteers to support students.
- Program members, and affected outsiders, are participating in developing strategy regarding the organization its programs.
WEF-USCA staff and volunteer members are diverse, motivated professionals and volunteers who are skilled and passionate about the organization's mission and goals.
- Participants are achieving fund raising, marketing, and operational goals. Education program milestones and objectives are being achieved on schedule.
Though volunteer members should be intrinsically motivated to support the education program because of mission alignment, the organization will continue to provide leadership and personal development opportunities.
- Members willingly and passionately support the program.
- WEF-USCA's collaborative strategy meets members' needs.
- Members are happy and encourage others to participate.
WEF-USCA operates with open, collaboratively created governance that can make fast and effective decisions regarding the program or various projects. Program participants are able to collaborate and build consensus among different groups (i.e. students, Wikipedians, professors, etc.). WEF-USCA members agree on program goals, experiments, and projects that support the organization's mission.
- Members are communicating in transparent, collaborative ways whenever possible and not in conflict with privacy issues. All members have an opportunity to contribute to developing the organization's strategy and goals.
WEF-USCA openly develops, documents and shares innovative uses of Wikimedia projects in education from all sources (Wikimedia community, Academia, students, and other educational entities). These resources promote the growth of quality free knowledge, diversity of participation, and improvements in information literacy education.
- Instructors and any interested parties can access a wealth of best practices about using Wikipedia in the classroom. Wikipedia-related curriculum, tutorials, and lesson plans are shared through online resources and in-person workshops and conferences.
- WEF-USCA Wikipedians (students, faculty, librarians and staff) are outperforming other Wikipedians who are at the same stage in the editor lifecycle.
Action item: The Working Group is submitting this proposal to the Wikimedia Foundation for comment, recommendations, and guidance before submitting to the Affiliations Committee. Please share any recommendations before the Working Group takes this next step.
Details of Proposed Organization
The Working Group proposes to form a Wikimedia Thematic Organization, which will incorporate as its own 501(c)3 non-profit. This will be a membership organization that operates the Wikipedia Education Program in the United States and Canada. It will invite current Wikipedia Ambassadors, instructors, Wikipedians, students, and other volunteers in the current program to join and will work with those members to increase the number of members and students who edit Wikipedia in an educational setting.
Wiki Education Foundation – United States and Canada (WEF-USCA)
In response to the 'Enterprise Purpose' section of the “Future Picture”.
The Wiki Education Foundation supports innovative uses of Wikipedia and related projects in communities of teaching, learning, and inquiry. By engaging educators, researchers, and students, the Foundation aims to enhance information fluency[clarification needed]; improve the breadth, scope, and quality of Wikimedia content; and increase the number and diversity of contributors to the free knowledge movement.
Decentralized Thematic Organization
WEF-USCA will operate with a small central office of paid staff that will support all volunteer members. The organization's members will form or join a local or topical WikiEd Group (see below), which will support all Wikipedia classroom assignment activity and may even explore other Wikipedia projects. An instructor who wishes to receive support as a participant of the WEF-USCA will work closely with the relevant group to design the class assignment, train any new Ambassadors, mentor students on Wikipedia editing, and monitor Wikipedia contributions. The instructors and student editors themselves will be encouraged to join the group's community of volunteers who are bringing Wikipedia-editing into the classroom.
How to become a member of WMEF-USCA
Anyone can become a member of the program. There will be a simple online process for signing up, with minimal requirements, such as agreeing with the guiding principles, which the Board will develop. Members will need to renew annually to remain in good standing and to be listed in the directory. All members automatically become members of the bi-national organization and may join any (and multiple) topical and local WikiEd Groups. Members may also elect to take on various responsibilities from a checklist of options, such as taking on an Ambassador role or providing financial support.
- Topical WikiEd Groups will develop among WEF-USCA's members who are interested in a similar academic subject. Members will provide subject-specific guidance for student editors and instructors participating in the program.
- For example, a group of Sociology professors, Wikipedians, and graduate students may decide to form a Sociology WikiEd Group. They will work together to advise Sociology professors when designing the Wikipedia assignment and monitor student work to suggest content-based changes. The Sociology WikiEd Group may also decide to edit Sociology articles themselves, work closely with WikiProject Sociology, compile a database of reliable resources, assess the quality of all Sociology articles at the end of each term, identify the best articles for Good Article nomination, etc.
- Local WikiEd Groups will provide face-to-face coordination among classes on a specific campus or in a specific city. These members may still provide the assignment design consultation to instructors but should work closely with any relevant Topical WikiEd Group.
- For example, a group of people at Louisiana State University may join to form the LSU WikiEd Group. Similarly, Georgetown University, George Washington University, etc. may wish to join forces for the Washington, D.C. WikiEd Group.
- WikiEd Group requirements: A team of five or more people may form a WikiEd Group through a simple application process where they will demonstrate alignment with WEF-USCA's mission. To maintain good standing, groups will be need to submit periodic reports to the central staff.
Benefits of membership
In response to the 'Incentive Philosophy' section of the “Future Picture”.
Members of the local and topical receive the following benefits:
- networking opportunities among other instructors
- assignment design consultation and materials
- possible financial support for relevant conferences
- contact with WikiProjects, Online Ambassadors, and Wikipedians
- fun events and community building
- Wikipedia guidelines and templates
- help from Wikipedians interested in the course material and assignment
- face-to-face interactions (in local WikiEd Groups)
- fun events and community building
- matchmaking with instructors, students, and others who can help improve articles in a particular topic
- fun events and community building
Roles of the central staff
Initially, the central staff may need to absorb more responsibility during the transition and while establishing the new structural model. Over time, most activity, including member recruitment, Ambassador work, and article quality assurance, will be handled by the different WikiEd Groups. Once those groups are maintaining program activity, the staff members will:
- develop measures of success and work closely with each user group to achieve realistic goals that encourage good student experiences as well as positive contributions to Wikipedia
- foster community among the various WikiEd Groups
- coordinate the Online Ambassador program
- organize and partially fund an annual summit for members (for networking, recognition, and sharing experiences)
- marketing/PR for the program, as the Executive Director deems appropriate
- provide financial support to the WikiEd Groups through an application/review process
- help members build relationships with universities and their relevant established infrastructure (e.g. libraries, teaching and learning centers, student organizations, writing centers, etc.)
- serve as a point of contact for professional academic associations, especially to encourage formation of a new Topical WikiEd Group
- provide swag and legitimacy to WikiEd Groups via a webpage presence, email addresses, and/or business cards
- support academic research on the use of Wikipedia in education and eventually developing Wikipedia Studies. The Working Group has identified Wikipedia Studies' support as a key way to engage more with Wikipedia in higher education, which is vital to the future of this organization. The appendix to this document defines Wikipedia Studies.
- create an annual plan, which the Executive Director will recommend to the Board
- hire any additional staff for the organization (Executive Director).
- work with the Board to seek additional funding, via grant-writing, during the early months.
- oversee WEF-USCA's day-to-day operations (Executive Director)
Who will make up the central staff
In response to the 'Workforce Characteristics' section of the “Future Picture”.
The Board of Directors will hire an Executive Director in the early stages of forming WEF-USCA. Should the Executive Director secure enough funding and see a need for any more support for the WikiEd Groups, s/he will hire additional staff members. The Working Group would like to recommend that the staff members are familiar with Wikipedia editing norms and that, when funding is available, at least one experienced Wikipedia editor is hired to work closely with the Wikipedia editing community, maintain training materials as necessary, and oversee the online support for students.
As expressed in the mission, WEF-USCA will support projects pertaining to Wikipedia and education. Volunteers will continue supporting instructors as they assign students to edit Wikipedia as a part of the class, and members and staff will compile useful resources to streamline as many positive results as possible.
Support for participants
Available support will vary from campus to campus but may include:
- providing assignment design advice, based on past learnings and best practices on Wikipedia
- hosting in-person student training sessions that cover:
- Wikipedia editing basics
- avoiding plagiarism and close paraphrasing
- discerning reliable resources and including appropriate citations
- working with a relevant WikiProject
- qualifications for DYK or GA
- training new Ambassadors to not only support students but become active editors themselves
- training professors to edit Wikipedia, use it in the classroom, and engage student editors on-wiki
- monitoring student work and providing feedback (or even improving it)
Though a lot of past emphasis in the program has been on content contributions, student learning experiences, and the diversity that the student population brings to the Wikipedia-editing community, the Working Group is eager to work with Wikipedia editors and other volunteers in pursuing any innovative ideas about retaining more students as active editors as well as any other valuable experiments.
Measuring program activity
The Initial Board and central staff will work closely with the Wikimedia Foundation (who will still be supporting Wikipedia Education Program activity on all language Wikipedias and in all countries but in a mentorship capacity) to develop metrics for evaluating program activity. As mentioned above, WEF-USCA will also work with WikiEd Groups when developing metrics and setting expectations. These metrics may include:
- developing/implementing a sustainable and scalable qualitative assessment of articles written/expanded by student editors in WEF-USCA
- number of students editing article namespace
- bytes added by professors and Ambassadors who became Wikipedia editors as members of this organization
- retention rate: of students, professors, Ambassadors and all members (both as members of WEF-USCA and as Wikipedia editors)
- monitoring/evaluating plagiarism among participating students
- satisfaction rate among program participants
- high response rate to issues (like copyright violations) from participating students
Board of Directors: Composition and roles
The board of the new organization will represent the program's many communities and will govern the organization. A complete board will be diverse, will have accounting and finance skills, legal skills, managerial or leadership expertise, and may even have good connections or social capital within our communities.
Eligible members must demonstrate personal integrity, be a resident of the United States or Canada, be positively passionate about a partnership between Wikimedia and education, and commit to actively participating in any needed committee work.
A full board will have 12 members, representing educators, Wikipedia editors, Chapters and WikiEd Groups, and necessary skills.
- 1 Wikimedia Foundation appointee
- 3 educators (elected by Wikipedians and WEF-USCA members)
- 3 Wikipedia representatives (elected by Wikipedians and WEF-USCA members)
- 1 representative elected by Wikimedia Chapters (in the US and Canada) and WikiEd Groups
- 4 members appointed by the rest of the board, based on skill needs
Roles of the Board
The board should be visionary, while day-to-day operations should be handled by staff. However, the board has the ultimate fiduciary responsibility for the organization, so it is legally responsible for ensuring that the organization is properly set up. Below is an outline of the division of responsibilities.
The WEF-USCA Board will:
- approve bylaws
- hire an Executive Director
- The board will appoint an Executive Director search committee of three board members to initiate a process, which will include advertisements, a "call", and any other appropriate methods for which there is funding. The search committee will review applications and make a recommendation to the board, who must vote to approve the hire.
- select a headquarters for the organization
- The board should seek advisement from legal counsel but will ultimately decide on a location based on practicalities and may even delegate this task to the Executive Director.
- approve the Executive Director's annual plan and budget.
- serve in the role of Chief Financial Officer until there is enough funding to hire another staff member.
Members of the Initial Board
Due to time constraints and the need for active engagement from an operating board in the early months of the new organization, the Working Group has delegated members to form an Initial Board. We will develop a transition plan to make sure the board carries out the proper election process by August 2013. In the meantime, the Working Group members who will comprise the Initial Board were approved because each person is passionate about making this organization successful, both for students and Wikimedia projects.
- Robert Cummings, professor in the Education Program
- Diana Strassmann, professor in the Education Program
- Mike Christie, Wikipedia editor and Online Ambassador
- PJ Tabit, Campus Ambassador
- Rebecca Burdette, Campus Ambassador and representative of Centers for Teaching and Learning
- Mike Cline, Wikipedia editor and Campus Ambassador
- Pat Earley, Wikipedia editor and Online Ambassador
- Chanitra Bishop, Campus Ambassador, Regional Ambassador, and representative of university librarians
- Richard Knipel, Wikipedia editor, Regional Ambassador, and representative of Wikimedia Chapters
- Jami Mathewson, Wikimedia Foundation appointee currently supporting the Wikipedia Education Program in the United States and Canada
The Working Group suggests that the Board adopt the following guidelines that will govern the use of Wikipedia in the classroom:
- WEF-USCA will follow the principles of the Wikimedia movement: it will be community based, open and free of advertising. It supports the ideals of a free culture, and all materials will be available under a free license.
- This is an independent organization focused on:
- encouraging and supporting the use of Wikimedia projects as an educational tool
- mutually benefitting both Wikipedia as well as any editors who join Wikipedia as a part of the program
- The organization will strive to sustain the successes of the Wikimedia Foundation's Education Program at educational institutions in the United States and Canada. Members will recruit to expand the program and provide all volunteers, instructors, and editors with necessary resources. The organization and its members will strive to encourage greater use and understanding of Wikipedia at educational institutions.
- The organization will seek to work with relevant WikiProjects and Wikimedia Chapters when appropriate.
- The organization will fundraise among foundations and private donors in the United States and Canada and may also accept government grants or contracts.
- The organization will work hard to equally support the needs of its various communities, including students, Wikipedia editors, instructors, institutional faculty, and volunteer Ambassadors.
Engaging the Wikipedia community
The Working Group wanted to receive feedback from the community of Wikipedia editors, so we created a Request for Comment on the draft of the proposal to create a Wikimedia Thematic Organization that would support educational initiatives on the Wikimedia projects. On November 6, 2012, Wikipedia Arbitration Committee member User:SilkTork summarized the results as "no clear consensus." His summary was:
The outcome of the discussion is not clear. A number of users involved in the project, both experienced Wikipedians and the target students and teachers, have indicated that they are pleased with the programme. These outnumber those who have opposed, who are mainly experienced Wikipedians; however, the number of opposes is significant, and the concerns raised seem pertinent. The concerns are about the quality of the work done, the amount of time needed to monitor and correct mistakes, and the value for money of the programme. These concerns appear to have been partly met with an analysis of the impact of the programme, which shows a net gain; though there is no extended discussion of the analysis by the opposers, nor an independent scrutiny of the data. As things stand, it appears that students and educators and some Wikipedians value the programme, but there are concerns among other Wikipedians which it would be helpful to address in order to ensure a smooth continuance of the programme, and its transfer to an independent organisation.
On the positive side, it is clear that there is substantial support; many students and Wikipedians are excited by the program and would like to see it succeed and grow. Also, the vast majority of Wikipedia editors have not explicitly expressed any opposition to the Wikipedia Education Program or the mission to support new editors when they are assigned to edit Wikipedia, and most student participants (88% in the Fall 2012 semester) “agree” or “strongly agree” that their Wikipedia assignment was beneficial.
However, there is some real opposition, and most of the points made in opposition are well-founded and in good faith. Though the Working Group members avidly support the use of Wikipedia in the classroom, we heed the fact that there have been enough negative interactions with student work on Wikipedia for there to have been multiple users opposing the entire program and concept of using Wikipedia as a teaching tool, even when the students find it so beneficial.
These negative interactions are real, and we need to take them seriously. The most common problems cited by opposers are those which require cleanup by other editors, such as copyright violations or the addition of poor quality material. That the program generates many good outcomes did not seem to be at issue; the focus of discussion was on the negative outcomes and editor burden.
In the end, the RfC was closed as "no consensus", which is accurate. Those who participated in the RfC discussion did not reach a consensus about the net impact of Wikipedia assignments. However, the Working Group would like to emphasize the thousands of program participants who were not involved in the RfC but who have gleaned a wealth of educational experiences from learning about how information is created and from collaboratively writing neutral, referenced encyclopedic entries: our student participants.
In fact, one of the learning points of our experience with the RfC was that, for some reason, many Wikipedia editors do not consider students to be “editors”. We believe this might be a result of the past program activity having purposefully created a “bubble” for student editors (i.e. Ambassadors, working in sandboxes), and we now see the importance of integrating into the Wikipedia community. We believe our student editors have a lot to offer Wikipedia as well as a lot to gain from joining the community.
That being said, the future organization needs to understand that it does not have unqualified support and will incorporate that fact into its planning and operations. This includes both addressing the immediate concerns raised in the RfC and establishing effective communication methods with the editing community to enable future problems to be identified and resolved, both for individual class/student problems and any systemic issues that come up.
Working with the Wikipedia community
The Working Group is committed to working within the existing infrastructure on Wikipedia, but that requires existing processes to remain functional.[clarification needed] We will create a feedback channel during the early months of 2013 to provide all interested parties—either WEF-USCA members or not—the opportunity to constructively criticize and problem-solve when it comes to Wikipedia classroom assignments. The Initial Board, and later the permanent board, will work hard to consider and resolve concerns. More importantly, the board will foster the expectation among program participants (especially Ambassadors) to proactively monitor student contributions and resolve issues in a timely manner.[clarification needed] Though we know there will always be unintended burdens that will provoke some Wikipedia editors, we truly believe we can help improve accountability of instructors as well as students with our membership organization, and we truly believe the positive contributions of our program participants far outweigh the negative ones.
Guidelines for working on Wikipedia
WEF-USCA wants programmatic work to be mutually beneficial for both students and Wikipedia. Here are some of the pledges that the Working Group encourages the Initial Board to take as the founders of this organization:
- We will encourage all US and Canadian courses writing articles for Wikipedia to work through our program and extensive support resources, but we cannot undertake that all courses will do so because of the Wikipedia principle that it is the encyclopedia anyone can edit.
- WEF-USCA will make clear to faculty and Ambassadors that it is their responsibility to teach the basic norms of Wikipedia and to include assignments that promote submissions that have the potential for being acceptable articles. In particular, WEF-USCA will emphasize the instructors' responsibility to emphasize Wikipedia's citation policies, to check postings for possible copyright violations or plagiarism, and to penalize students who do not comply. The community will review the work and assist student editors as it does for all editors, and the community can expect that people trained by WEF-USCA will understand the fundamental standards that new editors and submissions are expected to meet.
- WEF-USCA'S procedures will inform all members of the responsibility for editing and supervision. Thus, class work on articles or discussions will be attributable to the appropriate class in order to comply with Wikipedia policy. In other words, WEF-USCA will maintain a clear database and record of contributions coming from its programmatic work and will foster an atmosphere where members want to participate in discussions and improve work.
Informing this proposal
The really great thing about the RfC is that the Working Group was still in the midst of a work-in-progress when we shared our drafts with the community, and many Wikipedia editors gave us a clearer direction about some of the work we needed (and still need) to do. In fact, that first iteration has drastically changed, especially as we acknowledge the importance of working transparently, including all interested parties whenever possible, and creating a system of accountability for the new organization. We are grateful to our many passionate communities and deeply look forward to forming an even more comprehensive and diverse community among those interested in strengthening the relationship between Wikipedia and Academia.
Needs from Initial Board and Central Staff
The Working Group originally set some goals that we later decided are more realistic to accomplish from January—May 2013. Most of these goals require very detailed knowledge of how the new organization and its Board plan to operate. In many instances, we believe the new staff, who will implement these decisions, should agree on a viable plan to do so. Here is a list of those goals and some important steps that need to take place from January-June 2013.
- Engage the Wikipedia-editing community (see above) in the final decisions of the Working Group. Keep open channels for feedback with a plan to listen.
- A proposed 12-month budget that includes staffing, general administrative needs, and project requirements
- A detailed job description for critical positions that will lead the formation of WEF-USCA; be responsible for full implementation of the strategy
- A proposed Academic Advisory Council charter and structure that would eventually represent the interests of the wider academic community
- A proposed student, instructor, faculty, institution engagement methodology
- A proposed long-term funding strategy to include a list of potential partners in industry and Academia—foundations, large corporations, associations, etc. that might support longer-term funding and marketing requirements.
- WikiProject engagement
- Wikipedia Chapter engagement
- Ambassador engagement
Transition and timeline
Transition to the new organizational model
The Working Group knows that one of the top priorities from January—May 2013 will be implementing a transition plan. Now that WEF-USCA'S internal and volunteer model will transition to a decentralized program, we must emphasize community-building and integrating into the existing infrastructure on Wikipedia and at academic institutions.
While the Initial Board will spend a lot of time incorporating the new organization and focusing on high-level issues (i.e. how to fund the organization), a group of Ambassadors (Transition Team) has formed a focus group to help transition from the current Education Program to WEF-USCA's new model from January—May 2013.
The Transition Team will work closely with the current Wikimedia Foundation Education Program staff to reengage Wikipedia Ambassadors, build up the communities of Ambassadors, Wikipedians, and instructors, and will start the process of creating the first WikiEd Groups.
Here is a list of knowledge, functions, and materials that the Working Group has identified as needing to transfer from the current program to the new organization in order to have a successful transition:
- methods to evaluate classes and hold them accountable
- methods for incentivizing volunteers
- information about past problems and resolutions with classes, Ambassadors, professors, etc.
- suggestions for engaging key Wikipedians—both those who support and those who oppose the program
- history of the Wikipedia Education Program
- promising practices for organizing conferences, Ambassador trainings, summits, etc.
- contact lists of professors, Ambassadors, trainers, and other volunteers
- list of available and relevant online resources
- list of past classes and participating universities
- list of key supporters in Academia, Wikipedia, etc.
- list of funders and potential funders
- information about ties to academic organizations
- information about past presentations and conferences
- building WikiEd Groups, which includes organizing existing participants into the new model
- needed campus visits
- outreach to new Ambassadors and professors
- reconceptualizing online support
- legal support for the program and administrative functions
- liaise with program members and participants
- continued communication with Wikimedia Foundation
Here are some of the major milestones that the Initial Board will seek to accomplish during the transitional phase of WEF-USCA.
- November 15: send first iteration of Working Group proposal to Wikimedia Foundation for comment
- November 20: Initial Board of Directors established
- December 21: send final Working Group proposal to Wikimedia Foundation for comment
- January 27: submit proposal to Affiliations Committee
- January 27: submit grant proposal to Grant Proposal Committee to secure funding through June 30, 2013.
- January 27 : Wider Wikipedia community is informed of a system where they can give feedback about WEF-USCA
- February 1 : Initial Board and Transition Team work with Wikipedia Education Program staff members to build communities and start creating the first WikiEd Groups
- February 9 : The official “passing of the torch” from WMF to WEF-USCA
- February 15 : Executive Director search has begun
- February 15 : Initial Board members begin grant-writing process; Executive Director will contribute when hired, and the Board may decide to hire a professional grant-writer
- March 1 : be fully incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization
- April 1 : Executive Director and Board have decided on a location for headquarters and begun hiring any additional necessary staff members, if funding is secured
- April 30 : WEF-USCA has secured funding through the following year
- June 30 : WEF-USCA is ready to assume leadership and responsibility for the program
- August 30 : By this point, the Initial Board will have transitioned to a fully operating Board of Directors that meets all requirements and has been elected by the appropriate communities
The Working Group has agreed that it would like WEF-USCA, when financially and operationally possible, to focus on endorsing and improving “Wikipedia Studies”. Since this is mentioned at a few points in the proposal, here is an introductory essay about what “Wikipedia Studies” is and why it matters to this organization.
In response to the 'Innovation' and 'Outsider Perception' sections of the “Future Picture”.
The academy does now study Wikipedia. Computer Science investigates Wikipedia as a computer network phenomenon. Social Scientists study who participates in Wikipedia, their interactions, and their collaborative style. Economists attempt to understand why people work with tireless dedication without pay. Business schools are interested in how the knowledge base can be tapped to improve efficiencies and reach new markets. And rhetoricians are interested in how writing itself is affected when readers not only write back to authors, but also delete their words. If the purpose of academe is to create and disseminate original knowledge, the current state of its engagement with Wikipedia is active and healthy by its own traditions.
But the knowledge produced by these projects is by the lights and the epistemologies of each enquirer. As biologists seek to understand the world of life around us, they bring the lenses of scientists, and report back to fellow scientists. While they might not be oblivious to the question of whether the larger public understands their work, the translation of that knowledge to the larger public is beyond their concern. So too are most of the forays of higher education in to Wikipedia: the information they yield is driven by the disciplinary concerns of knowledge communities which spawn them; the fifth largest, and most active, website in the world is largely unaffected by their findings.
Even as the inquiries of Higher Education in to Wikipedia are sporadic and unorganized, the need for sustained cooperation between the Wikipedia community and higher education continues to grow. Consider that recent studies show that much of the “low hanging fruit” of English Wikipedia contributing has now been plucked. Though there is clearly additional room and permanent need for contributions from a broad base of public users, the trend of these studies on the growth of knowledge base within the English language Wikipedia indicates that as the on-wiki data matures, it needs more specialized knowledge contributions. The Fight Club page is well-developed; the page for the filmmaking technique of Pathécolor needs a little help. The latter types of contributions random users might be less likely to have, while the specialized users of the academy might. How does Wikipedia identify these new contributors? Will the methods that have worked in the past to attract contributors continue to work in the future? What types of motivations are in play?
The Wikipedia contributing community could benefit from a more structured partnership with the sustained communities of expertise found in the academy. As has been demonstrated in German language Wikipedia, it is possible to structure periodic dialogue between the contributing community and academic experts, with the academic community providing reviews and guidance when requested. What has been less explored is structuring these interactions so that the existing academic commitment to public service can be tapped as a motivation for participation: acknowledgement of advising Wikipedia development could fit within the traditional tenure and promotion process for academics and perhaps a badging system for reviewed content.
And, of course, Wikipedia has been used for years now as a teaching platform. Though many of the editors who worked with the India Education Program may disagree, student contributions to Wikipedia represent an important introduction of the site to thousands of experts in training who might have been dissuaded from ever using the site, much less understanding how to participate within it. Unfortunately many in the Academy still discredit Wikipedia as a research tool, but fail to understand how teaching students to enter the Wikipedia editing community is an excellent pedagogical tool.
So the Academy has a lot to offer Wikipedia: specialized knowledge contributions to individual pages by both students and experts, review and advising functions within WikiProject communities, study of the role and place of Wikipedia within the culture and economy, and perhaps even advocacy for the roles it shares with Wikipedia -- knowledge production and education.
What does Wikipedia have to offer the Academy?
Wikipedia is arguably the most significant development in the collection and access of human knowledge in history. And most members of the Academy still obsess over students citing it in their term papers. In the limited debate over the reliability of a crowd-sourced reference, most academics miss the real potential. The academy needs to understand how the Wikipedia mission of making the sum of human knowledge freely accessible translates in to a powerful tool to for education and research, perhaps limitless in its transformative potential. How does global education change when knowledge is freely available? How do these two communities realize their shared goals? What permanent facility gives structure and support to their mutual inquiries? Many academics are indeed interested in a more structured engagement with Wikipedia, and, in fact, already participate in a community identified as “Wikipedia Studies.” At the time of writing, 58 academics from across the globe have registered on the site as holding that subject in interest, and have have posted more than 95 research papers focusing on that topic.
Indeed, as the Wikimedia Foundation realizes from the Higher Education Summit it sponsored in 2011, there is ample interest and engagement in Wikipedia from academics along several tracks: Learning the technical and community rules of editing, understanding the roles of ambassadors and teaching support documents, how to effectively support class goals with Wikipedia, and understanding Wikipedia culture. The Summit represented not only the culmination of the Public Policy Initiative, but a substantial investment in higher education by the Wikimedia Foundation. That investment continues to pay dividends today, as academics who attended the Summit continue to teach with Wikipedia.
Thus, Wikipedia Studies already exists. Heretofore it has been defined primarily as the contribution to Wikipedia as a teaching tool. But if it is to grow, inform, and promote the mutual goals of higher education and Wikipedia, it needs a sustained, sponsored framework. A center of gravity. Thus, we have proposed that the new enterprise will have four main goals: The new structure will have four main goals: 1. Support and promote teaching and learning with Wikipedia; 2. Build community around teaching and learning with Wikipedia; 3. Support the research of Wikipedia, its role with the larger information culture, and 4. Promote Wikipedia Studies – an academic field which supports the overlapping roles of Higher Education in creating and disseminating original knowledge, and Wikipedia in providing free access to the sum of human knowledge.