Higher education summit
Wikipedia in Higher Education Summit recap
The Wikipedia in Higher Education Summit was held July 8–9, 2011 at Simmons College in Boston. Approximately 120 students, professors, online and campus ambassadors, and Wikimedia Foundation staff involved with the Public Policy Initiative gathered to review how the past year went, and discuss the future of the program as it expands globally.
Archivist of the United States David Ferriero opened the summit with a keynote, talking about challenges for Wikipedia in working with institutions of higher education, which tend to be wary of anything radical. For Ferriero, the National Archives had to be involved with Wikipedia because "that's where people are" and because it's a way to make its content "more transparent and available". He suggested the best way in experience of the Archives to overcome skepticism about Wikipedia is to encourage people to use and work with it, and that students writing for Wikipedia is a terrific learning opportunity.
Public Policy Initiative staff Rod Dunican, Amy Roth, Annie Lin, LiAnna Davis, and Sage Ross shared results from the past year. In 2010–2011, 24 universities, 47 courses, and 800 students in the United States participated in the initiative—200 students in the Fall (Sept–Dec 2010) and 600 in the Spring (Jan–May 2011) terms, and the campus ambassadors were 46% female. Outcomes for the initiative included not only improving Wikipedia content, but also helped improve students' skills in collaboration and media literacy.
Sue Gardner and Frank Schulenburg showing the volume of material created in the Public Policy Initiative.
After Ferriero, Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Sue Gardner gave a keynote speech on how the Public Policy Initiative fits within the Foundation's strategic priorities. She explained that the important goal for Wikimedia now and in the foreseeable future is increased participation, along with improved quality which in turn attracts more readers—a small portion of whom become editors who, in turn, help strengthen quality of the content and create a virtuous circle. In addition, increased diversity is a key goal of the Foundation, including closing the gender gap and better geographic representation. Already, the initiative has had much higher female participation rates than routine editing, and, by expanding the initiative to India, Brazil and elsewhere, the Foundation hopes to stimulate better geographic diversity.
Rosta Farzan, of Carnegie Mellon University, and the Foundation's Sage Ross demonstrated course tools that were developed in support of Wikipedia programs in universities, to help instructors assess students' work.
Breakout sessions in the afternoon included a panel with professors Jon Beasley-Murray, Brian Carver, Cindy Allen, and Chris Cooper, and sessions discussing the experiences of online and campus ambassadors, institutionalizing Wikipedia on campus, improving the ambassador program, and incorporating Wikipedia into the syllabus.
A key issue discussed was how to organize online ambassadors and match them with students. Should students continue to individually select online mentors? Discussions leaned towards the opinion that online ambassadors should be matched up with courses, as outlined in pod structure changes. This would allow online ambassadors to coordinate better with campus ambassadors and professors in a more consistent way, and hence could be a more scalable way of organizing the program.
On Saturday, Frank Schulenburg and Barry Newstead presented on the Wikimedia Global University Program and future direction for campus programs. Schulenburg explained that participation and interest in the program has greatly exceeded expectations, and exponential growth is expected to continue, hitting 10,000 students by 2013. In the next year, the program is expanding to Canada, the UK, Germany, Brazil and India, as well as more universities in the United States.
P.J. Tabit, coordinator of the India Education pilot program in Pune, joined the summit via video conference. For the fall semester, 13 professors in Pune have been recruited, and out of 700 applicants to be campus ambassadors, 22 have been selected. As elsewhere, the India program is expanding beyond public policy courses, including engineering, economics, nutrition and textiles courses, and a women's college.
In an afternoon panel, students shared their experiences, and there were breakout sessions for each U.S. regional group to discuss plans for the upcoming year, as the campus programs expand away from solely Public Policy and into other topic areas.