The Wikimedia Education Program currently spans 60 programs around the world. Students and instructors participate at almost every level of education. Subjects covered include law, medicine, arts, literature, information science, biology, history, psychology, and many others. This Signpost series presents a snapshot of the Wikimedia Global Education Program as it exists in 2014. We interviewed participants and facilitators from the United States and Canada, Serbia, Israel, the Arab World, and Mexico, in addition to the Wikimedia Foundation.
Education presentation by Dr. Martin Poulter of Wikimedia UK
Wikimedia Education in Egypt
Based on emails with Samir El-Sharbaty, member of the Egypt Wikimedians user group which was approved in July 2014 by the Affiliations Committee
Participants in the first Campus Ambassador training in Cairo, 2012
Recruiting poster at the Faculty of Alasun (Languages) at Ain Shams University, 2012
Congratulations for getting user group recognition from the Affiliations Committee. Does the user group plan to involve itself with the Wikipedia Education Program in Egypt, and if yes, how?
- Yes, the WEP is one of the top priorities of the user group. Also most of the founding users of the user group are Education Program Volunteers, like Walaa Abdelmonem, Ahmed Mohi, Mohamed Ouda, May Hachem and I. The relationship between the user group and volunteers and activities is meant to be a mutually beneficial relationship meaning that the user group will aim at supporting the wiki movement volunteers in Egypt while volunteers will help organize events and activities to support existing users and attract new ones.
How would you describe the current WEP program in Egypt?
Photo from the 4th Wikipedia Education Celebration Conference in Cairo, 2014. 88% of Egyptian Wikipedia Education Program participants were women
- The Egypt Education Program is the program of heroes. Although volunteers went through many challenges they were able to prove themselves with great results. Last term, our students were able to record some numbers like 22 new articles per student, 88% Female users, and 7 million bytes added by one institution. The number of articles was 2,435 (from that institution).
How many high schools and universities participate in WEP in Egypt, and how many instructors and students participate?
- We have 3 institutions with 9 courses this term and new ones are coming soon. The number of campus volunteers is 10 and instructors are 6. The participating institutions are the Faculty of Alalsun (Languages) and Faculty of Arts in Ain Shams University, and the Faculty of Arts in Cairo University.
Which languages of Wikipedia do students read and edit?
- Students read many versions of Wikipedia and translate from them but most of them edit the Arabic Wikipedia only.
How much student activity is translation and how much is new prose?
- 6 of our courses are translation courses and 3 are Arabic research based courses.
Besides Wikipedia, do students or instructors contribute to other Wikimedia projects like Wiktionary, Wikisource, or Commons?
- In the past four terms our students edited Wikipedia only but this term we will train them on taking and uploading photos to Wikimedia Commons.
How many Egyptian Wikimedia volunteers assist students and instructors?
- We have 15 members in the user group, 5 of them are WEP volunteers.
Is there anything else that ‘’Signpost’’ readers should know about the Education Program in Egypt?
- No, thanks.
Another photo from the 4th Wikipedia Education Celebration Conference in Cairo, 2014
Wikimedia Education in the broader Arab World
Based on emails and a Skype interview with Tighe Flanagan, WMF Arab World Wikipedia Education Program Manager
Professor Abeer Abd El-Hafez (front row just to the left of the centre) and her group of participants in the Cairo pilot, 6 March, 2011
”The Wikipedia Translation Center at the College of Languages and Translation" in 2013 at King Saud University
in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Can you describe how the Education Program started in the Arab World?
- The Wikipedia Education Program started in the Arab world in 2012 with a pilot program at Cairo University and Ain Shams University in Egypt. The first term had 7 classes and 54 students, and they added 1,855,454 bytes of content to the Arabic Wikipedia (divide bytes in half to compare with Latin script because of complex characters). This was before I joined my team, but my understanding is that this decision came out of a convening of Arab Wikipedians that was hosted in Doha in 2011 (see this blog post). The team at the WMF invested a lot of time and effort in getting off to a good start with trainings for professors and Wikipedia Ambassadors. There is a detailed report on-wiki.
How many instructors and students currently participate in the program?
Workshop banner at King Saud University
- Currently I describe the various iterations and initiatives in the region as the Arab World Programs, since each country has its own dynamics, base of volunteers, and history. For example, we're in the 5th semester or iteration of the program in Egypt and the 3rd in Jordan. Right now, it looks like we have:
- 7 classes in Egypt with 51 students registered on course pages on the education extension.
- 10 classes in Jordan with 81 students registered
- Egypt and Jordan have both decided locally to extend the editing period through the beginning of August to give students to opportunity to edit over the summer during and during the month of Ramadan, especially in Egypt where the normal academic calendar was disrupted by political events making normal workshops and edit-a-thons impossible during this past semester.
- One struggle we have with some programs is getting everything properly tracked on-wiki. The education extension has been a huge help with that, and the forthcoming campaigns extension should only make things better and integrate more with our other tracking tools like Wikimetrics.
Which countries currently participate?
“Group photo on the roof of the Amman International Hotel” on the second day of the Arab World regional education hackathon, May 2014
- We had a regional WEP Hackathon last month with volunteers participating from Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Our volunteers from Yemen are working to get a pilot class launched at Sana'a University this fall. Volunteers in Saudi Arabia are working to get students to publish their work online (currently there is a lot of translation that happens offline or is impossible to track so far).
- In terms of trackable student activity, universities and schools in Egypt and Jordan are our main participants. The Wiki Club at Princess Nora University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is planning on joining us formally in the coming year. Things like the education extension are making it easier for people to create course pages and register students -- and for us to track their impact on-wiki.
What grade levels are the students who participate?
- WEP started in the Cairo Pilot at the university level. Since then, we have had secondary school students also participate in both Egypt and Jordan. Jordan in particular has had very active students at the 10th grade level. This decision was made at the local level to engage at the secondary level, and we have been pleasantly surprised with the results.
As you probably know, Wikipedia editors are predominantly male in most languages. Approximately what percentage of the students who participate in the Arab World education program are female?
- We are proud of the fact that most student participants in our programs in Egypt and Jordan are female. In Jordan last term (fall 2013-14) it was about 70%; in Egypt for the same term is was about 88%.
How are instructors and students trained to use Wikipedia?
- Instructors and students are trained using the Wikipedia Ambassador model. Ambassadors have experience with Wikipedia, either because they are Wikipedians or have participated in the program as a student previously, or are professors who have taught with Wikipedia. These Ambassadors facilitate workshops and edit-a-thons that train groups of instructors, students, or a mix of both.
Do students and instructors usually use VisualEditor?
- Yes and no. I know our Ambassadors in Jordan prefer to teach newbies how to edit using the VE, and I know that some Ambassadors in Egypt prefer the traditional editor. We try to make sure we cover how to use editors in our materials since the VisualEditor is not available in all namespaces on all projects. And some students like learning more advanced editing using templates, for example.
What kinds of assignments do students receive when using Wikipedia in the classroom? For example, are they translating, editing existing articles, or creating new articles? Which languages do they use?
The CourseInfo tool
shows articles that were edited by a class in 2012
- Most of our students translate articles or improve existing articles through translation. Some students also write new articles.
- Our translation students translate from other languages into Arabic; English is the largest language, but there are also students who translate from Spanish, French, Italian, Hebrew, Turkish and Korean.
Has the program received any endorsements from governments of countries that are participating?
- No, none of the national governments has endorsed the Wikipedia Education Program in any of the countries in the Arab region.
How do you expect the program to develop in the next few years?
- The programs are being steered and managed day-to-day by local volunteers -- a mix of professors and Wikipedians and active student leaders. We are eager to see the programs continue to grow and scale, but also making sure that the relatively small Arabic Wikipedia community (about 600 active editors and less than 100 very active editors each month, on average) is able to absorb the new batches of editors and their contributions.
- I also expect more and more classes to have specific topic focuses that fill specific content gaps on the Arabic Wikipedia as those needs are better identified.
Is there anything else that you would like Signpost readers to know about the program?
- The Wikipedia Education Programs in the Arab world should be thought of as a variety of programs, not a single entity. They all work on the same project, but operate in a variety of contexts. I am eager to work with all types of volunteers in the Movement (and movement-aligned volunteers who aren't Wikipedians) to make a positive impact on Wikipedia, especially the Arabic version.
In addition to the written email interview above, we spoke by Skype.
- Tighe speaks English, Arabic and French. English is a common second language for professors in the region. Many universities have translation faculties in countries such as as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia.
- It’s easy to market the idea of improving Arabic Wikipedia because there's a widespread push to put more Arabic online. People like the idea but getting familiar with Wiki can be a little challenging. Mission alignment is easy.
- Personal relationships are very important in the Arab World, such as having good relationships with professors and administrators.
- The biggest challenge is getting translation work placed online. For example, students often translate material as a part of their translation capstone projects. Tighe encourages students and professors to translate Wikipedia articles and place the results online. Translating open license work benefits Arabic Wikipedia, and the universities benefit because the translated material has an open license unlike many other materials that could be translated such as recent magazine articles or books. Some people hesitate to post translations online because they feel that a translation may be good enough for a passing grade but not good enough for publication.
Cultural norms: celebrations and physical artifacts
- In Arab countries, having capstone celebrations for course completions such as small ceremonies is important to students and professors. Celebrations are usually organized by local volunteers.
- Physical letters, certificates, and stamps are culturally significant. Students appreciate having physical documentation of their online accomplishments.
- Education program relationship with Arabic Wikipedia online volunteers
- Arabic Wikipedia is smaller than English and has a pretty good ambassador program. People can know who's who. Pending changes is in effect across Arabic Wikipedia; ambassadors will push through reviews and check for reversion or deletion proposals.
- There is some discussion within the community about whether the education program focus on recruiting new editors or creating content. The discussion is mostly friendly.
- Tighe's role is like a regional facilitator. Arabic Wikipedia Education programs started very hands-on, boots on the ground. Now the programs are more locally owned initiatives driven by professors and students. WMF helps with materials and the Education Program extension. Different countries will run their programs differently, so the Arabic Education Program is more like a network of regional programs.