Wikipedia:Education Program/Structure proposals/Proposal by Mike Christie
- Please list your name and/or Wikipedia username.
My name (and my Wikipedia username) is Mike Christie.
- What idea(s) do you have for what the new structure for the U.S. and Canada Wikipedia Education Programs could look like?
I don't think we can define a successful structure until we're clear on how the goals of the program can interact successfully with Wikipedia's goals. This means looking at both the successes that the program has had and the problems it has run into. For examples of the latter, see this draft RfC. We need to work out what form of class interaction with Wikipedia is a success both for Wikipedia and the class; that means that it has to be sustainable with a purely volunteer editor community -- we can't rely on a large volume of ambassadors to deal with the classes. There are genuine conflicts embedded in the education program: the students are required to do the work, and get naturally upset when their work is edited away, while the editing community is equally upset when they see a large volume of unhelpful edits. We need to understand what sorts of classes avoid these conflicts, and then help professors design the Wikipedia component of their classes accordingly.
The structure of the program itself should be similar to the structure of the working group -- equal participation from the education and editing communities, with foundation assistance and involvement. I think it's too soon to say much more than that about the ongoing structure of the EP; that should become apparent once we understand how to reliably run successful classes.
- How would you ensure this new structure involves all key stakeholders, including academics and the Wikipedia community?
On-wiki publicity would help to get ongoing involvement from the Wikipedia community. (In fact, additional publicity for this initiative -- to get nominees for the working group -- would be a good idea; e.g. a mention at the village pump and the central noticeboard.) Signpost articles can also help raise awareness. I'm not sure of the best way to get involvement from the academic community; I think this is something I'd have to hear discussion of at the working group meeting from the academics involved.
- What are potential pitfalls of this approach?
There is evidently a good deal of enthusiasm in the academic community at the moment for using Wikipedia; it's apparent that we don't have enough volunteers to support nearly as many classes as would have liked ambassador support. If we fail to harness this enthusiasm and throttle back too far on the level of interaction we are looking for, we risk losing our chance to ride the wave; and the wave may not come along again. There is a large labour pool available here and we have to focus on how to use that labour in a way that benefits both us and the students. The wave metaphor is appropriate in another way: a surfer can fall because he's too far ahead or because he's too far behind. If we have too much class involvement for the editing community to cope with there will be a backlash against the program and perhaps some form of editing restrictions placed on the student groups. If we make the class restrictions too onerous, the professors will lose interest and the classes will stop signing up.
- Any other comments about your proposal?
I wrote an essay for the Signpost back in December 2011 about the Education Program and outlined there what I thought its priorities should be. I don't think that increasing the instructors' involvement is the only way forward, but it's still an idea I'd like to explore with the working group.