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News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement

Posts by LiAnna Davis

Third term of Wikipedia Education Program Arab World wraps up

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In English

Student contributions to Arabic Wikipedia, 2012-13

The Wikipedia Education Program began in the Arab World with a small pilot at two universities in Egypt in spring 2012 — and in one and a half years, the program has turned into a force on the Arabic Wikipedia, with students participating in the program in three countries adding content to Wikipedia as part of their university coursework. Many students translate featured and good articles from other language Wikipedias, but some students do original research and writing for the Arabic Wikipedia as well.

It would require this much paper to print out all of the Wikipedia Education Program Arab World students’ contributions to the Arabic Wikipedia over the last three terms.

The third term has just wrapped up, and students in Egypt, Algeria, and Jordan added an astounding 12.79 million bytes of content to the Arabic Wikipedia this term. That’s more than double the 5.97 million bytes added by students in the fall 2012 term, and nearly seven times the 1.86 million bytes added by students in the pilot of the program in the Arab World. The amazing growth of the program bodes well for the future of the Arabic Wikipedia. In three terms, students in the Wikipedia Education Program Arab World have added a total of 20.61 million bytes to the Arabic Wikipedia. If you printed all of the content out, it would take nearly 15 reams of paper to capture all of the knowledge the students have added to Wikipedia.

For a language Wikipedia with only around 100 very active editors, the impact of the Education Program has already been significant. With only 240,000 articles, the Arabic Wikipedia is still quite small for one of the world’s major languages. Students participating in the program report that many students in the Arab World are forced to run articles from the English or other large Wikipedias through Google Translate to have access to free knowledge; through this program, that knowledge is appearing in their own language instead.

Wikipedia Education Program Egypt faculty leaders: Samir El-Sharabaty, Mina Saber, Helana Raafat, and Walaa Abd El-Moneim.

Students at three universities in Egypt participated in the program: Ain Shams University, Cairo University, and Damanhour University. One high school class in Cairo also joined the program. Small pilots at high schools and Isra University in Jordan, and Dr. Yahia Fares de Medea University in Algeria added knowledge to the Arabic Wikipedia this term as well, and additional courses will be joining the program next term from King Saud University in Saudi Arabia. All told, 327 students participated in the program in the spring 2013 term in the Arab World.

Efforts in Egypt are driven by the hard work of professors and faculty leaders. Faculty leaders are volunteer Wikipedia editors who help recruit professors, find Wikipedia Ambassadors to help students, and coordinate activities within each faculty at the university. Faris El-Gwely, Walaa Abd El-Moneim, Doaa Saif El-Din, Helana Raafat, Mina Saber, and Samir El-Sharabaty’s hard work paid off this term, and we look forward to seeing the content available on the Arabic Wikipedia grow thanks to students in the Wikipedia Education Program Arab World.

LiAnna Davis
Wikipedia Education Program Communications Manager


US, Canada students contribute massive amount of quality content to Wikipedia

43.4 million bytes. That’s how much content students from the Wikipedia Education Program in the United States and Canada have contributed to the English Wikipedia in the three years of the program’s existence.

What does 43.4 million bytes look like? It’s approximately 29,000 printed pages, 58 reams of paper, 9.6 million words — or the equivalent of 17 full copies of War and Peace.

Wikipedia Ambassadors provide in-person and online support for students and professors who incorporate Wikipedia assignments.

The Wikipedia Education Program started as a small pilot in fall 2010, with about 200 students who contributed content to Wikipedia in place of a traditional research or term paper in one of their university classes. Professors found students were more engaged with the Wikipedia assignment, and students found they worked harder, learned great research and writing skills, and were proud to show off Wikipedia articles they’d written to family and friends. Volunteer Wikipedia Ambassadors helped students learn the basics of how to edit Wikipedia.

In three years, the program has grown dramatically. Now, more than 1,200 students in the U.S. and Canada participate in the program each term. Classroom-based activities are taking off globally, with efforts led by Wikimedia chapters, individual professors, and dedicated volunteers underway in more than 50 countries worldwide.

The U.S. and Canada programs are still going strong, with more than 70 courses incorporating Wikipedia contributions as part of the coursework in the spring 2013 term. Even more professors are expected to use Wikipedia assignments in the fall 2013 term.

The potential for future development is high; dedicated volunteers from the U.S. and Canada program have recently created a new nonprofit, called the Wiki Education Foundation, which will work to coordinate, improve, and increase Wikipedia’s use as a teaching tool in higher education. The volunteers running this organization care deeply about both the qualitative impact on Wikipedia as well as the learning experience student editors have during their assignments.

Student work from the Wikipedia Education Program in the United States and Canada is having a major impact on the English Wikipedia. Research shows the students are adding high-quality content. Some students’ articles get hundreds of thousands of page views, and the sheer amount of knowledge students have added to Wikipedia articles over the last three years is astonishing. After all, 17 War and Peace’s worth is a lot of knowledge.

LiAnna Davis
Wikipedia Education Program Communications Manager

School of Open offers free Wikipedia course

Students lean in to learn about Wikipedia. Photo by Ellis Christopher, licensed CC BY.

Pete Forsyth, an early designer of the Wikipedia Education Program, is now teaching a free online course on Wikipedia and Open Educational Resources, along with Wikipedian and education researcher Sara Frank Bristow. The six-week course, “Writing Wikipedia Articles,” recently concluded its first run, and will be offered again starting 14 May (Americas)/15 May (Asia/Australia). You can enroll here.

The course was born of Communicate OER, a project that seeks to activate the Open Educational Resources community to improve and update Wikipedia articles relevant to its field. Accordingly, as students learn about the technical and social aspects of Wikipiedia, they are encouraged to improve such articles as open educational resources, open content, MOOC, and free license. Students successfully completing the course earn the WikiSOO Burba Badge, which is based on English Wikipedia’s “service awards” and Peer to Peer University’s badges. The course is offered through the Peer to Peer University’s recently launched School of Open.

“This course has allowed us to bring together several communities that are passionate about the same things, but not always closely connected,” Forsyth said. “The OER community brings the values and practices that brought Wikipedia into existence to formal and informal learning around the world. The School of Open provides the perfect environment for a course like ours, allowing us to work alongside colleagues from free culture organizations like Creative Commons and Mozilla.”

Students are welcome to enroll regardless of their background; while some familiarity with wikis or OER can be helpful, it is not required.

“The WikiSOO course is exactly the kind of work serious Wikipedians need to be doing not only to make their encyclopedia better, but to make their community a more sane place to collaborate,” said Christine, a student who earned the WikiSOO Burba Badge in the course’s first run. “This course provides a solid primer of the skills needed to navigate the syntax, discourse, and guidelines you will encounter if you want to make substantive contributions to Wikipedia’s audacious mission.”

Enrollment in the course’s second run is open through next week. (The first class will be held Tuesday/Wednesday.) See the course’s page on the School of Open for more information, or to join the 60 students who have already enrolled!

LiAnna Davis, Wikipedia Education Program Communications Manager

Physics professor assigns students to edit Portuguese Wikipedia

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Professor Rafael Pezzi

Professor Rafael Pezzi, a professor at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, read about a new program to support university faculty members in Brazil who were interested in incorporating Wikipedia editing into students’ assignments. Rafael was intrigued by the idea, and thought it might be a good idea for his physics course for engineering students.

“Wikipedia makes it explicit how knowledge is built: a never-ending dynamic process with conflicting opinions in a lively discussion,” he says. “Although this process is fundamental, it is ignored in the standard textbook-based class where knowledge is just given, considered as an absolute truth.”

Rafael was impressed with the level of support he received in the program, both from colleagues and from the Wikipedia community. Fabio Azevedo and Israel Rocha served as Wikipedia Ambassadors for his class. They introduced Wikipedia and motivated the students to participate in the assignment. They were also very supportive on-line, clarifying technicalities of the Wikipedia interface and introducing the participants to the Wikipedia community.

Professor Rafael Pezzi and his Campus Ambassador, Fabio Azevedo

For Fabio, an editor since 2007, becoming a Wikipedia Ambassador and supporting Rafael’s class was a natural choice.

“I was motivated by using a modern teaching technique at my university, improving free content in my language, and helping Wikipedia to grow,” Fabio says. “I gave a talk on Wikipedia editing for his students in the first or second week of class. After, I replied to some emails, helping students with editing question and uploading images.”

“I must say that the help of the Ambassadors was key to making it happen,” Rafael says. “Without them it would not have happened, as I am not an experienced editor and created my Wikipedia account for this project.”

Rafael’s students really took to editing, creating or significantly expanding several important articles about physics related topics on the Portuguese Wikipedia, including articles such as Thermometer, Supercritical fluid and Interference of waves. In fact, five of Rafael’s students enjoyed the assignment so much that they volunteered to be Ambassadors for the current term.

“Basically traditional writing assignments are read once or twice and then sits in a drawer or folder archive in the professor computer,” Rafael says. “It is of limited value and does not really motivate the student apart from getting a good grade. With Wikipedia, the students have the real publishing experience and the feeling that what they write can help others understand what they are studying. Some get really motivated by this challenge.”

LiAnna Davis
Wikipedia Education Program Communications Manager


Arabic Wikipedia grows thanks to Wikipedia Education Program students

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In English

Bytes added by students in the Wikipedia Education Program in Egypt over the first two terms

With more than 280 million native speakers, Arabic is one of the world’s most spoken languages, but the Arabic Wikipedia has lagged behind other language Wikipedias in terms of the amount of articles. The Arabic Wikipedia has only 205,000 articles — a tiny fraction in comparison to the English Wikipedia, which has 4.2 million articles. But the Arabic Wikipedia has been steadily growing over the last year, thanks in part to the efforts of college students in Egypt participating in the Wikipedia Education Program.

The Wikipedia Education Program kicked off in Egypt with a Cairo pilot at two universities, Ain Shams University and Cairo University. The chart at right shows the amount of content added to the Arabic Wikipedia by students participating in the program. In the first term of the pilot, students added about 1.85 million bytes of content to the Arabic Wikipedia — an incredible achievement celebrated at a conference in Cairo in July 2012. In the second term of the pilot, which wrapped up in February 2013, students contributed even more, with over 5.97 million bytes of content added to the Arabic Wikipedia. In addition, students who we’ve introduced to editing through the Wikipedia Education Program have contributed an additional 515,000 bytes, meaning the program has brought a total of more than 8.34 million bytes to the Arabic Wikipedia.

Participants in the 2nd Celebration Conference in Egypt, February 2013.

Volunteer program leaders organized a second celebration conference at Cairo University on February 27, 2013. Dr. Abeer Abd El-Hafez, a professor of Spanish from Cairo University, opened the conference and spoke about the spirit of the program and its importance in the lives of students and teachers in terms of skills development and new experiences. Faris El-Gwely, the education program consultant who runs the program in Egypt, shared results from the second term, and the best students and Ambassadors from the program received certificates recognizing their hard work. Students and professors also shared information about their experiences in the program. See more photos from the conference.

Faris El-Gwely led a workshop for faculty members at Isra University and teachers from Jordan, pictured here, in Amman in late March.

The second celebration conference was a catalyst for the program to grow. Two more universities in northern Egypt have joined the program, Damanhour University and Kafr El-Sheikh University, as has Saint Khadija High School for Girls in Cairo. The drive from these programs comes from past students and Wikipedia Ambassadors who want to volunteer their time to further the spread of the Wikipedia Education Program in Egypt:

  • Walaa Abd El-Moneim, leader of the Faculty of Arts, Cairo University
  • Doaa Saif El-Din, leader of the Faculty of Al-Alsun (Languages), Ain Shams University
  • Helana Raafat and Mina Saber, leaders of the Faculty of Arts, Ain Shams University
  • Samir El-Sharabaty, commander of the Faculty of Education, Damanhour University

Egypt is not the only Arab World country to see growth in the Wikipedia Education Program. In the term that’s just beginning, universities in Algeria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia have joined the program. All told, more than 45 classes will be editing the Arabic Wikipedia as part of their coursework this term.

In Jordan, Dr. Nidal Yousef of Isra University is one of five university professors teaching Wikipedia classes this term through the program. The Jordanian Teachers Association is also leading a program where high school students in every governorate in Jordan will be editing Wikipedia as part of their schoolwork, assisted by volunteer Wikipedia Ambassadors. Dr. Abd El-Haq Fareh of Algeria is also incorporating Wikipedia editing into his free software class this term. And Dr. Mohammed Alghbban and Dr. Sami Bin Slimah of King Saud University are leading a Wikipedia translation program in Saudi Arabia in their school’s languages department.

We look forward to seeing the Arabic Wikipedia continue to grow, thanks to these dedicated faculty leaders and students.

Faris El-Gwely, Education Program Consultant, Arab World
LiAnna Davis, Wikipedia Education Program Communications Manager


Education program leaders gather to share experiences

More than 40 people from 25 countries gathered together in person in Milan, Italy, last week to discuss Wikimedia projects’ use in education. Representatives from Wikimedia chapters, the Wikimedia Foundation, and universities worldwide discussed ways to further develop the relationships between educational institutions and Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.

Participants in the Education Leaders Workshop in Milan.

Participants in the Education Program Leaders Workshop in Milan.

The Education Program Leaders Workshop was held in conjunction with the Wikimedia chapters conference in Milan, an annual opportunity for representatives from around the world to meet in person to discuss the future of the movement. The enthusiasm worldwide for the program bodes well for the future of Wikimedia projects like Wikipedia and education.

Notes from the workshop highlight the incredible depth and breadth of activities happening worldwide in the education sphere. Some programs, like in Serbia, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Brazil, and Egypt, have been in operation for several terms and have been achieving incredible results on their language Wikipedias. Others, including programs in Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, have dedicated staff people working on furthering their goals. Programs in Mexico, Switzerland, and Saudi Arabia are small but effective thanks to the dedicated work of individual volunteer educators whose drive to use Wikipedia in their own classrooms has furthered their language Wikipedias. Still others are just getting started, and many are exploring opportunities to collaborate with governmental bodies who work on creating curriculum and education policy to include Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.

“Education” is a broad field, and participants represented programs working with everyone from school-aged children to seniors. Workshop participants discussed the different activities relevant to education programs, and talked about the best way of setting goals for programs as a whole. The Wikimedia Foundation remains committed to supporting education programs worldwide through such support resources as brochuresa MediaWiki extension, and online trainings. Workshop participants agreed that developing a better system to share experiences across countries — perhaps a searchable database of learnings — would help programs learn from each others’ mistakes and determine the best path forward for their own programs. With more than 30 programs in operation worldwide, the future is bright for Wikimedia projects and education.

LiAnna Davis, Wikipedia Education Program Communications Manager

Improving computer science articles on the Portuguese Wikipedia

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In 2005, Professor Ruy de Queiroz of the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE) in Brazil was browsing articles on the Portuguese Wikipedia in logic and the theory of computation, his speciality. Ruy found them disappointingly lacking — but when he browsed the same articles on the English Wikipedia, he realized that they were quite good.

So Ruy set out to change the Portuguese Wikipedia’s coverage of these areas, by engaging his students at UFPE in the efforts. Since 2005, he’s asked students in his “Logic for Computer Science” and “Theoretical Informatics” courses to translate or write articles on the topics for extra credit.

Professor Ruy de Queiroz

“This has worked very well, and we have produced a reasonable amount of articles in Portuguese,” Ruy says. He’s being modest; that “reasonable amount” is more than 125 computer science and technology related articles on the Portuguese Wikipedia contributed through his coursework.

He then assigns his current students to read the Wikipedia articles his students from previous terms have contributed as a supplement to their normal reading.

“The articles were an updated source into the specific areas, with good pointers to the bibliography,” Ruy says.

Ruy says that Wikipedia cannot and should not replace a traditional reading assignment, but it’s a way of keeping students informed with more up-to-date material and accessible explanations of complex topics. He assigned Wikipedia assignments as reading in two courses he taught in the 2005-06 academic year at Stanford University in the United States as well, because they were the perfect supplement to the traditional textbook reading.

The feedback Ruy has received from students and professors has all been positive, and he looks forward to the continuing development of the Portuguese Wikipedia, so that it can be as good of a resource as the English Wikipedia is.

LiAnna Davis, Wikipedia Education Program Communications Manager


Contributing to Wikipedia as homework: The Wikipedia Education Program

The Wikipedia Education Program has a simple premise: Professors assign their students to contribute to Wikipedia as part of their coursework. These contributions can take many forms: writing articles, translating articles from one language Wikipedia to another, and adding photos, videos, or illustrations to articles, among others.

These programs, which are run by Wikimedia chapters, volunteers, and Wikimedia Foundation, exist in more than 25 countries worldwide, and resources are available in many languages to support professors and students. For many students, the Wikipedia Education Program is their first chance to have a real-world impact through their school assignments.

The video above discusses the impact one such student in the United States program has had, but many more stories exist. Interested in learning more? Visit

Student assigned to read a Wikipedia article that she wrote

Every graduate student gets assigned a lot of reading, but not every graduate student gets assigned to read something they’ve written. That happened to Jacqueline McCrory in fall 2012, thanks to the Wikipedia Education Program.

As a master’s student in Environmental Management at the University of San Francisco and an employee at environmental consulting firm Analytical Environmental Services (AES), Jacqueline knew a lot about habitat conservation plans (HCPs) — but there wasn’t anything on the topic on Wikipedia. So when she enrolled in Professor Aaron Frank’s Environmental Law class in spring 2012 and discovered that Professor Frank assigned writing a Wikipedia article on a course-related topic, Jacqueline gravitated toward creating one.

Jacqueline McCrory

“I chose this topic because the existing article had very limited information and the concept is important for conservationists as well as environmental planners,” she explains. “The legal documents pertaining to HCPs can be extensive and somewhat convoluted to read through, so I wanted to create a source that would clearly provide the need-to-know information to interested readers.”

Jacqueline was excited by the prospect of writing something that would have a global audience, and further her study of the conservation of special status species. She had support from two veterans of Wikipedia assignments: Professor Frank has participated in the Wikipedia Education Program since its pilot in spring 2011, as has Campus Ambassador Derrick Coetzee. With their assistance, Jacqueline and a fellow classmate created the article on Habitat Conservation Plans.

Other professors at the University of San Francisco noticed that the article on such an important topic to their field of study had been created, although they didn’t realize it had been written by a student in their program. One such professor assigned the article as required reading for students in his fall 2012 Natural Resources Management course. Little did he know, the author of the article was taking his class that term.

“When I informed the instructor that I had actually written the article, he acknowledged the depth and quality of the article and invited me to prepare a guest lecture on the subject material for my own class,” she says.

Jacqueline didn’t just receive kudos for her Wikipedia article at her university: her supervisors at AES recognized her expertise in the subject, and gave her related assignments. She’s grateful for the opportunity that Professor Frank’s class gave her, as she says she would never have edited Wikipedia without that nudge. And she recognizes how beneficial Wikipedia assignments are to students.

“Most papers that we write for undergraduate and graduate level courses end up being read by the professor grading the assignment and remain in electronic folders to be deleted as trash at some point in the future; however, when published as Wikipedia articles, these academic papers can be viewed and used as resources and references for countless other people and may continue to serve a purpose,” Jacqueline says.

LiAnna Davis, Wikipedia Education Program Communications Manager

Egyptian student creates 68 new articles on the Arabic Wikipedia in less than a year

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In English


Walaa Abdel Manaem

Walaa Abdel Manaem had browsed Wikipedia whenever she needed to find information about something, but she’d never contributed until March 2012. Walaa, a native of Giza, Egypt, was enrolled in Dr. Abeer Abd El-Hafez’s Spanish course at Cairo University. The course was participating in the pilot of the Wikipedia Education Program in Egypt, and Dr. Abeer asked Walaa and her classmates to translate articles from the Spanish Wikipedia to the Arabic Wikipedia about Latin American authors.

For Walaa, the experience was eye-opening. A master’s student in modern Spanish literature at Cairo University, Walaa found that she loved contributing to Wikipedia. She started by creating an article on Juan José Arreola, a Mexican short story writer, on April 5, 2012. And Walaa was hooked.

“I was very happy to participate in Wikipedia,” Walaa says. “I like studying Spanish and Latin American literature. Dr. Abeer was teaching us the method and the application of the translation of Spanish to Arabic and vice versa, and her specialty is Latin American literature. She told us that there is a little information about the Latin American writers in the Arabic Wikipedia.”

More recently, Walaa has expanded her volunteer work for Wikipedia to include serving as a Campus Ambassador for Dr. Abeer’s class. She’s also helping out other classes doing Spanish and English translations as an Online Ambassador.So Walaa set out to change that. Today, she has more than 8,500 edits, with 68 articles created. Her article on Juan José Arreola has reached Good Article status on the Arabic Wikipedia, and her article on The Well of Loneliness, a novel by British writer Radclyffe Hall, is soon to be a Featured Article on the Arabic Wikipedia. And Walaa is steadily climbing in the list of the top 500 editors to the Arabic Wikipedia.

“I like working with Dr. Abeer because of her enthusiasm with her students to publish free knowledge,” Walaa says. “This assignment is very good and more suitable to our time, because our generation doesn’t use papers like a more traditional assignment.”

Although Walaa finished her M.A. preliminary year at Cairo University, she intends to keep contributing to the Arabic Wikipedia and expanding the availability of information available, especially in her favorite area, literature.

“My knowledge is published for all the world,” Walaa says about why she likes contributing to the Arabic Wikipedia. “I’m very happy when my work appears in Google as a part of Wikipedia and everyone can use it easily.”

LiAnna Davis, Wikipedia Education Program Communications Manager