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News and information from the Wikimedia Foundation’s Programs department

Egyptian students help narrow gender gap on Wikipedia

This post is available in 2 languages: العربية 7% • English 100%


Fewer than 15% of Wikipedia editors around the world are female and the coverage of articles about women on Wikipedia is often not very good. Although the Arabic Wikipedia suffers the same imbalance in its content, this is not the case for the Wikipedia Education Program in Egypt. The number of female students in the Egypt program is much higher than male ones. The program has also brought to the Arabic Wikipedia one of three female administrators as well as many high-quality articles about women.

Eman Waheed Sawabi, Amira El-Gamal and May Hachem are three students who never thought about contributing to Wikipedia until they enrolled in Dr. Radwa Kotait’s English course in Spring 2013. Dr. Kotait encouraged her students to translate Featured Articles from the English Wikipedia to the Arabic Wikipedia.

“My first article was about Alice of Battenburg (the mother of Prince Philip). Then I worked on Queen Victoria,” says May. “I like writing about women. I started recently writing about the Arabic writer May Ziade, so women are my basic concern. I’m anti-marginalizing women in any terms. Concerning writing, male and female editors are distinguished by hard work only.”

May enjoyed working with the wiki community. When she nominated one of her articles to be Featured on the Arabic Wikipedia, she started to make friends from different countries in the Arab world and meet new cultures when the members of the Wikipedia community left her comments or suggestions on the nomination page. This was a new experience for her.

May has also signed up as a Campus Ambassador in Ain Shams University in Cairo in order to help other students edit Wikipedia. “The idea of guiding someone or providing someone with knowledge is brilliant,” she said.

Eman Sawabi started her course with an article about Maya Angelou, as it reflected many social maladies that had been present in the American society, such as segregation and child rape. The article was a featured article on the English Wikipedia. Eman translated and expanded it to be featured on the Arabic Wikipedia too.

“I distinctly felt that being a female would add to Wikipedia more than what male editors do,” says Eman. “I intended to pay attention to one of the articles that talk about female figures that many male editors do not notice.”

After that, Eman wrote an article about Muhammad Al-Durrah Incident in Palestine. The article was a stub and she wondered “how such a controversial issue was outlined in a short paragraph on Wikipedia?”. The third article Eman created on the Arabic Wikipedia was Birmingham Campaign, which shows how accomplished, ardent, and sharp-witted African-Americans had been throughout claiming basic human rights.

According to Amira El-Gamal, “Men and women are equal. Everything is based on how much one is willing to give and how much one is being honest while translating.”

The education program for Amira was an exciting experience, she was waiting for an opportunity to help others and serve her society. She chose to translate an article about Geology of the Capitol Reef Area because she is fond of science and wanted to help students of Geology. Then she worked on two other articles about Sentence Spacing and Funerary Art to present an image of cultures history and how they thought.

Like May, Amira is now serving as a Campus Ambassador in her faculty. Being in contact with new students in the program and guiding them to editing techniques is another way to help her community.

Closing the gender gap on Wikipedia is an issue of quality, and these volunteer editors from the Wikipedia Education Program Egypt are helping close the gap.

Samir El-Sharbaty
Volunteer leader, Egypt Education Program


Learning from patterns: a new way to share important lessons

A learning pattern about how to allow multiple users to create accounts from the same IP address at editing events.

A learning pattern about asking for gender identity in surveys.

Problem: As a community, we need a better way to share what we learn when we work on projects that are aimed at spreading free knowledge around the world.

Solution: Capture important lessons in learning patterns – concise, actionable descriptions of common problems and their solutions. Organize these patterns into a library so people can find patterns that are relevant to the projects they are working on. Encouraging more people to create patterns, and to endorse and expand existing ones, turning the library into a living, collaboratively-created resource for our entire movement.

A learning pattern library is being built on Meta-Wiki, which is intended to help Wikimedians share what they learn about organizing activities like Edit-a-Thons, WikiProjects, GLAM collaborations, gender gap outreach, or Wiki Loves Monuments. It was launched as a joint effort of the Wikimedia Foundation’s Grantmaking Learning & Evaluation and Program Evaluation & Design teams.

What is a learning pattern?

A learning pattern is a kind of design pattern: that is, a simple document that describes a problem that occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of a solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice.[1]

The simplicity and flexibility of design patterns has lead to their adoption in fields such as architecture, urban planning, computer software development, interaction design, and education. Pattern libraries, or pattern languages, provide a way to gathering key learnings – important tips, tricks, and considerations – and for sharing that information with others.

The problem/solution statement at the top of this blog post is a good example of the core of a design pattern: it lays out the problem to be solved (or the question to be answered), and then summarizes the solution, broken down into steps or basic components.

What makes a good pattern?

Patterns are not right or wrong. A good pattern provides enough information to help someone implement successful strategies, avoid common pitfalls, and do their work better. A great pattern also provides links to related resources, such as similar patterns, project reports, and study results, as well as other relevant tools and resources on Wikimedia projects and external websites. A key feature of effective patterns is that they are written to be actionable: someone reading the pattern should be able to easily understand whether it is relevant to them, and how to apply it to the work they are doing.

Why should I write learning patterns?

Avoid reinventing the wheel

We pursue a wide range of activities to further our movement’s strategic goals – increasing participation and reach, improving quality, stabilizing infrastructure and encouraging innovation within Wikimedia projects. The Wikimedia Foundation supports many of these activities by providing grants. However, it takes more than money to organize, execute, and evaluate a project effectively. For instance, putting on a successful wiki conference or edit-a-thon involves many different skill sets, logistical considerations, and tasks. You need to advertise your event to the right people, distribute project roles and responsibilities, and structure the event so that participants get the most value. Evaluating the impact of such activities presents additional challenges such as designing effective feedback surveys, measuring the contributions by event participants, and reporting the outcomes of your event clearly and concisely.

The first wiki was a pattern library, and many modern pattern libraries use wikis to make it easy for people to write patterns collaboratively. However patterns have not been used widely within the Wikimedia movement. We are a community of writers, but the diligence with which we document important lessons – strategies we have tried, what we learned from them, and what we would do differently next time – is wasted if those lessons cannot be found and used.

Unfortunately, many of our most valuable resources for learning and evaluation are scattered across wikis, buried in archived reports, incomplete, out of date, or are only available in a single language. As a result, we sometimes find ourselves re-inventing the wheel: missing opportunities, repeating common mistakes, and working harder than we need to because we are not aware of related projects done by others who came before us.

The learning pattern library in the Wikimedia Evaluation portal will be a central repository where key lessons like these are captured in a common format that can be browsed, updated and translated more easily.

How can I get involved?

The library is growing, but we need your help! Create a learning pattern to share your knowledge with others who are performing similar activities, so that they can benefit from your experience. You can also endorse existing learning patterns to let others know that the pattern worked for you, or that you think the advice offered in that pattern is especially useful.

Over the coming weeks, the Learning & Evaluation team will be working with members of the volunteer translator community to make it easy for patterns to be translated into multiple languages. As our library grows, we will be working on tools to help community members find relevant patterns more easily. If you would like to be involved in pattern translation or tool development, contact Jonathan Morgan for information on how to get involved. You can also ask questions about and discuss patterns on the Evaluation portal Q&A board or the portal talk page.

Last week, we held our first online Learning Pattern Hackathon, and created seven new patterns. We will be scheduling more of these hackathons in the coming weeks. If you’re interested in attending, keep an eye on the Evaluation Portal press room for announcements of future hackathons.

Jonathan Morgan, Learning Strategist, Wikimedia Foundation


New Wiki Education Foundation directs program in U.S., Canada

In the Wikipedia Education Program, educators assign their students to contribute to Wikipedia as part of their coursework. Education efforts are underway in more than 60 countries worldwide. One of the pilot education programs, run by the Wikimedia Foundation, was in the United States and Canada. As part of Wikimedia’s goal to have the Wikipedia Education Program in the United States and Canada directed by volunteers, the program will formally move to a new nonprofit organization, the Wiki Education Foundation, beginning this month.

Existing participants, both educators and editors, should not be concerned that the new organization will bring dramatic changes. We’re interested in hearing about what has worked and what hasn’t, and using that feedback to improve the program in future semesters, but for now we’re committed to supporting the program as it currently exists—until better ideas come along.

The Wikimedia Foundation worked with a group of educators and Wikipedia editors to design a new organization to take over the Wikimedia Foundation’s role and provide continued support to professors teaching classes in the U.S. and Canada. Jami Mathewson, who is currently US/Canada Program Associate, will become the Wiki Education Foundation Program Manager and will continue her role as coordinator and liaison to the educational community.

Survey shows interest in evaluation in Wikimedia movement, with room to grow

The Wikimedia Foundation’s Program Evaluation & Design team recently completed a survey about the evaluation of organized activities within the Wikimedia community. Program evaluation allows the Wikimedia community to see if the programs and projects they are doing, often to inspire and engage people to participate in the Wikimedia movement, work. It’s important to find out whether the programs that we spend hours of work and much energy on, and may invest money in, can be more efficient, more effective, and more impactful. Program Evaluation allows us to do that, and the Program Evaluation & Design team is here to support the community in discovering ways to do just that.

The survey was completed in August, having been sent out to over 100 program leaders around the world. The survey’s goal was to get a high level view of how program leaders within the Wikimedia movement have been evaluating programs such as edit-a-thons, workshops, Wikipedia Education Program, on-wiki contests, Wiki Loves Monuments, WikiExpeditions, other “Wiki Loves”, and GLAM programs. We wanted to know what type of data was being gathered by those planning and executing such programs across the movement. The results show that people who run programs track a variety of different data points, which is good. We know how busy volunteers and chapter/affiliate staff are, so it’s wonderful to see their ability to include evaluation into their often already overwhelming workflows. We’re excited to share some results with you, and to explain our next steps.

Evaluation Capacity Survey

We had a great response rate – 69 of the 114 invited program leaders completed the survey! Respondents represented 32 Wikimedia chapters, three affiliated clubs and organizations and eight individual community members. Thank you to everyone who responded! Some of the highlights from the survey include:

  • Half of the respondents reported having received grants from the Wikimedia Foundation.
  • Edit-a-thons and workshops, photo upload competitions, and the Wikipedia Education Program were the kinds of programs which were most frequently organized in the movement in the past year.


Nepal kicks off Wikipedia Education Program pilot

This post is available in 2 languages:
नेपाली 7% • English 100%


The Nepali Wikipedia has a great history. In 2002, one year after the establishment of the English Wikipedia, the Nepali Wikipedia was formed, but our journey was not as fast as it perhaps could have been. After 11 years, in 2013, Wikimedians of Nepal was recognized as a user group, and one of our first steps as an official group was to do a pilot of the Wikipedia Education Program in Nepal. It was not easy, as we didn’t have any kind of existing organization at a university, but our pilot was a success!

First, we looked for a suitable educational partner for our pilot course. We used the criteria that the college must have an acceptable minimum of resources, including individual machines (computer/laptop), Internet availability, electricity backup and available time. We talked with a few institutions and ultimately selected Islington College in Kathmandu.

The journey started with an orientation for roughly 150 students, covering what Wikipedia is and background about the Wikipedia Education Program. We distributed a registration form to participate in our pilot program, and from the people who filled out the form, we selected 50 students. These students participated in a three-day training to make them more familiar with Wikipedia. Based on their interest and performance in this training, we selected 25 final participants for the Wikipedia Education Program pilot in Nepal. Students we selected were supposed to complete a 12-week assignment to write Wikipedia articles.

We scheduled the class two days per week (Monday and Thursday). We started the course by teaching skills needed to write Wikipedia articles, and we cultivated an understanding of free licenses and copyright. After a few weeks, the real work started. Students working in a team or a pair selected one location near the college as topics for their articles. Students went to the venue and collected all the information, snapped some pictures of it and researched it. After that, students worked together to create the articles.

This approach provided students a good level of confidence and taught them how to explore, how to write, and how to collaborate. Here are some articles they wrote:

In the second phase, teachers again asked students to write a new article for Wikipedia, but this time each student had to write individually. The idea of choosing topic was to write an article on something the student was interested in, but the condition was that the article should not exist in any language (so students were not permitted to just translate existing articles). Soon, everyone started working on their selected articles. Each class had different topics, like how to add a reference or citation, how to use infoboxes, or how to assure toic notability and neutrality. Some nice articles they wrote include:

In the third stage, all of the students worked together, so we chose the common interest topic Pashupati Temple. The world heritage site is a popular and prestigious place for Nepalese people. The Executive Secretary of Pashupati Development Trust gave us an hour of his time and explained the site’s historic value, its development, its current status and more. Two staff helped all of the participants visit the temple and explain each important detail and they provided published books to us for more information. Students worked together to build a beautiful article: पशुपतिनाथ मन्दिर.

Some of the other articles they worked on are here: विकिपीडिया शिक्षा कार्यक्रम १

In the end, 15 students presented what they built and what they learned. As recognition, we provided the students with a certificate showing the score they obtained and a special “Wikipedia Driving License.” This was the journey from 150 students to 15 excellent students, so I must say this was also one of the most important learnings for our team.

The Wikipedia Education Program participants at Islington College.

Last week we had a review meeting with the college administration. We discussed the result, the achievements from both sides, and ways that we can improve the program. Getting 15 students sounds good, but still we felt like we missed some students who joined and our task is to find out why. We talked about the best case for next time and we are thinking about implementing a Train the Trainers model.

After this exercise, we are feeling more confident about running this program and we are looking forward to implementing our learnings in the next course we run!

Prakash Neupane
Wikimedia Education Team
Wikimedia Nepal


Wikipedia Education Program expands throughout Arab World

This post is available in 2 languages: العربية 7% • English 100%

In English

The group from Egypt and Jordan at Isra University

Last month Isra University hosted two full days of events for the Wikipedia Education Program. There were many reasons to celebrate: Jordan had completed its first full term as part of the Wikipedia Education Program; a group of seven Egyptians made the trip to Amman to share their experiences and successes and contribute to more regional exchange in the program; and I got to meet some of the amazing volunteers who are the backbone of the program. In my new role as the Arab World Education Program Manager, I get excited every day knowing I am lucky to work with such a smart and dynamic group of people in Jordan and Egypt, as well as in other countries in the region and around the world.

During the visit in Amman, there were countless stories exchanged, both formally and informally. These exchanges happened in the conference room at Isra University, in the Roman ruins at the Amman Citadel and Jerash, and over group dinners at night. The two professors from Egypt, Dr. Dalia El-Toukhy and Dr. Abeer El-Hafez, explained to the group how fulfilling the Wikipedia assignments were for their students. Yes, there were many hurdles to overcome, like access to technology, but the end result was well worth the extra effort. Having their students’ work published online for the world to see was a confidence boost for many of their students, especially when the articles received Good or Featured Article status. Some students now even include this experience on their CVs.

Students from Egypt and Jordan exchange brainstorm and strategize for the next term of the Wikipedia Education Program Arab World.

What was equally inspiring about this visit to Amman was the effort of some Jordanian Wikipedians to meet up with the visiting group from Egypt. Jordanians pride themselves on hospitality, and this translates into the Wikipedia community as well. By coordinating with the group online, two Jordanian Wikipedians were able to join us for much of our time in Amman. They took great pride in showing us around the city, and also contributed valuable insights into discussions about the program, adding the perspective of the Arabic Wikipedian community. The support of the online community is crucial to the ultimate success of the Wikipedia Education Program, so we can all work together to improve the quality, quantity, and diversity of content available on the Arabic Wikipedia.

There is a lot of momentum in the Wikipedia Education Program in the Arab world, which makes me excited to see what the next year has in store. While the political future may appear uncertain in some parts of the region, we have seen that our students continue to have a profound impact on the online encyclopedia. This past July for instance, an unprecedented amount of content was added to the Arabic Wikipedia from our students in Egypt despite political uncertainty in the country.

Jordan is entering its second term in the program, and program leaders are hoping to include many more professors and schools. There is a lot of good momentum right now after our recent visit, and we hope to harness this energy and translate it into quality contributions to the Arabic Wikipedia. Saudi Arabia will also be joining the program soon, and we can’t wait to see the content those students contribute as well. Algeria, which had an extremely active class last term, may also explore new ways to contribute to the program this this year.

The Wikipedia Education Program in the Arab world tends to surpass any expectations. While we set the goals for the next year, it’s hard to predict what this next year has in store. And I can’t wait to find out!

Tighe Flanagan
Arab World Education Program Manager


Third term of Wikipedia Education Program Arab World wraps up

This post is available in 2 languages: العربية 7% • English 100%

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

Improving program performance: first evaluation workshop in Budapest

Participants from 15 countries attended the first Program Evaluation & Design Workshop

In the Wikimedia movement, there are many organized activities seeking to contribute to the Wikimedia vision and strategic goals. But how do you determine which of these programs work and which don’t? And how can you further improve the performance of programs? To tackle these difficult question, 26 international participants came together in June 2013 for the first Program Evaluation & Design Workshop in Budapest, Hungary. The event was held by the Wikimedia Foundation, in partnership with Wikimedia Magyarország, the local chapter.

With record high temperatures in Budapest, participants kept cool in the heart of the city, engaging in an intensive, two-day workshop that presented the basics of Program Evaluation. The workshop focused on creating a shared understanding of what program evaluation is, why it is important, and providing attendees with some basic skills and a logic modeling tool for mapping out their programs in order for them to begin incorporating Program Evaluation into their program work.

The workshop brought together 21 Wikimedians from 15 countries. The participants – all with a track record of doing program work – represented five different program types:

Topics of the workshop

Day one opened with a welcome by Frank Schulenburg, Senior Director of Programs at the Wikimedia Foundation, and a long-time Wikipedian. He gave a brief background on why Wikimedia is investing in Program Evaluation and what it is. Schulenburg stressed three points about the current evaluation initiative:

  • self-evaluation: program leaders evaluate their own programs
  • collaborative: we’re all in this together and we will learn together
  • focused on capacity building: our goal is to equip program leaders in the movement with the necessary skills to use program evaluation and design practices

Dr. Jaime Anstee, Program Evaluation & Design Specialist for the Wikimedia Foundation, then led the group through the basics of Program Evaluation – different types of evaluation and the roles of all involved in it while also expressing that the current evaluation initiative aims to be empowering, and participatory, while maintaining a utilization focus. The morning ended with a visioning exercise to see the positive and negative results of what the movement could experience with Program Evaluation, and lightning talks by the participants about the programs they have executed.


Writing about a parasite? Yes, welcome to Wikipedia education programme in Sweden

Pia Palm is an Educational Developer with focus on Information and communications technology (ICT) at Linnaeus University in Kalmar, at the eastern coast of Sweden. Joining with professors at the university, she has worked to integrate Wikipedia in education, specifically with students who are studying to become biomedical health practitioners.

Pia Palm

So what are these students engaged in writing? The most recent class just presented these articles:

The LRC at Linneaus University

Pia says that they have formed a team at the university to support the students in writing on Wikipedia. Once students receive an introduction to Wikipedia, they create user accounts and try writing in sandboxes. Staff at the Learning Resources Centre (LRC) are also helping the students by teaching research and citation skills. Pia says that the foremost reason to why they are using Wikipedia in education at Linnaeus University is to have students learn about digital media and to write for a greater audience. They have been running this education programme since spring-term 2011.

The task for the students is to further their knowledge of a parasite which is not, or fairly shallowly, covered on Swedish Wikipedia. They would do this by researching and finding literature about this parasite which they then used as sources when writing on Wikipedia. Students add the article about their chosen parasite, using these references, in an understandable and encyclopedic way. The students have to research and find at least three academic references to use in their article. Students were assigned a lecturer who, with the students, looked at the articles before making them live on Wikipedia. Pia says that students always are happy to get feedback from the community on their articles. She also tells us that the students may use the articles as work to point at when applying for jobs in the future.

Sophie Österberg, Wikimedia Sweden