The outcome of the discussion is not clear. A number of users involved in the project, both experienced Wikipedians and the target students and teachers, have indicated that they are pleased with the programme. These outnumber those who have opposed, who are mainly experienced Wikipedians; however, the number of opposes is significant, and the concerns raised seem pertinent. The concerns are about the quality of the work done, the amount of time needed to monitor and correct mistakes, and the value for money of the programme. These concerns appear to have been partly met with an analysis of the impact of the programme, which shows a net gain; though there is no extended discussion of the analysis by the opposers, nor an independent scrutiny of the data. As things stand, it appears that students and educators and some Wikipedians value the programme, but there are concerns among other Wikipedians which it would be helpful to address in order to ensure a smooth continuance of the programme, and its transfer to an independent organisation. SilkTork✔Tea time 12:20, 6 November 2012 (UTC)
The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.
The Wikimedia Foundation formed a Working Group in May 2012 to propose a future structure for the United States and Canada Education Programs. The Working Group, through in-person meetings and task force work, now proposes that the United States and Canada Education Program be operated as a Thematic Organization operating as a fully independent non-profit entity. This request for comment asks whether there is community support for the creation of such a new non-profit organization that would:
Support US and Canada higher-education institutions, their instructors, librarians and administrative staff that use Wikipedia for education by providing outreach, pedagogical resources, and administrative services.
Heighten the awareness and appreciation of academicians and research centers in the use of the Wikipedias.
Facilitate effective partnerships between the Wikipedia community and academia to improve the breadth, scope, and accuracy of Wikipedia articles and promote information fluency.
Work with all Wikimedia Foundation projects (such as Commons), not just Wikipedia.
Be governed by a board with representation from the editing community and academia.
Please read the more detailed explanations below, and consider supporting or opposing the RfC question below.
Instructors at the high school level and above have been using Wikipedia in the classroom for years. Sometimes these classes have been very successful, and sometimes less so, but there was originally no organized program on Wikipedia to respond to and support the students and their instructors; they were simply editors like anyone else. The school and university projects page was created in 2003 as a guideline for classes, and the first sentence in the first version of that page survives almost unchanged today: "If you're a professor, teacher, or student within the college community, we encourage you to use Wikipedia in your course to demonstrate how an open content website works".
The Education Program is a collection of several projects over the last two years that have the goal of supporting this engagement with teachers and students. In 2010 the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) received a grant to work with university classes to improve articles on public policy; the result was the Public Policy Initiative, which was successful and which led to several follow up projects. The current structure of these efforts is documented at the Education Program page: there are active education programs in Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Macedonia, the United States, and other countries (a few of these are currently supported and facilitated by the WMF; others are facilitated by local groups). Several professional academic societies are also formally encouraging the use of Wikipedia in the classroom: two such are the Association for Psychological Science's Wikipedia initiative, and the American Sociological Association's Call to Duty. A total of 55 university courses are registered with the United States Education Program for the Fall 2012 semester, and another 10 courses are registered with the Canada Education Program.
The Wikimedia Foundation’s role and the "Working Group"Edit
Working group in action
The Wikimedia Foundation has always intended for the Education Program to be run by volunteers rather than by the WMF. In 2012, the program appeared to be out of a pilot phase and into a successful program phase, and the WMF felt it was time for the program to be directed by the academic and Wikipedian volunteers who were making the program successful. The Wikimedia Foundation continues to support the program in the U.S. and Canada for the 2012-13 academic term, but also selected and chartered a Working Group in May 2012 to plan the next phase of the education program. The working group's task was to create a strategic plan for how US and Canadian classes working with Wikipedia could be provided with support beginning with the Fall 2013 semester. The working group is composed of seven Wikipedia editors, seven university faculty members, and two representatives of the WMF. The working group is facilitated and coordinated by Mike Cline (long-term English Wikipedian, Campus Ambassador and professional strategic planning consultant) and has followed a formal planning process to formulate the strategy and implementation plan for the new organization.
The working group has been collaborating in-person and virtually since July 2012. The internal working documents of the working group have been in user space during the drafting process. They are linked at Strategic Plan/Proposal. The summarized proposal below represents the consensus of the Working Group.
Recommendations for the United States and Canada Education ProgramEdit
For brevity, not all the rationale and background work for these recommendations is given here, but additional discussions can be found at the working group links above. A Q&A section below contains further information and can be used to post further questions.
The new organization will be responsible for providing support to classes and workshops run in educational and research institutions in the US and Canada only. The organization will support educational projects with Wikipedia or any of its sister projects, such as Wiktionary or Commons. It will not be explicitly limited to working with the English-language Wikipedia, though support for other languages may be more difficult to provide. It will develop and disseminate resources such as interactive guides. The new organization's overall efforts will support the partnership of academia and the Wikipedia community in a manner that (a) advances teaching and learning; (b) brings in new editors, ranging from university students to professors to content experts outside academia; (c) improves the breadth, scope, documentation, and accuracy of Wikipedia articles; (d) promotes information fluency and free knowledge.
The new organization will be incorporated in the US as a 501(c)(3). Legally that means it can accept tax-free donations. The new entity will not be part of the Wikimedia Foundation, but a fully independent organization affiliated with the WMF. It will apply to the WMF to be a "thematic organization" for branding and marketing purposes. The new organization will operate primarily through colleges and universities, other established research centers, Chapters based in the U.S. and Canada, and interested WikiProjects.
The composition, representation, selection process, tenure and responsibilities of the board of the new organization will be determined by the by-laws, which should be finalized during phase II of the transition to the new organization after approval by the WMF (see the section on timing, below). The board is likely to include representation from stakeholder groups such as the Wikipedia editing community, academe, and the WMF. The board will be responsible for finalizing the organization's by-laws, hiring critical staff (such as an Executive Director), and establishing necessary legal, financial and operational processes and infrastructure.
The new organization will ask for seed funding from the WMF in order to organize itself, and in the future will seek funding from the Funds Dissemination Committee. As an organization independent of the WMF, it will also seek funding from other sources, such as foundations, corporations and government agencies.
The WMF will make a decision on whether to support the working group’s proposal by November 30, 2012. The working group will begin reviewing the proposal with the Global Development group in the WMF by the end of October, to allow time to discuss feedback and modify the proposal if necessary.
In addition, the working group will consider feedback from this RfC when finalizing the proposal. This RfC will run for 30 days, but in order to keep on schedule the working group may provide the initial draft of the proposal to the WMF prior to the end of the RfC. Comments made at the RfC after the initial proposal goes to the WMF will still be reviewed, and if appropriate will be considered during the revision process the working group will go through with the WMF during November. At the conclusion of the RfC, if the WMF approves moving forward with the proposal, the RfC will be summarized and used to inform the actions of the new board and the new organization's staff during implementation.
On November 30 the current working group will be dissolved. The period from November 30, 2012 to May 31, 2013 is "Phase II"; during this phase, assuming that the plan is approved, a board will be formed, the new organization incorporated, core staff hired, critical processes established and operations will begin. During phase II the current education program will continue to be administered by the WMF. Phase II will be monitored by the WMF and executed by a small implementation team; as soon as a board of directors is created for the new organization, that board will take over from the implementation team.
If you have questions about the proposal, please post them here. We have included several questions and answers on topics we think are likely to be of interest.
Why is the WMF "spinning out" the US and Canada Education Program? Given the enormous interest in the Education Program, we need to start thinking about its future. While the WMF is fully committed to the long-term success of the program, it believes that the Education Program should be led by the volunteers, both Wikipedians and academics, who have made this program successful. The WMF is committed to the success of the spin-out process: two staff members provide expertise as part of the sixteen-member Working Group between July and November 2012 and staff will support the implementation phase (November 2012 – May 2013) as needed and possible, and the WMF will continue to support the actual operations of the U.S. and Canada programs through May 2013.
Why is a new organization necessary at all? Why not just let the students edit Wikipedia like anyone else? Classes will continue to be run on Wikipedia without any involvement with the Education Program, as they have since 2003. However, classes can be made much more successful if they have access to training resources and online support from Wikipedian volunteers. These are much easier to provide with central coordination and outreach. The result is better articles, and less burden on the editing community from inexperienced and untrained student editors. Having an organization helps enable established editors to teach potential new editors how to edit.
What about support for education programs outside the US and Canada? Education Programs outside of the US and Canada will continue to operate independently; they may be run by local groups, chapters, and volunteers within the Wikimedia movement. The proposed organization will not purport to be a global education program.
Will this siphon funds away from other WMF activities? The new organization will ask for funding from the WMF but also from other sources that are not tapped by the WMF.
In the discussion section below, Ironholds suggested a few more details were appropriate, so here is an expanded answer: Possibly, but we will do our best to make sure that doesn't happen. There are a lot of ways to organise this without taking money away from other projects. For example, there's an existing budget for the program. Suppose that budget is simply converted to a grant to the new organization, and the new organization raises additional money from other grants that the WMF can't accept. That would be a net increase of funds, and no change to the current WMF budget. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 12:51, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
Why is this RfC being run now, before all the final details are settled? There are two reasons we want to run the RfC now. First, we want to get input from the community early enough for it to have a significant impact on the final details in the proposal; and second, we are constrained by the academic calendar – we can’t wait much longer before it becomes very difficult to complete hiring and the other tasks to create the new organization in time to provide support for Fall 2013.
What happens if this RfC ends in "no consensus"? In that case we would provide the proposal to the WMF with the understanding that there is not clear community support, and the WMF would assess the feedback in the RfC and decide on their next steps. The working group would disband.
What is the governance model for this proposed entity? How is it answerable to the community?
The outcome of the discussion is not clear. A number of users involved in the project, both experienced Wikipedians and the target students and teachers, have indicated that they are pleased with the programme. These outnumber those who have opposed, who are mainly experienced Wikipedians; however, the number of opposes is significant, and the concerns raised seem pertinent. The concerns are about the quality of the work done, the amount of time needed to monitor and correct mistakes, and the value for money of the programme. These concerns appear to have been partly met with an analysis of the impact of the programme, which shows a net gain; though there is no extended discussion of the analysis by the opposers, nor an independent scrutiny of the data. As things stand, it appears that students and educators and some Wikipedians value the programme, but there are concerns among other Wikipedians which it would be helpful to address in order to ensure a smooth continuance of the programme, and its transfer to an independent organisation. SilkTork✔Tea time 12:20, 6 November 2012 (UTC)
The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.
Should the US Canada Education Program be established as an independent, thematic organization, as outlined in the section above, "Recommendations for the United States and Canada Education Program", and in the more detailed strategy and working group information linked above?
Please indicate your support or opposition below. If you have additional feedback for the working group that is not covered by one of these statements, please either add it to your !vote, or add a comment to the discussion section below.
The final proposal may include recommendations that emerge as a result of consensus of discussions on this page. The WMF staff evaluating the proposal will also read this RfC for feedback on this proposal, and may make further changes based on their review.
Support, as a working group member. I first taught with Wikipedia in 2007. The Education program has greatly helped me improve my assignments. University participation in wikipedia is important to improve content in areas that have been neglected, reducing systemic bias. Such support can help assignments be designed in ways that better help the encyclopedia and which lead to more new active users, as many of my students have subsequently become. DStrassmann (talk) 16:58, 29 September 2012 (UTC)
Support, as a working group member. I've been teaching with Wikipedia since 2008, before the introduction of a formal initiative. Since the creation of the Education Program, I've been very grateful to learn from other academics teaching and learning with Wikipedia, and my students have benefitted from having a larger collaborative peer group. I believe it's important to teach students to share knowledge responsibly and openly as members of a community, and my students' experiences with Campus Ambassadors and helpful Wikipedians have been very positive. I'm optimistic that creating a new organization to support this work will help connect more students and faculty to the Wikipedia movement as productive contributors and advocates. Jgmikulay (talk) 17:06, 29 September 2012 (UTC)
Support. First, full disclosure, I have discussed pursuing some of my ongoing projects with the Education Program. I think the Education Program is important. It acts as a connection between Wikipedia and higher education students and professors. It supports our core mission by leading to significant contributions from new editors. I agree that statistical support for the quality of these contributions and the new editor retention benefits are not robust, but I nonetheless think this is an area we should continue to work in and improve. Although enticing professors to become engaged editors may not have happened yet, I believe in the future that is still within reach, especially as the Wikipedia interface becomes more user-friendly and the site's reputation as relevant and accurate continues to grow. The US/Canada scope of the projects is a bit unfortunate but it's also pragmatic. Taking on global education support is a fantastic goal but not realistic until the Education Program has established and demonstrated effective practices in the regions where it has a working advantage of contacts, resources, and language. If they can't do that in US/Canada/UK, there's little hope that they can do it elsewhere. In short, it's a good place to start. There are also benefits to the movement by educating an influential demographic in how Wikipedia works and in what way it is a useful and reliable resource. I think it's important that we figure out how to do education support right and we need an organized approach to doing that. The assembled working group is a diverse and knowledgeable team, and I have faith that they can make headway on improving efficacy and reducing social costs and negative impacts. But they need a chance to do that. Thus, I support a 1-2 year phase in which the program can operate and demonstrate its value through a variety of metrics. If after that there are no clear benefits, then it would be timely to discuss whether it should continue. Ocaasit | c 15:08, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
Support, as a working group member. While some student contributions in the past may not have been great, having a dedicated well-supported group of people that aims to support faculty and students in making constructive contributions is the best way not only to avoid those unhelpful contributions, but also the best way to support the Wikimedia Foundation's strategic goals of increasing participation, improving quality, increasing reach, and encouraging innovation. There now is ampleevidence of success through this project too. Brianwc (talk) 20:50, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
Support. I have successfully taught two classes, one at the undergraduate level and one for doctoral students, that used writing for Wikipedia as an assignment. This experience was enormously beneficial for these students on many levels, not the least of which is that it radicalizes them to questions of Free Culture, collaboration, and wikis. Educators incorporated Wikipedia into writing assignments prior to the EP, and if it is going to happen, then it make sense to engage those entering into this community. From my own experience, the articles being added were worthwhile, and in subject areas that are not generally covered on Wikipedia, and I personally deleted those that weren't acceptable. And lastly, one of the most valuable aspects of the EP was mentoring the faculty: I was able to become a better editor because of the mentorship of campus ambassadors and online ambassadors like Pharos, DGG, Piotrus, SMasters et all, which allowed me to better edit/remove/flag the work of my own students.--Theredproject (talk) 05:59, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Support, as a member of this Working Group. I genuinely believe this is our opportunity to reevaluate support structures, processes, and needs based on the things we've learned over the past 2 years. I'm constantly hearing from new professors who are interested in using Wikipedia in the classroom, and I believe students have a better experience (read: will provide better contributions that stick) if they and their professors are set up with the support needed to tackle this new assignment and community of practice. Jami430 (talk) 21:25, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Support as a Wikipedian (1/2007), a Wikipedia Admin (2/2010), a Campus Ambassador (Montana State University-2010-12) and as the Working Group facilitator. This RfC is about the future--the Future of the Wikimedia movement, Wikimedia Outreach and the US Canada Education Program. This RfC is not about, and should not be about the past. There is no value in the past. We can learn from experience but we cannot change the consequences of those experiences. We can only change the future. Those who have opposed this new organization to date, and indeed are calling for the elimination of the Education Program are focused on the past. Their only concern it seems is not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Whether we have a better future seems irrelevant to them. There are two thoughts by very wise men which should be guiding our decisions: Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can? Sun Tzu, The Art of War and If you can dream it, you can do it. Walt Disney. Yet those who oppose this new organization, don’t oppose it on its merits, its desirability, its potential for success and its potential to do great good for Wikipedia, they oppose it based on the past. Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations. Steve Jobs and You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space. Johnny Cash Those who oppose this new organization even fail to get the past correct. They only cite the mistakes, the missteps and rarely give credit to the successes, to the good works by all sorts of ambassadors, students, faculty and WMF Education Program staff. When I read this comment above We get practically nothing but headaches, and waves of users who know nothing about contributing here, and have no interest in doing so after they get their grade. And we have to clean up their messes, with almost nothing coming in worth keeping, I was offended. Why?, because it characterized the extensive volunteer work that my fellow Campus Ambassadors and I have done at Montana State University over the last couple of years as useless, a waste of time and a burden on the community. I realize there have been missteps in the Education Program, but for opposers to characterize all the work done under the Education Program as a failure is not supported by the facts. To essentially say the work done by students, faculty and ambassadors with Wikipedia at Montana State University ..[has resulted in] practically nothing but headaches, and waves of users who know nothing about contributing here, and have no interest in doing so after they get their grade. And we have to clean up their messes, with almost nothing coming in worth keeping. is simply not true. (see a partial list of articles contributed to by MSU students.) I cannot speak for other universities, students or ambassadors, but I am confident there were many more successes in the US Education Program than there were missteps. It may well be that the successes of the US Education Program to date are not as visible as the missteps, but that does not mean they don’t exist or that the successes can’t be leveraged to create even more success in the future. This new organization is not about forcing or enticing students in university classes to edit Wikipedia for credit. That is a misunderstanding of the purpose of the US Education Program--which is a stronger and beneficial relationship between the Wikimedia movement and higher education. This organization is about creating partnerships between the Wikipedia volunteer community, higher education with its vast stores of intellectual energy and scholarly resources, and those philanthropic entities that believe in promoting Free Knowledge and Information Fluency. Why is this partnership essential for the future of Wikipedia? If we truly believe in the mantra—the sum of all knowledge for the human race, and if we want to create an encyclopedia of world class quality and scope, we have to involve the Academic Community. It is doubtful we can continue robustly growing the encyclopedia without them. Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can? What can we do to build a better Wikipedia? This proposal for a new organization is something tangible we can do! --Mike Cline (talk) 01:05, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
The problem here is that this is an appeal to the future, to what the program could ideally be. However, we must look at what the program promised, and what it resulted in becoming. We have seen no evidence that the program will necessarily change for the better; we must be realistic rather than idealistic. If the program is producing more bad than good, why should we let it continue and give it another chance, given the damage it has caused already? Also, the incident where the program asked bureaucrats to give out userrights that the community had not authorized them to give out was very recent. --Rschen7754 06:12, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
@Rschen7754 – Indeed this is not an appeal to the future, but a plan for the future. Your verb could is wrong. what the program could ideally be.. This strategy is about what a dedicated group of Wikimedians, Academics and Foundation members have designed the program to be in the future. And, given the opportunity and resources, the working group and of course many other Wikipedians and Academics dedication to the improvement of the encyclopedia, the free knowledge movement and information fluency will work hard and diligently to make the designed future a reality. Please read the Guiding Precepts section of the strategy very carefully. You have very succinctly asked for evidence We have seen no evidence that the program will necessarily change for the better without explaining what evidence you expect to see. If the nature of the evidence you are expecting is unknown to us, it becomes extremely difficult to provide it. What evidence would you like to see that isn’t already in the plan? No one can change the past, they can only change the future—design a future better than the present. If you expect guarantees that no mistakes will ever be made again, then I would say that is idealistic not realistic. I think the discussions below discussions below clearly indicate that the contention that the program is the program is producing more bad than good is a presumption that is more emotional rather than factual. DGG wisely identified a number of alternatives moving forward below. Unknowingly, he validated one of the realities of strategic thinking—The Future is Not An Optional Event-Everyone Will Attend. Knowing that, it is always wise to design a future that is clear, concise, measurable and desirable. I think this working group has done that and I challenge anyone to explain why they would be unhappy if the strategy outlined was reality in June 2015. Doing nothing or trying to extract absolute guarantees that nothing bad will happen in the future to punish the mistakes of the past, does nothing to prevent mistakes in the future and does nothing to improve the encyclopedia. --Mike Cline (talk) 10:11, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Mike, what could possibly have made you think "Unknowingly"? The realization that when there is an externally imposed deadline plans must be made to meet it is not one confined to specialists in organizational behavior, or that needs to be dignified into a formal discipline of "strategic thinking". DGG ( talk ) 04:05, 8 October 2012 (UTC)
Again here, you're basically saying that you can control what happens in the future and that everything will go according to plan. But we live in the real world, where we can't control everything, we don't know everything, and we don't know that our plans will work. In your response, please be concrete and realistic rather than abstract and dreamy. You're asking for the license to run another experiment here, and we need to know that it won't blow up like the last one did. Why should we give this a second chance? Otherwise, we're left with the reality that "programs that actively damage this project must be discontinued." --Rschen7754 17:52, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Support as an ordinary content editor who's done a fair amount of work over the last five years helping students informally (a lot of fun usually) and helping clean up during the IEP fiasco (definitely not a lot fun). I guess I'm the first one in this section who isn't on the working group. I hope I won't be the only one. I'm basing my support on the various alternatives that DGG has outlined below. I urge uncommitted editors to read them. Professors are going to use Wikipedia for assignments whether we like it or not, and in ever-increasing numbers. Stopping this program in its tracks will do nothing to prevent that and takes away what is probably our best chance to eventually develop, fund, and support a model of how to do it right. But please WMF (and USEP folks), listen to us! Don't pay lip service to listening to us. Really listen. I sort of cringe when you make statements like:
Remember that you will not be cleaning up the problems caused by your failed experiments, we will. So put in some thought and consult with experienced editors from outside your closed group before you cook up your next one. If you don't, each time you fail, regardless of your intentions, regardless of how many expensive post-mortems you commission, you will lose more and more of the editor support you need to make this work. Voceditenore (talk) 11:37, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
I think you're the third non-working-group editor to support; Theredproject and Ocaasi are not in the working group either. As for cleaning up -- of course you're right, but I (and the others on the working group) do expect to take part in any clean up needed. I spent a good deal of time on the IEP clean up too, so I understand the importance of what you're saying. I don't want to go through that again. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 18:12, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
Support,I'm all for the proposal. First the basics: we need more people to write for Wikipedia. If we can reach students early on and teach them to work carefully and often, Wikipedia content will improve. Why might we need a separate entity particularly tasked with the education environment? Because it is very useful to get the help in teaching Wikipedia writing to classes full of students. It is also very useful world wide to have classes that can be accessed. I have had undergraduates contribute to open access media for years. First, I had them write a set of readings, Mockingbird Tales: Readings in Animal Behavior, available for free download at http://cnx.org. But this was a huge amount of work for me, something I could not sustain. Second, I had students write for Wikipedia and post on their own. This worked somewhat and ended up with a Featured Article from one of the students (on American White Ibis). But it did not have a strong contribution from a key part of Wikipedia: interactions. Only by working with the education team, seeing how others were organizing their classes, and many discussions was I able to improve my course. We now have 9 assignments, beginning with small ones and moving on to larger tasks. My students are writing about animals of various sorts. There are so many lacking even the most basic entries. So, I needed the help. I got it from the Education Working Group. It is much more effective than what I did before on my own. I think there is a much greater chance now that my students will become lifelong wikipedians.Agelaia (talk) 13:33, 3 October 2012 (UTC)Agelaia (talk) 20:01, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Support, as a professor who used Wikipedia at Purdue University and Ivy Tech. My experiences showed that community college students and instructors need expanded support from outside sources. I hope the new organization focuses upon this distinction. I have taught using Wikipedia for 5 years. Josh a brewer (talk) 23:32, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
Support, I have taught three courses using Wikipedia and my experience is that if we can reach students early and teach them how to work on these pages in multiple stages, we can troubleshoot for problems with respect to content. This assignment not only improves the quality of articles on wikipedia but it also diversifies the kinds of topics that students choose to work on. We have roughly 10 assignments, beginning with small ones and moving to larger tasks. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and is writing articles that are neutral and balanced. This is one of the assignments that student are most proud of and continually edit. Kimberly Hoang
Support, am impressed with the results so far, with the randomized quality assessment suggesting that close to 90% of articles worked on by students were improved, often considerably. I especially like the articles linked to by DStrassman. And I like the way Colonel Cline's proposing to run this, reminds me of the best managed projects Ive been involved with at the corporate and NGOs I've worked for. IME the strategy/tactics distinction is used at high level discussions almost universally; its close to indispensable for orgs trying to achieve difficult long term goals. Maybe it should be added to the lexicon of accepted wiki-speak! Cant believe this RFC currently has only 50% support. With the community so often skeptical of good ideas for change, Im almost starting to think it would be worthwhile for the Foundation to use donor funds to check the wording of proposals for key initiatives with focus groups! FeydHuxtable (talk) 19:37, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
Support - Full disclosure: I’m a Campus Ambassador (CA) at Montana State University (MSU), a Land-grant university, as well as a proponent of the Land Grant’s mission of community outreach education. I’m an advocate for using Wikipedia in the higher education learning environment as a tool for teaching critical thinking, knowledge building, self-empowerment, community collaboration, volunteerism, responsible information gathering and dissemination, and 21st century world cultural diversity development. If the early creators of Wikipedia, with their vision of creating a free, open-source repository of world knowledge, hadn’t taken the initiative to figure out how it would work, hadn’t reached out to others for ideas and help, and hadn’t pushed forward despite enumerable setbacks and unknowns, the marvel of Wikipedia would never have launched and grown exponentially across planet Earth. Because of Wikipedia and its volunteer Wikipedians, the planet is now more deeply and broadly linked than Vannevar Bush could have ever imagined with his Memex Concept. Over the last several years, between higher education academic studies, the USPP grant program (in reality a Beta project) and the Boston Summit with it’s beta International Outreach Program kick-off and feedback, we've now collected data and experience and knowledge to take another creative and open-source entrepreneurial jump into the human knowledge future. Now we can try to formally link together, the world’s largest multiple-language, free, open-source knowledge-repository with enabling higher-education learning initiatives across two North American countries. Why these two countries? They share common cultural traits -- languages, heritages, and geographic regions, and they both have citizens with a willingness to try. Are we being innovative? Not really. The real innovation of using Wikipedia in higher education happened a few years ago with early adaptors in academia. What we are doing is enabling the scalability and success of using Wikipedia in higher education --just as Wikipedia enabled the collection and distribution of human knowledge across the planet. The US & Canada Education Program will enable the growth of subject matter and quality in Wikipedia, while over time providing additional trained Wikipedia content providers and highly skilled masters degreed CS majors --Wikipedians-- to carry Wikipedia forward into it’s own long-term sustainability and growth. McMormor (talk) 19:27, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
Support I am on the Education Working Group, served as an advisor for the Indian Education Project and Public Policy Initiative, have been teaching with Wikipedia in higher education since 2005, and wrote a book about teaching writing with Wikipedia. When I started, I made a lot mistakes, and could have reached a greater effectiveness as a contributor and teacher if I had the help that is available today. An independent foundation would ensure that support as a long term mission. Also, I tend to think that just as we academics can become too inwardly focused, so too are many of the arguments made herein against the proposal. The New Structure will be focused on more than just the improvement of Wikipedia content. It will also address the overlap between the mission of Wikipedia (making the sum of all knowledge freely available) and higher education (creating and disseminating knowledge). I realize too that there are a lot of legitimate objections based on fatigue with cleanup from other student projects. But the New Structure could help with that, too: I now grade students based on the aptness of their contributions, and their reflection on the connection between the editing experience and the course goals, rather than whether or not their content sticks on Wikipedia. This fixes the "Don't take my page down until it's marked " issue and is, I think, just one example of how we can work together to improve the interaction between our two communities. We need each other too much to walk away from this proposal. --Bob Cummings (talk) 20:44, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
Support. Better than any realistic alternative at this point. (FWIW, I'm not a member of the Working Group, nor am I currently an academic.) --Avenue (talk) 01:47, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
support -- if this seems like the best avenue for this arm of the education program, it's worth trying. No matter what happens, there is a huge demand for help from professors teaching Wikipedia in their classrooms; I hope this could be a scalable model. I'm a firm believer that having a central point of contact is useful, whether that's at the WMF or a chapter or a separate org (which is probably most practical for North America); I have no opinion on the specific structure. For full disclosure, I am a supporter of the WMF hosting some form of education program as well; but if the WMF needs to spin it off for resource/priority reasons then a separate org seems like a great way to go. I also respect the opinions/recommendations of the working group, who I know have thought deeply about this. -- phoebe / (talk to me) 02:58, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
Support, as a student who has used Wikipedia for a class assignment. Incorporating Wikipedia into a higher education curriculum is beneficial for several reasons. Firstly, it fosters a more interactive learning environment for students and increases the likelihood of them becoming active Wikipedians. Several of my classmates have noted that they continue to check up on their contributions from time to time and even feel a sense of pride from producing a work with greater reach and permanency (as opposed to writing a paper). In terms of content quality, I agree with Mike Christie that negative experiences seem to attract more publicity; the results of the spring 2012 research indicate a generally positive impact. A program with a strong support system would certainly generate continued quality work as well as expand the community of contributors. JoyceChou (talk) 19:55, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
Support - Some classes in this program have contributed great work, others have not. However, the fact that many classes have been very successful proves that the concept of using WP in the classroom is feasible and, if done correctly, can be very beneficial to both the encyclopedia and students. This proposal is for an organization whose focus would be to help classes contribute good content to WP. Since we have an opportunity to make the education program better, I suggest we take it. Disclosure: I am a member of the working group offering this RfC. Pjthepiano (talk) 20:25, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
support - As an instructor who is using a Wikipedia article assignment for the second time this semester I can say that my students are adding content that is otherwise missing, and wouldn't have been added without the education program. See for example, the "Women's education in Pakistan" article written by a student of mine in Spring 2012. With the Malala Yousafzai tragedy (the Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban) this article now appears as the first article on a Google search of the topic. The article is B-class. Sure, my student could've reported education stats more efficiently in a table perhaps (I did not know how to help create a table), but it is a clearly written article. However, getting advice and support from another colleague was essential in making me feel comfortable adopting this assignment in my classes. I don't know how else Wikipedia could provide support. Also, while everything is superbly documented on Wikipedia via links, there is nothing like going over these steps via a lab session (learning by doing). You should emphasize that. As a suggestion for the future, I would recommend putting together (and making available) a single powerpoint to guide a novice from creating a username to writing a basic, successful article on Wikipedia. I've added the lab session this semester and I'm working on the powerpoint. BerikG (talk) 20:56, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
support - I helped set up a course in which students contributed to Wikipedia and saw the experience as positive. The students' work addressed a major gap in Wikipedia coverage while maintaining neutral point of view. They went from passive users with a poor understanding of the volunteer labor that drives Wikipedia to active participants. The cultivation of more such participation is desirable. I've reviewed the discussion, and I've come to the conclusion that many of the objections are based on worst-case-scenario assumptions, as well as a disregard for systemic bias. Some topic areas and communities need to be cultivated. Mankad (talk) 21:12, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
support - The Wikipedia assignment that I participated in in college required my classmates and I not only expand and improve the quality of important areas of WIkipedia that could potentially go unnoticed, but also bring us into the fold as new, interested, and in some cases active Wiki editors. I likely never would have taken the time to learn Wikipedia coding, but because of this project, I can now actively participate in editing articles and I can teach others to do the same. Creating a new organization to support university Wikipedia projects could only expand these benefits. K Gagalis (talk) 19:39, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
Support as a working group member, as a Campus Ambassador and Regional Ambassador, and as a Wikipedian since 2004. The important thing is that we structure this program for deep community participation at all levels, which is a lesson that I believe has been learned from the experience of past stages, both in North America and globally. And we must ensure the community fully joins in planning the next stage of this structure as it evolves beyond the top-down approach of the pilot programs.--Pharos (talk) 01:56, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
Support. I am a university undergraduate student and I have worked to improve multiple Wikipedia pages in the past two years as a part of the education program. I believe it is necessary to continue to improve the content of Wikipedia through programs such as this, not only to avoid biased entries, but to also teach students how to effectively and responsibly contribute to such a vital resource. Colleenfugate (talk) 02:14, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
Support I have concerns over the lack of detail provided on the governance structure, but am confident that the working group will craft bylaws that respect the community's wishes. Educational assignments involving the editing of Wikipedia will continue regardless of whether or not we make an attempt to engage academic institutions, but opposing the formation of this organization just leaves the Wikimedia Foundation with one less tool to work with as they try to meet their ends. There are a range of potential benefits that could prove critical at this point in Wikipedia's arc. The Education Program has demonstrated that it improves articles and provides coverage of topics that would otherwise remain overlooked. Associations with academia serve to legitimize Wikipedia in the public eye. Independently, the organization will be able to secure grants and funding that would otherwise be inaccessible to the WMF. Gobōnobo+c 11:54, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
Support - As a student who was first introduced to Wikipedia editing in a college course and has subsequently developed an interest in contributing to Wikipedia in the long term that I almost surely would not have developed otherwise, I support the creation of this initiative. From the perspective of a young female student, without the structure of a classroom project, Wikipedia editing seemed opaque and often not of primary concern among my other pursuits. My hunch is that these very kinds of concerns may explain some of the systematic bias found on Wikipedia. Women may be more likely than men to feel intimidated or unfamiliar with Wikipedia coding and may especially benefit from a formalized structure to introduce them to the community. Additionally, university students and professors are deeply embedded within an academic culture that relies heavily on peer-reviewed journals and academic presses, while downplaying the merits of popular sources of knowledge like Wikipedia. The creation of this non-profit may combat these roadblocks. It would provide potential editors a formalized place of support to enter the Wikipedia community, and in the long term, may add legitimacy to Wikipedia as a whole in academia, thereby increasing representation of these groups (perhaps, this effort could even add a bit of a grassroots community-based knowledge culture to universities themselves). I know that when I learned about Wikipedian values in a classroom setting and benefitted from the support of peers, professors and campus ambassadors, Wikipedia editing became, for me, not only feasible, but also desirable in itself. While it is true that university professors could continue to assign Wikipedia projects in their courses without this non-profit, I am convinced that such a formalized structure is beneficial to the success of students on Wikipedia, the quality of articles they will submit, and perhaps even necessary to the expansion of this program beyond the US and Canada starter program. In short, the creation of this non-profit will improve student editors by creating a formal structure to teach students Wikipedia style and values; ultimately this reduces the burden on current Wikipedians to clean up any student mistakes as these mistakes will be avoided in the first place. My conviction results from my experience working on this project before the creation of the Wikimedia Education Initiative and after. In the spring of 2011, I participated in one of the first Wikipedia assignment courses. My professor worked with the class and support staff at our university to build the infrastructure for these pilot assignments. Thanks to these efforts, we were successful in creating new pages and improving existing pages, but the process was arduous and, at times, disorganized. In contrast, in the Spring of 2012, I again participated in a Wikipedia project course. This time, however, my class benefitted from a campus ambassador and pre-written clear assignments with step-by-step objectives. With this external support and prebuilt infrastructure, we were able to much more successfully and efficiently contribute to Wikipedia. Today I actively continue my contributions to WIkipedia. I worked to bring my class project article to "Good Article" status just a few weeks ago. I have also become a Wikipedia Campus Ambassador at my university and am working to promote quality Wikipedia contributions in a course taught here. I currently benefit from the efforts of the existing Wikipedia Education Program materials and believe the further creation of these sorts of resources will greatly benefit others as well. Virginiawhite09 (talk) 15:30, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
Support I am a TA in a class which is structured around improving Wikipedia articles. Although I have used Wikipedia as a resource for years, this class has introduced me and the students in it to how we can give back as editors. I see this project as a good educational tool and beneficial to Wikipedia as a whole if performed in the right way. Having direct outreach and mentoring to instruct professors in how to arrange their classes and monitor their students seems to be the most direct way to both use this potentially huge resource and prevent massive amounts of re-editing by established Wikipedians. Gsibbel (talk) Gsibbel 20:16, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
Support. Professors will continue to assign students to edit Wikipedia no matter what. Having a structure that can provide solid support to these professors and their students will be crucial to ensuring that students not only have a good experience but also contribute high-quality content to Wikipedia that meets Wikipedia policies. I genuinely believe this structure should be developed and led by the people who are most core to Wikipedia education initiatives— Wikipedia editors and educators/academics (plus those Ambassadors who fall into neither category). I applaud and support the Working Group's efforts to make all this happen. Annie Lin (Wikimedia Foundation) (talk) 21:07, 18 October 2012 (UTC)
Support I am an undergraduate student in a biology class that focuses largely on contributing information to Wikipedia. It's been a great experience to do research and add information so that others can see it. Gabriel.hassler (talk) 04:28, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
Support I am also an undergraduate student in a biology class for which I am required to contribute to Wikipedia. It has been an incredible opportunity to interact with the site and to play a part in such a wonderful resource. I hope to continue to be an active Wikipedia user and editor even after completing the class. Samara levine (talk) 20:45, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
Support I am a student in college who has worked on several Wikipedia projects for classes. I believe that student contributions can keep many Wikipedia articles up-to-date and can introduce topics that are emerging. My professors have received help through these projects before and I believe that this assistance has helped us make better articles. Many of the comments I have read below suggest that student Wikipedians do not contribute in the long run. Although this is true in some cases, we must also look at the general Wikipedia community. We are people who are passionate about the topics we write. It may be that we contribute one article, but that is still a lot of time and effort out of our day to make a good product. The quality of our articles will depend a large part on the support we are given, and that is why I support this measure. GenesBrainsBehaviorNeuroscienceKL (talk) 21:05, 22 October 2012 (UTC)
Support Now a doctoral student at Berkeley who used and contributed to Wikipedia articles as an undergraduate, I agree with the sentiments stated above. Student contributors, with the guidance of professors who are indebted to making knowledge production more democratic, are able to expand and provide news discourses on a wide variety of topics. Additionally, such students will feel a sense of accomplishment in being able to contribute something that others on the world wide web might find useful. darquero (talk) 09:56, 29 October 2012 (UTC)
Support Student editing projects, when given adequate support and guidance, can produce good quality content. They also represent important outreach opportunities. College and university students and their professors are a very attractive demographic in terms of increasing participation in Wikipedia editing. They have access to good resources, have received instruction on plagiarism, and share an interest with Wikipedia: the advancement of knowledge. Deprecating the Education Program is a step in the wrong direction; it leads to more insularity and reinforces the slow decline in our editor base. We need to develop stronger relationships with academia, and the Education Program is an excellent mechanism to do so. (Disclosure: this user is a member of the Education Working Group, an Online Ambassador, and an editor since 2008)The Interior(Talk) 18:14, 31 October 2012 (UTC)
Support. It pains me to disagree with editors below - many of whom I respect - who make good points. However, overall I think the proposal would be a net positive, and would give some direction to our educational outreach. Done well, our work with education is a *huge* net positive (but sometimes it's done badly). I think we've lost our momentum in some areas (particularly in terms of geographic scope and also capturing best practice) - and this new system would help us regain that momentum, I feel. bobrayner (talk) 20:03, 5 November 2012 (UTC)
Oppose. The proposal as it stands privileges one geographical community of editors over others in contravention to long-standing practice. The proposal also fails to address some emotive boundary cases such as whether US troops posted overseas are covered, whether non-US campuses of US institutions are covered (think University of the Nations etc), whether non-US-based distance students of US institutions are covered, etc. The previous Wikipedia:WikiProject Psychology/APS-Wikipedia Initiative had problems of exactly this nature: non-US based APS members failing to understand why they were ineligible because they were the wrong side of some colonial line on a map. Stuartyeates (talk) 19:37, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
Oppose. Given that this RfC is apparently intended to do double-duty on whether to have an Education program and how the EP should be organized, I have to land in the "no" column due to lack of evidence of any material benefit from the existence of the program. All signs I've seen have indicated that the program creates a lot of cleanup work for the community and very little in the way of useful content or new long-term contributors. I'd be open to re-evaluating this !vote on an RfC that explained what the community gains from running the EP and discussed the question of whether we should have an EP and what it should look like, but as far as this RfC, I'm afraid I can't support here if my !vote will be translated as a general "I support the continued existence of the EP". A fluffernutter is a sandwich! (talk) 20:17, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
Given misrepresentations by the Signpost about the substance of oppose votes, I'm copying here the comment I just left on the Signpost article: "I'm disappointed to see the author of this piece characterize RfC opposes as "mainly stem[ming] from experiences with the Indian pilot", especially considering that no oppose cites IEP as a reason and that this section of the RfC specifically discusses how that's IEP is not the reason for opposes. I don't mind being quoted as a poster-child for opposers, but I do mind my position being misrepresented, so I'm going to clarify here: I don't feel that there has been adequate evidence provided that education programs run by The Education Program (as opposed to run by individual Wikipedians who teach, etc) produce high-quality content that outweighs the cleanup work the community needs to do behind them, especially since most of the student editors don't stick around after their semester ends. Allow me to stress again: this opinion has nothing to do with IEP. This has to do with an RfC being launched on "yes! let's continue this program!" (which it was not presented as, until I pressed the organizers on the issue, at which point they addmitted that supporting the RfC would be interpreted as approving of the EP in general), without providing evidence that the program worked or benefited the community.
It is my personal opinion that even with the evidence the WMF has belatedly provided, after the RfC garnered opposes, the "evidence" addresses neither cleanup issues, nor editor retention issues, and that until we have a full picture of those factors, I am unwilling to blindly support the program's perpetuation. Again: nothing to do with some sort of "zomg IEP" kneejerk, just one editor's opinion based on how the WMF and the working group have failed to make their case."A fluffernutter is a sandwich! (talk) 15:48, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
Oppose, for the same reason as Fluffernutter. It pains me to do this, but I've yet to see any evidence that the EP is worth doing. I would rather see the resources it sucks in thrown across to other programmes aimed at solving the underlying reason behind people with expertise in certain areas not joining Wikipedia: that being that we have become a prohibitively difficult place to join. I might change my mind if some hard metrics are set and if some actual evidence is shown that there has been a productive outcome of the work done thus far. Ironholds (talk) 04:02, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
Oppose if I understand this right, the proposal is to spin off the Education Program into its own entity, not controlled by WMF. First of all, although I am a current university student, I do not support the Education Program. It has resulted in people writing crummy articles on non-notable subjects that cannot be deleted or we get yelled at for BITE or get guilted since we are wrecking someone's grade. (Interstate 81 controversy in Syracuse, New York as an example). Their supervision is under TAs or professors who don't understand our policies or procedures and who endorse the behavior of these students, and who won't reign them in when there's a problem (see  and  both from self-identified TAs). The students don't give a rip about contributing good content, they want their grade. So the proposal is to spin this off into a separate organization that the WMF has limited control over? Even worse. --Rschen7754 19:13, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
I think it is clear that the articles written by people in this program will be part of the enWP (or occasionally, other projects) and will be subject to our normal rules. The purpose of the program is to reduce the likelihood of instructors who do not understand these rules guiding their students to do work which is not appropriate here. If we didn't have the program, there would be much more of it. DGG ( talk ) 23:53, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
"The Wikimedia Foundation has always intended for the Education Program to be run by volunteers rather than by the WMF." - where's the accountability? --Rschen7754 19:15, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
I think the record is clear (and doesn't bear repeating) the EP isn't worth it. We get practically nothing but headaches, and waves of users who know nothing about contributing here, and have no interest in doing so after they get their grade. And we have to clean up their messes, with almost nothing coming in worth keeping. There might be ways to work with colleges, but this just isn't it. The problem isn't outreach; outreach is great. But programs that actively damage this project must be discontinued, not hid behind outreach as a shield. Courcelles 20:01, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
Oppose, largely per Rschen7754 and Courcelles. This is not a net positive for Wikipedia. When normal editing and admin tasks meet with resistence because that might ruin someone's grade, that's a big problem. When poor-quality articles are dumped on us and we're supposed to turn a blind eye because it's some class project, that's a huge problem. We need less dump-and-run editing, and we certainly don't need a group that actually encourages/defends it. Andrew Lenahan - Starblind 21:34, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
How will eliminating the program eliminate the courses running on their own who will do the same thing? DGG ( talk ) 00:13, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
Of course eliminating it totally is too much to hope for, but it will at least get rid of its false sense of semi-legitimacy. Andrew Lenahan - Starblind 18:18, 7 October 2012 (UTC)
Do you see the need to guide those who want to do it right? Do you see a need to recruit new people for the program? DGG ( talk ) 01:46, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
Strong Oppose. I agree with Rschen7754, Starblind and Courcelles. The education program needs a massive haircut to bring it back to a scale where it is a net positive for the encyclopedia --- i.e. similar to WP:PPI. Developing a formal, self-justifying bureaucracy around the program to further expand it is exactly the wrong way to go. MER-C 12:17, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Supplementary comment: I can't help but notice the sudden influx of EP participants supporting this RFC. I may be overly cynical, but then again the rejected IEP 1.1 RFC on simple.wp was canvassed in a manner violating WP:CANVAS by the IEP staff. As a result, I've bumped my opposition to strong. I recommend the closer, in gauging whether the EP has the support of the en.wp community, pay particular attention to the arguments of community members who are/were not participants in the WEP.MER-C 13:52, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
MER-C, canvassing would be an issue, I agree; I'm not aware of anything like that, so please post a link to anything that you think is a problem. In your last sentence, by "WEP" do you mean the working group that put this proposal together? If so, I don't agree; membership in the working group should have no relevance to how a closing admin views someone's comments. I did not give up any part of my membership in the community when I joined the working group, and nor did anyone else. If the closing admin decides to discount someone's comments, it should not be for that reason. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 21:27, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
I can also attest to the fact that there's no canvassing of any kind through mailing list or emails (nor do we use such a "low" and "cheap" tactic). In fact, I think most people weren't aware of this through watchlist, but through Signpost. I think repeated use of IEP arguments should cease because it's red herring. We're talking about the US/Canada portion, not India. OhanaUnitedTalk page 01:56, 17 October 2012 (UTC)
This is not an IEP argument -- any RFC that attained 16 supports in two weeks getting an additional 10 supports (and no opposes) in one day is suspicious by virtue of statistical unlikelihood.
Mike Christie: That, and students and instructors as well. The point is, the participants here aren't representative of the community as a whole (it is heavily skewed towards EP participants) and this should be corrected for. MER-C 08:56, 17 October 2012 (UTC)
It is always disturbing to me in these types of discussions when someone encourages others to disenfranchise or discount the opinions of a particular group of participants. We’ve created all sorts of rationale to justify such encouragement—CANVASSING, SPAs, IPs, etc. In this case the justification is that the participant’s positions to be discounted aren’t representative of the community because they are associated with the EP. Which really begs the questions—When does someone become part of the community and when do their positions become representative of the community? It is highly unlikely IMHO that those opposing the EP will do much in the future to actively support it or help it succeed with positive ideas and energy. Whereas, there is a high probability that those supporting it are more likely to help make the EP a success with their energy and ideas. Thus if the EP’s goals are to improve the encyclopedia via improved content quality and scope, growing the editor corps and tapping into the broad range of academic resources through collaborative partnerships with academia, wouldn’t it seem logical that the community ought to listen to those most likely to support those goals. I want to thank Ironholds for pointing me (indirectly) to this blog post that Sue Gardner penned in Nov 2011. . Her observations (which we can agree or disagree with) in this statement …But it does strike me that it’s got application for the Wikimedia projects and our problems with systemic bias. I wouldn’t advocate that we give people from underrepresented groups a louder voice than others, or that they be given particular extra privileges of any kind. But I would recommend that if for example we’re arguing about a topic related to India, and there’s an Indian person in the conversation, given that we know Indian people are underrepresented on the projects, it would make sense for us to listen to that person extra carefully, since he or she would be bringing information we’d otherwise be likelier to miss. Same goes for women, and other underrepresented groups in our community essentially said the same thing. We shouldn’t be discounting the views of any editor in the WP community, and maybe we should listen to some more than others. --Mike Cline (talk) 10:51, 17 October 2012 (UTC)
@MER-C: the instructions for closing an RfC say nothing about correcting for sampling bias, and I can't think of a precedent for what you suggest. If canvassing were uncovered, I understand that that would raise a concern, but here it seems to me that the topic concerns the EP and hence the comments are coming primarily from those connected to the EP -- either because they are participants or are not but have had negative or positive experiences with it. That's completely normal for an RfC. The RfC on FA leadership, earlier this year, attracted more habituées of FAC than is representative of the editing community, but that made no difference to the close: RfCs are expected to have commenters that self-select on interest in the topic. Can you give an example of an RfC where this wouldn't be true? Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 11:23, 17 October 2012 (UTC)
Never mind. I was wrong. Sorry. MER-C 13:06, 17 October 2012 (UTC)
Oppose I've seen great articles come from a professor using Wikipedia in the classroom, however he was doing that with no EP support. I don't think that a rejection of EP would prevent projects like that from going forward, but I do think that we need to reject EP for the reasons many brought up above. Sven ManguardWha? 16:07, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
Oppose. I am very supportive of educational programs on Wikipedia, but I don't see the need to spin off an entirely new 501c organization. Reasons: 1) No answer to "What is the governance model for this proposed entity? How is it answerable to the community?" 2) Bias in geographical scope 3) bureaucracy creep, I don't see why this cannot be handled within the existing WMF 4) related - a new 501c will waste some resources on things that WMF does (accounting, etc.). Waste of time and funds, when this can be done under existing WMF umbrella. 5) To be frank, this almost looks to me like WMF wants to wash its hands off the program, the "two staff member support for few months" looks a bit like a joke (and after few months, the new org will be left to fail?). I know of course this is not the intention, but the proposal gives this impression. The educational program works now, don't fix it by breaking it through such major reforms that promise... nothing, really. And let me recapitulate this: the proposal outlines above does nothing to convince me (as an ambassador, teacher and Wikipedian) that it would add anything of value to what we've been doing. Rather than wasting energy of bureaucratic reshuffling, use that time to design better tools, refine existing pages, do more outreach, or act as an ambassador. Do useful stuff, don't tweak the bureaucratic governance. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 18:28, 7 October 2012 (UTC)
Oppose. Why both Canada and US? I could see this having negative consequences for Canadian education. It's too geographically broad. As well it siphons funding away from areas that need it. Me-123567-Me (talk) 21:32, 8 October 2012 (UTC)
Oppose: as unnecessary and unreasonably geographic-specific. Piotrus has a bunch of good points as well. Perhaps Sue and her band of bureaucrats should focus on running what they have much better than their recent fiascos. Toddst1 (talk) 14:34, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
that;s just the point. This is the chance to get it away from the foundation. DGG ( talk ) 01:49, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
Oppose. Don't want Education broken off. Don't want focus by Academicians/Teachers. Wikipedia has never said that it was directly usable by students, nor should it, nor will this bring that about. Seems pov and spam-ish for Education. Having said that, at the lower levels of articles, some sound like college catalogs. It sounds to me, that this might make that worse, instead of better. Student7 (talk) 19:59, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
I am enthusiastically in support of a WikiProject that liaisons with academics like the efforts I have seen with the USPP outreach initiative. I am as convinced that such a project is best handled in-house and oppose any form of segregation. 76StratString da Broke da (talk) 21:59, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
question for you: best handled in house by whom, and with what resources? If the program does not get resources of its own, the WMF will continue to dominate it. This organization may do well or not, but it won't do worse. At least it won't be run by people who know neither about higher education nor Wikipedia. DGG ( talk ) 01:45, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
I appreciate the rhetorical nature of your question. There are unquestionably pros and cons related to either approach. I simply maintain that on balance, the program is best administered from within Wikipedia. Operating it as a Thematic Organization gives waiver to the entire concept of "reaching out"; in favor of solidifying an adversarial relationship with a notion that never the twain shall meet. Frankly, the roster of participants, including those in leadership roles, is representative of whom I am confident the in-house capabilities lie. And funding is an issue above our collective volunteer pay grade. Wikipedia is, and should remain, the encyclopedia that anyone can edit. This does, and should, apply to academically inclined editors. We must accommodate the fact that such elements want to participate, and such accommodation must not portend a requisite of segregation. IMO - 76StratString da Broke da (talk) 20:11, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
76Strat - interesting points - but I have to say I don't agree. Firstly, I don't believe that creating an organisation would create an adversarial relationship. 'Reaching out' to universities/colleges and the people within them does the opposite; it builds bridges and creates understanding. Secondly, I am not sure that Wikipedia itself is capable of building those bridges (or 'administering a program' as you put it). Wikipedia is an organism, not an organisation. It needs organisations to support it (to supply technical infrastructure, raise funds, and indeed to run outreach programmes and build bridges between Wikipedia the organism and potential partner institutions). The Land (talk) 21:30, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
I wasn't planning on commenting on here since I didn't have an opinion, however after interacting and seeing multiple users in #wikipedia-en-help ask for us to not delete their articles until they are graded, I felt like voicing my opinion. And while I understand that the whole IEP fiasco is independent of the US/Canadian programs, I don't see anything different here that would prevent such a situation, nor create a situation where a program would be a net benefit to the community. I think it might be more worthwhile to figure out whether the community even wishes to continue the education programs, then see if a working group should be created. On a somewhat related subject, I've been looking for a list of "Articles created" through the project, and the closest I came to was this page. There has been enough negative publicity for the EP, but I really haven't found any positive evidence either (besides a failed GA that was abandoned by the nominator, which was not up to quality either). I think if there was substantive evidence that such a program actually helped the community I would reconsider. LegoKontribsTalkM 07:02, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
Re a list of articles created: for the most recent (Spring 2012) semester, two resources are the quality analysis, which lists two random articles from each class, and the course tool, which allows you to pick a class and see the students in it and what they worked on. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 09:57, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
Oppose. I agree that something needs to be done about the Education Program, but this ain't it. I agree with the remarks made by Fluff, Ironholds, Rschen7754, Courcelles, and Piotr. At this time, lacking a professional feasibility study and business plan, I am unable to support the establishment of a new organization to oversee the Education Program. In order to ensure the success of any business venture, be it for profit or not, requires a solid business plan, presenting an Executive Summary, Organizational and Operational Overview, Strategic Summary, and Financial Summary. It is also professionally beneficial to present an Annual Operating Plan. Factors that led to failures in the previous incarnation of the Education Program include the inability of the WMF Outreach Team to lay a solid foundation from which to build success. Lacking a solid foundation, then continuing full force to build the program on the shaky foundation, caused it all to quickly crumble. There was additionally, a failure to evaluate and document best and promising practices, along with lessons learned. A new program requires evaluating the past with a mind to address the issues identified. We have had professors, TAs, and Campus Ambassadors "teaching" Wikipedia, er, "using Wikipedia as a teaching tool in the classroom", yet it only amounts to the blind leading the blind. Additionally, for the most part, Online Ambassadors are less active or have left the program or Wikipedia over their less than fruitful experience with the WMF and the Education Program. The supply does not meet the demand. Nothing indicates that this has been addressed. Overall, the proposal here is premature, poorly designed, and lacking in structure and accountability. Apparently, nothing has been learned from the past. It's just more of the same. I would like to add three little words that reflect my feelings about this RFC. To that end, please refer to the last three words offered by Oliver Keyes, just before he drops his mic. Ditto. Ditto. Ditto. Cindy(talk to me) 08:15, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
As appreciative as I am of anyone who respects me enough to quote me; the way you're handling it here sort of implies that "fuck that noise" is my opinion about the education programme. It's not :). And, if it was, I'd say it directly. Ironholds (talk) 13:17, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
Nah, just my opinion as a former Online Ambassador and member of the Ambassador Selection Team and Global Education Program Steering Committee. It is not my intention to indicate that your words referred to your opinion about the education program, but rather that the words summed up my opinion of the proposal here. My apologies if I have inadvertently implied otherwise. I am offering my professional opinion as a certified corporate trainer with expertise in TQM, SPC, and team development and facilitation courses. We need an education program, but at this point, I haven't seen anything viable or promising from a professional standpoint. Cindy(talk to me) 15:22, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
Understandable, then; thanks for clarifying, and apologies for misunderstanding :). Ironholds (talk) 15:54, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
Oppose partially per Fluffernutter, but largely per Ironholds. I don't feel the Global Education Program has provided a good return on investment, and the money that this entity would use from the WMF and the FDC can be used on higher-priority and more productive projects that work on moving the editor retention needle. StevenZhangHelp resolve disputes! 08:48, 13 October 2012 (UTC)
Spectacular no The idea of spinning off a new organization that would be geared for academic-based editing is setting up an "us vs them" scenario. We are Wikipedians, not "members of not-for-profit group A". Anything that is done on Wikipedia must be answerable to community consensus, required to follow Wikipedia policies and guidelines, and bound by Wikipedia standards. Any WMF staff member that proposes anything that would obviate community consensus is clearly not acting in the best interests of Wikipedia. If they continue with these attempts we, the community, may be required to take action, up to and including the limiting of their editing privileges and formal banning from the English Wikipedia. User:Alin (WMF), please pay special attention to this. As the manager of this project on the WMF you would be answerable to the community. 18.104.22.168 (talk) 20:51, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
The group will not be editing articles, but to help organize people to do so—and do so according to our ordinary rules and with review by the community just as now. The proposal differs primarily from the previous system because it would not include foundation staff. DGG ( talk ) 23:46, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
Neutral I think that Wikipedia and students can mutually benefit from student participation. I have some concerns about the specifics of how this proposal will work out, including issues with obtaining sustainable funding in a way that is not competitive with WMF or dependent on WMF, and including how governance of the new organization and its volunteers will be done especially in relation to WMF and to the existing Wikimedia communities. Also, the new organization needs to be in a position to deal with problems that arise in the education program and have adequate support from trained paid staff and volunteers who interact well with students, professors, and the rest of the Wikimedia communities. These are tricky issues to address. I think there is a place for an education program in Wikipedia but the devil is in the details. (Full disclosure: I was originally a member of the Working Group but I withdrew due to concerns about scheduling and my personal time commitments). Pine✉ 02:05, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
Neutral until question seven is addressed, and per (mostly) DGG's multiple comments up and down this page. I think there's no doubt that there should be much more thought about the myriad relationships between Wikipedia and higher education (which are not, incidentally, reducible simply to Wikipedia's use in classes). I applaud much of the intent of the Education Program to date, if not all of its application. I also applaud the efforts made by many, within the working group and outside it, to think through the way forward. Going backwards is not an option. But is this the way forwards? Is this the way to go about picking up the baton from the Education Program? It feels like this is a baton that has been dropped by the WMF (or even simply thrown at the first set of contenders they felt they could live with), and then highjacked by some rather unpalatable management-speak. Which doesn't bode particularly well. --jbmurray (talk • contribs) 16:37, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
I think I overlooked the question that was added above, but you should know that a group of 5 Working Group members is currently working on building an organizational model that will include methods of accountability to our community (both Wikipedia, Academia, and Ambassadors). We thought this was a very important issue for the group to consider (and it sounds like you do, too), so, unfortunately, the time frame requires a few more weeks. This group of members is working with a professional consultant who studies organizational models so they can make sure this proposed new organization is set up for success, at least in that sense. Because we are on a tight timeline in general, the Working Group wanted to create the RfC as early as possible to get as much input and feedback from the community, but that means there's still work to be done over the next month. As soon as this group has more information about this proposed structure, they will make the information available on-wiki. JMathewson (WMF) (talk) 18:03, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
Neutral (at best) - There are many things that worry me about this structure becoming overly bureaucratic for beaucracy's sake. In particular officially spinning off into its own Non-Profit, is very worrisome for me, as it will over the long-term, entrench a potentially hasty decision on scope and create severe problems in long-term coordination efforts (ie: should focus be strictly more English Wikipedia in general with a focus on US/Canada...; or how does Quebec play into this with a strong French and a differing community compared to the heavily en.wiki presence on the working group? - see discussions below for US/Canada/Quebec scope that explain this). I think this is proven by the fact under the current plan it will be at least May '13 before this program will be properly in motion, instead of using much simpler solutions (which could have been in place today), to solve the current set of problems. (Which boils down to: Can the actual structure be more or less decentralized at the local level, while retaining steerage capabilities at the upper level to encourage sharing of best known practices and standards across the group.)
That being said, I am not a formal strategic consultant like Mike, but just an MBA who works in process management for a Fortune 50 company; so maybe my fears are blown out of proportion. I'm also pragmatic when it comes to solutions, so I can't fully oppose this (even though I should) because I know this may be the only way to get the program out of the limbo it has been sitting in since ~August '11. Overall I really wish there was a better option, so I could sit in strong opposition but since it doesn't exist; I will remain neutral on this weak solution that is only encouraging additional layers of management instead of focusing on the core problems of the program (communications and dispute resolution).
Full Disclosure: I was a Campus Ambassador, from Jan '11 to April '12 and Steering Committee Chair from May '11 through its dissolution by the WMF in April '12; I had the option to join this working group, but chose not to, as I continue to think it had the wrong motivation, at the wrong time, driven by the wrong set of ideals.Epistemophiliac (talk) 18:27, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
Thoughts on non-profits -- a non-profit does sound like overkill until you think about the things that incorporation enables an organization to do -- primarily, getting grants for projects, providing a host name to put on events under, etc. It also means that there is a board dedicated to thinking about education projects, which could lead to innovative work. On the other hand, there is administrative overhead that is already being taken care of at the WMF; and it could be difficult for an organization to work well both offline and coordinating online community work. But I don't think it's forgone that having a new organization would stifle work; under the current system, projects are sometimes made difficult by the bureaucracy of the WMF, or by not having a supporting organization at all. -- phoebe / (talk to me) 03:21, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
perhaps the proposed non-profit would work better if it had a more limited function: raising money & providing an umbrella, but not attempting to actually control or certify or administer any actual classes--if all of this were essentially in the hands of volunteers entirely organizing however they choose to,, not necessarily in one uniform fashion. My experience with the previous or the evolving bureaucracy is limited, but it was quite enough to teach me that if they were to organize what I do, I could not work effectively with them. DGG ( talk ) 04:03, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
Phoebe, I understand that Wikibureaucracy exists - my worries is that adding a non-profit is adding just another layer to it. DGG, perhaps it could work - but I think it's more an all or nothing thing, if you really want to get enough money to run a unique non-profit without some form of major benefactor. Overall my point was that I was neutral in that I didn't like the idea, but if this is the only way to make the program survive, I will not oppose it. Epistemophiliac (talk) 04:34, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
Nor am I willing to oppose it. What I do want, however, is for the criticism here to be acknowledged, and for the planning to be done better--either by starting over, or by modifying the present plan. The advantage of starting over is to work on it free from the corporate and institutional predispositions--I am not alone in thinking such backgrounds contaminate everything they touch unless consciously resisted. The advantage of modifying is to avoid redoing the good work already done in defining the goals and requirements. If this plan were adopted as it stands, I would nonetheless not oppose it, basically on the grounds that at least the better existing programs should be continued; but I think we can do something with more positive virtues than merely not destroying what the first two years have accomplished. DGG ( talk ) 02:22, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
Neutral I think that it is quite enlightening as a student participant. I have learned more about Wikipedia than I have ever known, and have grown more respect for Wikipedia through this program. I do not yet think it is necessary, but it is definitely cool. I am glad to have this experience. 22.214.171.124 (talk) 04:35, 17 October 2012 (UTC)
The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page, such as the current discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.
Please use this section for general discussions or comments that do not fit into the “Questions” section above.
The answer to Question 4 (or the structure of it) seems very disingenuous. First, Chapters are not "WMF organisations" - they will mostly ask for money through the FDC just like every other associated organisation. So the answer is, yes, the working groupL may siphon money away from organisations like chapters. Second, the working group is clearly going to be using WMF seed funding - so yes, it will siphon money away from other projects within the WMF. Ironholds (talk) 01:07, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
Question 4 and its answer weren't intended to imply that the new organization wouldn't compete for funds; it was just intended to describe what we thought would happen. I think there is bound to be some competition, but the net resources available might go up. For example, there's an existing budget for the program. Suppose that budget is simply converted to a grant to the new organization, and the new organization raises additional money from other grants that the WMF can't accept. That would be a net increase of funds, and no change to the current WMF budget. However, this is just hypothetical; it's just as easy to imagine a future in which the new organization would compete. The real answer is that we don't know. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 03:15, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
Then I would suggest you expand question 4 to clarify that. Ironholds (talk) 03:20, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
Fair enough. I'm having a hard time coming up with phrasing that isn't vacuous, such as "it's not possible to predict future funding decisions". Can you suggest a way to phrase this? I'll keep thinking about this and see if I can come up with something that works. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 03:28, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
"Possibly, but we will do our best to make sure that doesn't happen. There are a lot of ways to organise this without taking money away from other projects. For example..." and then just take your above comment from "For example.." on to "the current WMF budget". I'd also exclude "Chapters" from WMF funds, to be honest. Ironholds (talk) 04:53, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
Done. I don't like to silently change the text of any part of an RfC once it's started, so I wrote it as an addendum to the answer and mentioned your name -- I hope that's OK. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 12:53, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
I see you edited the question. I'm not sure it was a good idea to cut "chapters"; chapters are thematic organizations, as this would be, and we added mention of chapters in this question because someone active in the chapters might see the new organization as competing for the WMF's funds. The WMF does provide some funding to chapters now, I gather. I know less about fellowships but I would imagine the same question might arise in the mind of someone applying for a fellowship. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 13:18, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
Well, Chapters are not thematic organisations, they're Chapters - a completely different class of affiliated organisation. I see your point, but Chapters are considered distinct from the Foundation; "movement funds", maybe? And Fellowships are a very, very tiny cog of what the WMF does and not (I would imagine) something that the majority of people are likely to be impacted by if they're under-resourced. The same is not true of (for example) the visual editor, a replacement for talkpages, a replacement for userpages, a replacement for wikiprojects, or the other things Engineering has in the works. It might make sense to balance out the examples given. Ironholds (talk) 13:28, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
Can you also clarify what support this "working group" has from the WMF, and what involvement they've had with the proposal? It's unclear at the moment whether this is part of a long-term plan to spin the projects off and give them independence, or if it's a random group of editors and ambassadors. Ironholds (talk) 01:08, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for the link. I see that the future picture page gives no mention to how the community perceives or approaches the organisation, only how outsiders see it. Is this appropriate, in your opinion? Ironholds (talk) 02:21, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
This is a contextual statement where the WP Community is considered "outside" the specific organization (inside). I think if you examine sentence 3 in that statement: Wikipedia and related project communities respect and actively support the projects and innovations of the Education Program with volunteer energy., it is extraordinarily clear that this new organization will value the perception of the WP Community. --Mike Cline (talk) 02:41, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
You "openly, and transparently consider the needs of all stakeholder groups in all our decisions". So, if the community came up to you with an RfC where the majority of people wanted all work on enwiki to cease, it would cease? Or are you more seeing the perspective of Wikipedians to be equally as important as outsiders? And what's the difference between considering their needs and involving them in the process - how many trustees would be community-based, and who would elect them? Ironholds (talk) 02:24, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
I think this question is a bit multi-faceted, and to some extent mis-directed. Academic and students have been editing Wikipedia for years. The WMF in the last few years has made great progress in improving the contributions of as well as recognizing the tremendous value of Academia to WP and the goals of the Wikimedia movement. This organization is merely a means to further that goal. On the other hand, if the WP community (~131,000) didn't want Academia and their students to participate in WP, the it would be the communities' responsibility to make that happen. As for the influence of the WP community in this organization's success, the current program has been highly dependent on community members for its current level of success. There are many Wikipedians who are commiting volunteer energy to improve the encyclopedia through the Education Program. I personally don't think the new organization would be successful without the commitment of WP community volunteers, their advice and energy. As for governance, those details are being worked out, but the bottom line is that any independent organization must have a governance structure that ensures those "accountable" for success have the appropriate authorities to achieve that success. --Mike Cline (talk) 02:41, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
I think perhaps you are taking for granted that Wikipedians will feel the same way about an independent organization over which they have no control stepping in to do something that the WMF (i.e., the Foundation that makes this project possible) has done in the past and now has decided they no longer want to do. I suggest to you that the "official" classes were tolerated, grudgingly in many cases (particularly when peer review processes like DYK were involved), when they were supported by a WMF infrastructure, and that there is no reason to expect that they community will continue to support it when the project is run completely outside of their control. Risker (talk) 03:00, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
As an experienced Wikipedian and Campus Ambassador, I would ask you, is the statement that there is no reason to expect that they community will continue to support it when the project is run completely outside of their control a prediction on your part or a hope. It would seem to me that what the community wants (or should want) is to improve the encyclopedia, not control those who are helping improve it. Is the current (US/Canada) program run by the WMF "out of or under WP community control"? --Mike Cline (talk) 03:14, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
A few points, the most important being that there is no evidence that the encyclopedia is being improved through these projects. Absent that evidence, which does not seem to be forthcoming even from previous years, the WMF is quite correct to cut this program. I have been here from before the initiation of the predecessor programs that led to the current situation, and I am well aware that the community literally dreaded the arrival of another class whose assignment was editing Wikipedia. That calmed down when the WMF took a hand in trying to manage things; however, in the past year the community has become increasingly aware of problems associated with the education programs (the India Education Program cost a huge amount of community support and goodwill, in particular), and the ever-increasing demand on volunteer effort to make them work. From this we are getting - what, exactly? The engagement with the academe has not proven to increase editorship on the part of academics; it has not done anything at all to improve our editor retention, as very few students continue editing after their program is over; what anecdotal evidence we have from editor impact comments shows that there were as many articles negatively impacted by student involvement as were positively impacted. The PPI data show a more positive result, but that project ended in May 2011, and appears to have been limited to reviewing only 25 articles per semester.
I do not "hope" that the community abandons education programs, but given the past history, I think it is a realistic possibility. The community today is much more suspicious of any editing projects that involve money (q.v. GibraltarpediA) that isn't directly in the WMF budget. Risker (talk) 04:40, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
You ask for more recent evidence that the students are making positive contributions. I agree that this needs to be measured every semester; the most recent assessment page is here. The analysis hasn't been completed, but you can scan it and get an idea of whether the articles have improved or not, and you can click through to spot check the assessments. I don't think the editor impact survey was successful enough for us to be able to use that data in assessing the burden, though I wish we did have that data. The PPI analysis was limited to sampling; I'm no statistician, but I think sampling is a reasonable way to assess quality for a project like this. You may be interested in this page which gives some background on the evaluation approach for the PPI; a similar analysis is being undertaken for the spring 2012 data, though I believe there are additional components such as participant questionnaires. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 13:31, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
Risker, just a clarification regarding community control - this proposal involves giving the community more control over education projects than at present. The new body would be governed by an elected board, of which a significant percentage of seats will be reserved for Wikipedians. The current system involves no community control at the top. The Interior(Talk) 03:29, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
What does "significant percentage" mean; are we talking about a minority or a majority? And how would these community members be selected - via a poll to the community, or via internal processes? Ironholds (talk) 04:06, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
What would you like to see? Board composition/selection process is still very much on the drawing board. As a member of the task force that is discussing this, I would love to hear what you think would be ideal. Currently, we are discussing Wikipedians and Wikimedia Chapter members as being two of four groups represented. The Interior(Talk) 04:21, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
(Academics and the WMF being the other two) The Interior(Talk) 04:23, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
Personally, I see the elections for WP editors being on-wiki, whether here or through meta I'm not sure. But that hasn't been decided. Input here would help in that respect. The Interior(Talk) 04:26, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
My perspective would be that they have to be held onwiki and in an open manner; I'd suggest using the same membership requirements and setup as the WMF board. If it becomes an internal process then they cease being "representatives of the Wikimedia community" and start being "representatives of those bits of the Wikimedia community that are part of the education programme". Ironholds (talk) 04:36, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
I am not convinced that an external organization is as likely to respond to community concerns as the WMF was when the India Education Program turned out as it did. (For those who didn't follow, thousands of volunteer hours were needed to correct the problems with this specific program.) The WMF was motivated to thoroughly investigate what went wrong because it affected many of its core issues (global south policy, editor retention, quality improvement, etc.), most of which are not relevant to this proposed group. Risker (talk) 04:40, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
And, given that this RfC is being held on enwiki, I assume you're going to exclusively limit any educational outreach to enwiki? Because if not, this is probably the wrong place to be holding this discussion. Ironholds (talk) 01:09, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
@Ironholds, i am not sure that I understand the jist of this question. Those of us in the working group are fairly confident that the the majority of opportunties this organization will deal with will involve English wikipedia. But, since there are higher education students in the US and Canada who might wish to contribute to other Wikipedias, we are not excluding them from our future. More importantly however is our commitment to involve and keep involved our major stakeholder groups, the ~131,000 active editors English Wikipedia of the WP community being one of them. I am confident that his new organization would involve the appropriate language wikipedia community if it planned major engagements with it. --Mike Cline (talk) 01:59, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
The question is this: you're asking, on the English-Wikipedia, for buyin to an entity that would not be exclusively limited to enwiki. Why is enwiki an appropriate place for this conversation? And what is this commitment, and what procedures would you put in place to ensure you meet it? What role would the "major stakeholder groups" play in deciding your actions? How would the opinions of wikipedians be weighted in your evaluation compared to other "stakeholders"? Answers to my other questions would also be nice. Ironholds (talk) 02:05, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
The working group discussed the extent to which we can work with other language Wikipedias. There was a range of opinions, but I think everyone agreed that the vast majority of work done at US and Canadian academic institutions is going to be in English, on en-wiki, which makes this the natural place to get feedback. For how the community opinions would be weighted: this RfC is an attempt to get that input and incorporate it into the proposal. The decision on what to do next will be taken by the WMF -- I don't want to get specific because I don't know the internals of the WMF, but the working group won't decide whether to create this new organization, the WMF will. The WMF will see this RfC, and the proposal, and make a decision on whether or not the new education program organization should be created and given seed funding. After it's created, its relationship with the community will be via the board, which will have representation from the Wikipedia community. Exactly how many seats, and who gets them, is not yet specified; that's a point on which I think input from this RfC would be very useful. For example, how much board representation should be given to the academic world? How much to Wikipedian editors? Do students have a role on the board? How about chapters? I would like to see more opinions on this. (And see question 5, above.) You mention you want answers to your other questions; this is already getting a bit confusing so could you indicate what is now unanswered? Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 03:15, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
For reference, by the way; it makes me really uncomfortable when people use "core stakeholders" in the context of Wikipedians. "stakeholders" is like "customers"; it says "we'll listen to their opinions but they don't have a governance role", which is antithetical to how we should be working. Ironholds (talk) 02:08, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
I am glad you have read the Future Picture, and I will ask a tough strategy question. Objectively looking at the statements in the Future Picture, and without making predictions about what will or won't happen or how it might happen, I ask this question: If that Future Picture was reality in June 2015, and the the net benefit to WP was positive--ie. better quality articles, more content and article scope and some increase in the active editor core--would you be satisfied or as we like to say in the strategy business, would you be happy with that future? If not, what would disturb you? --Mike Cline (talk) 02:56, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
When we say "net benefit", do we mean social cost or financial cost? Ironholds (talk) 04:52, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
@Ironholds, sorry for the delay in responding as I was out educating Salmo trutta and Oncorhynchus mykiss this morning. I think the key word in my question is Net. I would characterize a net benefit in this case as being significant improvements in article quality, content and scope and some improvements in new editor retention that was achieved at reasonable cost ($$$) for training materials, workshops, and other programs to help both academics and ambassadors do a good job with Wikipedia in the classroom AND at a non-disruptive cost (ie I think your social cost) to the Wikipedia Community. When you have an encyclopedia that “anyone can edit”, you are going to have some cost in terms of volunteer energy to get the “new editor” in sync with the technology, the wiki and the community norms. (I know my first few months cost the community some energy to set me straight) I actually think, our proposed formal program will significantly reduce the impact on the community of “anyone can edit” when those editors are coming from Academic environments. I am certain it will significantly improve article quality, content and scope.--Mike Cline (talk) 19:59, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
Then I would like to see some metrics and boundaries set, essentially of "how much is this costing to provide how much benefit to the wiki". At the moment, I see a lot of people saying they'll work to ensure that it will lead to a reasonable outcome without anything down on paper to suggest that this will be monitored or validated in a quantitative way - or what happens if the programme fails to achieve its goals, or fails to achieve them at a reasonable cost. Ironholds (talk) 03:58, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
Since we, I trust, are all looking for ways to improve this strategy, your questions are good. Hoe in your mind should the program be monitored or validated in a quanitative way?. On the monetary side that's easy, the benefactor's will demand a reasonable return on their investment and prudent use of funds. However, on the non-monetary cost side, ie your social cost, what would you suggest as empirical units of measure-re quality, content and volunteer energy? For example What does as contentious RM or Deletion debate COST the community, and for what return? If you can provide more tangible suggestions along these lines, it would be useful. As for failure, there are lots of ways this program can fail. If it does, regardless of reason, I think the first real consequence will be that funding dries up. Once that happens, it would essentially go defunct, and rightly so. --Mike Cline (talk) 11:24, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
You and I will have to disagree on the first point; if you got outside funding, possibly, but lets be honest: a lot of Chapters are evidence that the Foundation's direct control of and oversight over the budgets of associated groups that draw grants from them is somewhat limited. It's kind of hard to draw up directly correlating metrics between money and content, obviously, but you can certainly set metrics purely of content; after N hours of work by the editors we're bringing in we expect to generate A bytes of new and kept content, or B good articles, or C featured articles. Heck, just setting a simple metric of "they should be outperforming non-education programme wikipedians who are at the same stage in the editor lifecycle" would be good. And I disagree that there's a direct relationship between failure and funding; if the community decides that it is simply too disruptive and must go, that is not something that immediately leads to funding drying up (although, obviously, if it reaches the stage where nothing is being done because everyone associated with the programme is blocked, it would). "not achieving firm metrics" should lead to funding drying up. "frustrating existing editors" doesn't, necessarily. Ironholds (talk) 11:46, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
@Ironholds, I like this: "they should be outperforming non-education programme wikipedians who are at the same stage in the editor lifecycle" would be good. - good idea. Now we just need some empirical methodologies to evaluate whether this is happening or not. I like it for another reason, it acknowledges that anyone who edits Wikipedia- a student, a professor, a libraian or academic administrator is indeed a Wikipedian, part of the Wikipedia community. And the whole point of this education program is to make this collective of academia better at being Wikipedians and ultimately their ability to improve the encyclopedia.--Mike Cline (talk) 12:26, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
May I recommend the methodology Diederik used with the PPI? So - obviously a really easy way of doing it is just to say "random selection from education programme, random selection from community, who does better, boom" - but that leads to all sorts of inaccuracies. What Diederik did was matched individual education programme participants against individual editors by a few variables, like article contributions and percentage of edits to what namespace. m:Research:Quality of PPI editor work has the data and brief methodology - I found it quite an interesting idea. You could take those independent variables and measure dependent ones, like likelihood of content sticking around, for example. Ironholds (talk) 12:59, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
Thanks, good thoughts. I made a note of this on the Future Picture. --Mike Cline (talk) 13:08, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
I'm going to see if we can get Diederik or someone else to run the same metric on subsequent cohorts, to see if the program has gotten any better at helping students get started smoothly. In theory, we have the lists of student names, and I'm guessing it's relatively simply to re-run the same method on a new batch. I think it's a very incomplete and not easy to evaluate metric, since it compares people self-motivated to edit Wikipedia with students who are doing it for class, and reversion rate is just one small part of the overall quality of a user's contributions. The original study found that (by this metric) the first term of students in the PPI came out the same as other new editors at similar points in the editor lifecycle. That's an indication, ceteris paribus, the more such editors we can get, the better. But I've very curious if subsequent cohorts improve on that quality metric from the first term.--Sage Ross (WMF) (talk) 13:27, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
Indeed. It's limited as a single dependent variable, but the beauty is there's no reason it can't have other dependent variables measured instead, using the same methodology to compare the users. It's probably the most statistically rigorous study I've seen done here. Ironholds (talk) 13:45, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
However, one thing I think the education program has had trouble with from the beginning is depending too much on the things that are straightforward to measure, to the point that it distorts what the goals ought to be. (My personal view of the proper goals and main potential of the education program lines up pretty well with what Mike Christie argued in his Signpost essay.) Still, I'm very curious about this metric.--Sage Ross (WMF) (talk) 13:57, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
I would agree that there needs to be measurement of non-quantitative goals: community backlash, for example, is not something you can quantify most of the time. I think there is certainly a place for quantitative data if the measurements are done right. Ironholds (talk) 13:59, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
Ironholds, a comment on terminology - I just want to assure you that our use of "stakeholders" in no way indicates that the Working Group sees anyone as a "customer". As I mentioned to Risker above, an integral part of this proposal is giving the Wikipedia community more control/governance over education activities through the mechanism of an elected board. Personally, I would take no part in a process that treated editors the way you've characterized above. The Interior(Talk) 03:38, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
The really key question is "Should the US/Canada Education Program be continued?" If the community responds in the affirmative, then you know that you have reason to consider this option. If the community responds negatively, then it saves a lot of time, work and money. This RfC assumes that the community wants this program to be continued. However, community opinions on a lot of issues have changed since the Education Programs were initiated. It only makes sense to ensure that there is sufficient support for any kind of program before asking the community to support this proposal. Risker (talk) 05:15, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
@Risker, you are asking a question well beyond the purpose of this RfC and a question that I think is strategically out of alignment with the Wikimedia Foundation’s and Wikipedia strategic goals. I call attention to all the outreach efforts underway within the movement: http://outreach.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page These exist for the very reason that the foundation and its project communities see a return on investment from these outreach projects.
Secondly, the suggestion you are making is completely contrary to the goals in the Wikimedia Strategic Plan, two of which are particularly relevant to this effort.
(an excerpt) Through 2015, the Wikimedia Foundation will: ….Provide support to the Wikimedia movement in the development of institutional partnerships and alliances. Provide project funding for efforts to connect Wikimedia projects with the work of institutions of culture and learning.
(an excerpt) Through 2015, the Wikimedia Foundation will …. Encourage the health and growth of Wikimedia communities and the projects they sustain. Support the recruitment and acculturation of newer contributors by encouraging a welcoming environment on the Wikimedia projects, as well as supporting community leaders who are eager to serve as recruiters, guides and mentors for newer volunteers. Encourage diversity by conducting outreach among groups that have the potential to bring new expertise to the projects, as well as by supporting leaders from underrepresented groups in their efforts to cultivate new members from within their communities.
It may be a legitimate question to ask Does the US Canada Education Program have the potential to contribute to the achievement of these goals?, but not in this venue because it is well beyond the scope of this RfC. We are proposing a specific approach to improve the program because we believe the new organization will make significant contributions toward achievement of the Wikimedia movement strategic goals. --Mike Cline (talk) 11:47, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
No, Risker's question is not "strategically out of alignment with the...strategic goals". There are a wide variety of ways to "provide support in the development of institutional partnerships and alliances" that do not involve an education programme - would you say, then, that the various GLAM partnerships don't fulfil this goal? As for the second quote, if you think the programme is being envisioned as a way of getting new contributors, you might want to talk to one of the people you're running it with, who evidently feels that "articles for course credits" is the most concrete thing the programme can achieve, something I don't disagree with him on. There are a billion possible ways to fulfil the strategic goals that do not involve the education programmes, and so questioning the value or appropriateness of the education programmes is not the same as spitting in the eye of the strategic plan.
Second; this "specific approach" has the involvement of academics who help administer the course end of the global education programme, the WMF staff who handle the "professional" side of things, and the some of the volunteers involved in the editing side of it. It is, for all intents and purposes, the "official" proposal for a successor to the USCA programme. It seems a perfectly appropriate place to ask these sorts of questions - although if you are aware of a different RfC where it would be more appropriate, do point me to it.
Now. I agree that this is not the perfect place. But that's nothing to do with Risker's question and everything to do with the fact that you're presenting the validity of the programme as a fait acompli and the wider question is remaining unaddressed. This is inevitably going to have consequences for your proposal if people oppose it for reasons of "I think the education programme as a whole sucks". Would it not make far more sense to see if there is enthusiasm for any kind of education programme successor before bandying about specific proposals? You've invested a heck of a lot of time, and I appreciate that, but you've done so without establishing if that time is well-spent. Ironholds (talk) 12:47, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
I think Risker's question is reasonable. Practically speaking, though, I'm not sure there's any value in dividing up the question. The WMF is (I believe) planning to continue to support education programs in other countries; some are locally organized but some draw resources from the WMF. The working group's charter was restricted to the US and Canada. If the WMF is convinced it should cease running all education programs, obviously it would not adopt this proposal. The future of the education programs outside the US and Canada is something that the working group didn't discuss at all, though. I'd suggest that someone who would like to stop all the education programs, worldwide, should oppose this proposal too. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 13:12, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
(I was a member of the working group for a short period, and support this rfc, though I played little part in its wording.) I agree with Mike that Risker has asked the real question, the implied basic preliminary one to all of the discussion of how to do it. As I see it, the motive for the WMF trying to extricate itself from the running of this program was precisely what Risker says, its limited success and the general dissatisfaction with the way they were running it. I'd attribute this primarily to the decision to have it organized mainly by people on their staff with no experience in either Wikipedia or higher education--they made a valiant effort, and it is not their fault they did not succeed--it was rather the fault of those who assigned them to the project. The involvement of some experienced WPedians helped, but too few of them were willing to be involved in the program as it existed to the extent needed.
They realized their error after two years, and this is an attempt to do it better, by organizing it autonomously, under the direction of a group consisting entirely of people experienced in WP, higher education, or both.Whether it will succeed in this manner of course remains to be proven, but I think the combination of much more appropriate organization and personnel, the experience of those who have participated have gained during the program, and the increased respect for Wikipedia in the academic world, augers well. I doubt it will be anywhere near perfect--that's outside the expectations for anything connected with Wikipedia. But if it succeeds in recruiting more experienced editors, and more interested faculty, it cannot but do better.
In any case, instructors will use Wikipedia assignments in their classes whether or not we have this program--they began doing so before the WMF's program began. After all, we encourage everyone to edit, and the lone wolf approach is not necessarily the best one. The experience WP provides in requiring sourcing and objectivity is a good addition to many college classes--it will therefore remain an attractive project, especially as an alternative to the conventional term paper. If people want to write for Wikipedia, we have an obligation to help them. this is one way of doing it. It is not the only way, even for this particular audience: some classes will undoubtedly want to go about it their own way. But I think most sensible instructors will be aware of the desirability of some expert assistance, and appreciate the degree of structure and the organized way of providing advice. The alternative is chaotic advice by whoever feels like doing it. Of course, that is what we have been doing all along in Wikipedia generally, and is anyone really prepared to say that it always works out well? This is the opportunity for some focussed advice. We want everyone who approaches Wikipedia in good faith to have a rewarding experience here, and some sort of optional centralization is the best way to do it.
I agree with those who think the setup is too bureaucratic and jargon-ridden and perhaps too elaborate. (That is why I decided not to remain in the working group --I thought I was more suited to commenting from outside than from working within their structure.) But it will be less so than the Foundation, it will provide additional channels for funding, and it is better than chaos. Would it have been better if the Foundation had reformed the project and gotten appropriate people to run it? Quite possibly, but they did not do so. I greatly deplore the manner they chose to stop, without a proper community consultation. To avoid such unfortunate ways of doing things is why the community is being consulted now. And there is a great deal to be said for the position that when something becomes disfunctionally at the root, it is better to start over. DGG ( talk ) 18:14, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
I second just about everything DGG says here. --jbmurray (talk • contribs) 16:30, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
I have to say that I second Risker's point here. You're putting the cart miles before the horse to ask the community "How should the new & improved EP look?" when you have no evidence the community wants the EP to exist at all. Now, when this was a WMF initiative, they were able to skate past that - they own the servers, they handle the Strategic Plan, they can start a program without explicit community approval. However, your whole point on this page is to explain to us how your new program would be independent of the WMF! A community initiative! Run by community members! You've failed to account for the fact that if you want this to be a community initiative, you need community approval to run such a thing. You can't just assume your initiative into place - "What vegetable do you want, brussels sprouts or cabbage?" may work on small children when you don't want to offer them "no vegetables, please" as a choice, but it's not an appropriate approach to use on adults who you're asking to do work to support your project. A fluffernutter is a sandwich! (talk) 18:42, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
I see the logic of saying that the decision on whether to have the program must precede the decision about what kind of program to have, but practically speaking I think the two discussions ought not to be separated. Aside from anything else, that kind of discussion very often requires a concrete proposal to be made before people are willing to commit their opinion. I'm not quite sure what could have been done differently to address your second point, that community approval is required -- the working group was open to any interested editor, and the seven Wikipedians on the working group are just that -- community representatives. This RfC is another part of the community approval process; and the proposed governance (for which input is requested) involves community representation on the board, which is more direct control than exists at the moment with respect to the Education Program. If there is a strong feeling in the community that the Education Program should just be terminated, then I think this RfC is a good place for that feeling to be expressed -- though I hope we can engage on reasons, since I think there are good arguments to be made in favour of the program. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 19:07, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
The working group was open to the community, but its scope makes it self-limiting. It's a working group for a successor to the education programme: by definition this is going to implicitly exclude anyone who thinks there shouldn't be one. Ironholds (talk) 03:59, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
(Commenting as a working group member) I think one thing that this concern ignores is that there's very little WMF or the community could do to stop this in any event. If any group of people want to get together and form a non-profit focused on using Wikipedia in education, then there's nothing WMF could do to stop them. They could refuse to let them use the WMF trademarks and refuse to let them be a thematic organization, but that would itself be a fairly surprising result because WMF in the past has not said that people could not self-organize into any sort of Chapters or thematic organizations that they want to. Additionally, I have been assigning students to edit Wikipedia since 2008, before there was a formal US/Canada Education Program and nothing that happens here is going to stop me. I'm going to keep right on doing it. So will many others. So, I think the question really is: GIVEN that many people are going to be doing this anyway, is there a way that the community and WMF could be involved and guide those efforts so that they do the most good? I however, don't really believe that my students' efforts or that other faculty efforts have done more harm than good. On the contrary, I believe that a well-supported education program that ensured faculty only undertook these kinds of assignments with a good understanding of community expectations is the single most valuable thing that the WMF could support to achieve its strategic goals. Brianwc (talk) 19:37, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
I think there really is a large difference between what you're describing and the Official Education Program (pbui) (tm), Brianwc. The difference is that in your case, you are a Wikipedian. You are a wikipedian, I assume, of some experience, who groks our community. You are introducing your students to Wikipedia and how to edit it, I again assume, from the perspective of someone who can show them how to do things. In contrast, the EP as it's been in the past has gone out to schools, recruited professors who knew less than nothing about Wikipedia, and sold them on "this is going to be a great experience for you and your students!" And yes, those people, who aren't Wikipedians and didn't understand Wikipedia, managed to screw up in ways that probably seem laughable to someone like you, who's been responsibly rolling WP into your teaching. There's nothing wrong with people like you using WP as a teaching tool, and also getting WP some side benefit in exchange. There is a lot wrong with non-Wikipedians being aggressively recruited to run classes in an "education program" and do things by the seats of their pants. My objection is to an established "Education Program" that recruits people to run classes, schools to run people, and generally throws a lot of unprepared people onto WP, not to the concept of teachers using Wikipedia. A fluffernutter is a sandwich! (talk) 20:56, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
This summer, we created an orientation for professors as well as an orientation for students to introduce them to the guidelines that are useful for new editors. For this semester, professors could participate in the program after receiving feedback on assignment design. For those who clearly indicated a preference for having students create original content or anything else that seemed to conflict with Wikipedia policies, we suggested they consider an alternate assignment, as I genuinely believe the students, professor, and Wikipedia editors would have a negative experience with the class. There is already more interest from new professors than support for them, which is one of the reasons we're trying to reach out to you guys and find out we can offer more/better support to those who are interested. I completely agree with you, Fluffernutter, that we need to work with professors who want to be engaged on-wiki or at least engaged in learning about best practices. Right now, I think that number far exceeds the capacity of the current Education Program, but I do sincerely believe the current proposal is the best one I've heard to set us up, down the line, to make sure we have the resources to facilitate those imperative conversations with new professors. I think providing assignment design guidance/feedback/support is the first step, but please let me know what other suggestions you have! JMathewson (WMF) (talk) 23:31, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
User:Mike Cline/USCAN Working Group Drafts/Open TasksEdit
Just spotted this; is the "> 0.1" percentage of the community that has participated/!voted in the RfC? Ironholds (talk) 11:49, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
Because, if so, it is not a metric that should be used when calculating community support or opposition. It contains everyone who has made any number of edits in the last 30 days, which is not a metric used anywhere at the WMF, at least in engineering (we normally prefer the >5 and >10 numbers even for calculating if someone is a newb, let alone if they're part of the community). Second, I would be interested to see when you've ever seen 130k-ish editors participate anywhere in the same discussion. My guess is going to be "I haven't": to my knowledge, it's never happened. This is because the vast majority of editors are not part of the "core" community: those people who participate in governance discussions. Expecting their buyin or commentary or basing the validity of a discussion off their buyin is a validation mechanism that will always fail: they do not participate. It is also a validation mechanism that isn't used; discussions are validated not by the percentage of people that turn up but by the people that turn up. This is not how WP:CONSENSUS works; if it was, nobody would ever be able to change anything.
Stuartyeates has addressed an interesting geographical question which has so far not been discussed in detail here. It should be kept in mind that this project is specifically for US-Canada institutions, and to a large extent this means working with physical university buildings and the people in them; and that several other projects perform this job for other regions (Brazil, Arab world, UK). On-wiki resources can be shared more easily than physical resources of course, and it would be wise to develop a bit of a shared on-wiki infrastructure for these types of projects. Specifically on the issue that Stuart raises of geographical edge cases, however, there are two concerns that must be balanced: (1) that the US-Canada project should not unfairly deny resources to border cases, and equally important, (2) that the US-Canada project should not unfairly dictate its policies to border cases.--Pharos (talk) 16:11, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
I believe you have the cart before the horse. Rather than questioning the edge cases, I'm questioning the foundation. The edges are just where the cracks are most self-evident. I see no discussion in any of the documentation of why a US-Canada restriction is desirable. I don't believe it's related to the nature of the education system (since I understand that the US model has been exported to other countries). I don't believe it's related to funding (since I understand that the Us and Canada have separate and incompatible charitable status systems). I don't believe it's because of physical travel times (bear in mind that on the curve of the earth, Mexico lies between Florida and Hawaii). In short I'm rapidly running out of reasons that aren't paraphrasings of Wikipedia:Systemic bias. Stuartyeates (talk) 01:01, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
I'd like someone from the Foundation to comment on this, since I'm responding based on what I've heard from WMF staff (and hence may have got things a bit wrong) but as I understand it the intention is actually part of trying to avoid systemic bias in the foundation's operations. The WMF is going to continue to support every program but the US and Canada Education programs (though I should add some are run without WMF support already). If students in the US and Canada are to have any support (as I believe they should) then it will have to be provided by an independent organization after May 2013. I believe the WMF no longer wants to accept funds earmarked for a specific purpose (e.g. the PPI) and I believe it's also true that the US and Canada programs were absorbing the largest part of its Education funds, which was out of alignment with the strategic goals of encouraging contributions from, e.g., the global south. I will see if I can get a more definite statement from someone in the WMF on this, but I think this is about right. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 01:10, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Would you like to clarify whether 'support' above means 'morally support' 'actively support' or 'financially support'? I'd also like to point out that we're !voting on the RfC as it stands, not some other thing that the WMF might or might not be doing. Stuartyeates (talk) 05:14, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Currently (i.e. prior to May 2013) the WMF is providing active support and financial support (and I suppose moral support too). There are also volunteers from with the community, mostly working as WP:Ambassadors, who are providing active support. Financial support includes the salary of those at the WMF working on the program, and costs such as travel to campuses to train professors and their classes. When I say above that I think the program deserves support, I mean active support for professors -- teaching them how to avoid the mistakes that we have seen in the past, and giving them access to resources such as lesson plans that other professors have developed that have been successful, and so on. From what I've seen, the most valuable resource for a class is an on-campus expert, preferably someone like a librarian or staff member at a writing centre, that can accumulate knowledge from semester to semester and be a resource for all the professors on that campus. Training those people is high return on investment for this program. I also mean financial support, simply to have the resources to do these things; I don't see this new organization handing out much money to third parties. The ambassadors can continue without WMF support or support from the new organization, but without some replacement organization such as proposed here, there won't be any resource to help the ambassadors organize course pages and keep track of class needs, as there is now. As for your second comment, I don't think I follow -- the WMF is currently doing these things, and is going to stop in May next year, and the RfC is a proposal for how to continue doing these things. Can you clarify? Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 09:26, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
I'm not sure I understand the concern here. Is it that the US/Canada scope is too small? The main reason I've always understood for the US/Can scope is that there are other active education programs in other countries and this working group did not wish to (imperialistically) deign to make decisions for those individuals. Instead, faculty and ambassadors from the U.S. and Canada were gathered together merely to make decisions for themselves. If an Education Program in Brazil were to approach this proposed new organization and made a cogent argument about why it should all be handled under the same umbrella, then the proposed organization could consider that at that time. However, the U.S. and Canada have institutions of higher education that are similar in relevant respects, faculty and students in these countries largely edit the same (English language) Wikipedia, and their geographic proximity makes in-person outreach efforts and conferences feasible. So, there are simply practical reasons for this scope as well. Brianwc (talk) 13:58, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
My problem is categorically not with size, it's with drawing of unnecessary arbitrary boundaries and the exclusion of communities. I've seen no reason presented as to why all education outreach on-wiki can't be done within a single framework. BTW: I suggest that you examine your "practical reasons" for Wikipedia:Systemic bias. Stuartyeates (talk) 19:18, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
I'm not sure where you're going with this, Stuartyeates. Communities around the world are running their own Education Programs; it's a local effort. You can see a full list of them here. Currently, the Wikimedia Foundation facilitates the US and Canada programs. In the future, we are proposing that a thematic organization based in the US or Canada will run these programs. Our incredible volunteers in all the other countries listed on those outreach wiki pages will continue to run their programs. It would be wrong for another organization to take them over, which seems to be what you're advocating for, unless I'm misunderstanding. We're not saying education programs should only be in the U.S. and Canada -- we're saying local leaders should run local programs. Does that make sense? JMathewson (WMF) (talk) 22:54, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Stuart: I would indeed advocate that all education outreach on-wiki be done within a single framework, to the maximum extent possible. Unfortunately, however, a centralizing approach faces opposition from the ~40 Wikimedia national chapters around the globe, as most of them are justly concerned about US-centrism and an imposition of US/NorthAmerican cultural and educational norms on their own local projects. In fact, it has been a long-standing concern of the several chapters that there has been a special WMF "sponsorship" of educational programs in the US, while in their own countries they have had to make do with local community resources; the spinning-off of the US-Canada educational program so that it is rooted in local communities (like the programs in other countries) specifically has its goal "normalizing" the program and allaying global concerns of favoritism.--Pharos (talk) 16:02, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
I agree, this is indeed the nub of the issue. The framework needs to be hammered out between the meta:Wikimedia chapters and the WMF, and the WMF stepping away from the US-Canada education work is essentially a precondition of that. The trouble is that the WMF involvement in this RfC has already demonstrated that this stepping away hasn't happened, so any system set up by this RfC is an impediment to the hammering out of the framework. I'd recommend closing this RfC, opening a new RfC, with a parallel statement by the WMF that they'd stepped away from the process and having issued public instructions to all WMF staffers not to participate. Stuartyeates (talk) 20:47, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
I'm surprised to learn about this RfC and I see that no special efforts has been made to reach out to the French-speaking Wikimedians in North America, especially in Quebec (which is still nominally part of Canada). So, where do they go if francophone instructors, professors and students need support after the spinoff? Wikimédia France? This issue should be clarified beforehand IMHO. Bouchecl (talk) 13:15, 7 October 2012 (UTC)
This topic of support to "other language" Wikipedias was one of great discussion by the working group. The consensus was (as is reflected by the absence of any language preference or restrictions on language in the strategy proposal) that our scope was merely limited by geography, not language. That said, any support to professors, classes, students, etc in any language (even English) require the appropriate resources. So I would say that the new US EP program would potentially be supporting education in Quebec as long as the appropriate resources to do so can be organized. --Mike Cline (talk) 13:58, 7 October 2012 (UTC)
In practice, "the absence of any language preference" means English will be the language of choice. The feeling I get from people involved in education programs in Quebec is that they would rather work with their colleagues in the Francophonie than be absorbed in a anglo-centric structure where they would "sit at the back of the bus", so to speak (which is the usual outcome in pan-Canadian structures). I understand the good sentiment, but this aspect is unworkable in its current form. Bouchecl (talk) 14:31, 7 October 2012 (UTC)
If a professor in Quebec wants to work with other, French-speaking, organizations, then of course that's fine. Some of what the new organization would do could still be useful to French-speaking classes, though. For example, the MediaWiki extensions for the education are likely to be useful; and if we can find French-speaking volunteers on wiki and on campus, as we have for many English-speaking campuses, then we could provide campus ambassador and online ambassador support. The resources for training, and the funding that might be available to assist with training, could still be useful, though the resources will have to be translated, and that will depend on either money or finding editors willing to do the translation. I can understand a concern that the organization might be biased towards English-speakers, but the goal of the organization is to cover all of the US and Canada, so if there is demand for support the organization will try to respond. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 15:17, 7 October 2012 (UTC)
This is something I've been wrestling with as a Canadian. The education program currently does not offer assistance en francais. As you say, Francophone editors do not want to be co-opted into an Anglophone system. What I had envisioned is that the new body would offer assistance, both material and financial, to education projects in Quebec working on fr.wikipedie. The first step would be a dialogue with Quebec editors/professors to determine what they want to do. Bouchecl, can I put the question to you - what would Quebec editors working with education projects like to see? Are they happy doing things on their own, or working with other Francophone chapters? Or would they like to be part of a wider program with bi-lingual resources? The Interior(Talk) 15:27, 7 October 2012 (UTC)
Some work has been done by wikipedians in Quebec without support from either the WMF or the Canadian chapter. One of the most active contributor in this area, Simon Villeneuve, a cégep physics instructor, has used fr.wikipedia in his classroom since 2008, and organized training sessions as well as given conferences on the topic, mostly on his own dime (I believe he gets some token support from his employer). For a variety of reasons, including limited language skills, a guy like him prefers working with people sharing his culture and language, notably in fr:Wikipédia:Projets pédagogiques, but could be be shutout from funding by the Canadian chapter because of this new North American spinoff. I'm not personally involved in the education sector, but it seems to me the current RfC (of which he wasn't aware before I informed him on his talk page) undercuts his efforts. Bouchecl (talk) 18:19, 7 October 2012 (UTC)
The goal of the new organization is certainly not to undercut efforts like his, but to encourage them. I'm not sure what meaningful reassurances can be given until the new organization is actually created, but I'd like to reiterate that Quebec would definitely be included in the new organization's scope, and would have as much a claim on any resources as would any other part of the US or Canada. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 20:37, 8 October 2012 (UTC)
Thank you for this answer.
It seem's that part of the WMF based projects works in a top-down way and, IMHO, it's impossible to work this way with Wikipedia community in general and in education in particular, not when you are from the "outside" (even from the "inside", it's hardly possible to work with a strong hierarchy in the 21 century education system in North America). To read "The goal of the new organization is certainly not to undercut efforts like his, but to encourage them" seems a promising way of thinking for this working group.
Actually, I do think a US/Canada scope makes sense. The model may have been exported but that does not mean that it is not modified, even to the point of unrecognizability. Im an English professor who has taught native and non native English speakers in the US and Mexico. One of the main problems with the India project was that there was the assumption that British education that was implemented there did not change at all. In hindsight, obviously not a good assumption. You need two very basic skills in order to avoid plagiarism: paraphrasing and synthesis. Many educational systems in the world (including Mexico) are far more focused on memorization and even teach students they are not worthy or capable of independent thought or opinion until they reach a much higher social/educational rank (if at all). Ill bet you if you took a serious, systematic look at a number of non-English Wikipedias (including Spanish) you'd be aghast at the amount of copy/paste there is and total disregard for citation. If the education system does not prepare students for the kind of writing that Wikipedia needs to be legally feasible, I dont see how any WP progam can help with that as you are talking about changing the entire educational culture. It is for this reason that my work in my university in Mexico City focuses on translation, images and GLAM style outreach. Most of my students are not capable nor want to put in the huge effort needed to learn how to compose original text. Cairo worked out much better because it focused on translation into Arabic, not composition in en.wiki where there would be a huge culture clash.
My beef with the Ed program now, is not the US/Canada projects. They are actually working out best because they were created by Americans for an American educational system. Outside of the US/Canada, I see the program through large, visible quantities of money and time into projects managed from San Francisco. It was mentioned that there are ten other projects done by individuals and chapters. These are not really supported by the Foundation, certainly not the way that India, Brazil and Egypt have been. Its been more like "oh that's nice.... you can use our name if you like" The thing is, those of us with "boots on the ground" in the country will know A LOT more than WMF staff that take occasional trips to exotic lands. They can never see the day-to-day issues and indeed did not in India until is was far too late.Thelmadatter (talk) 14:40, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
I'm actually leaning to support despite having spent at least 60 hours of my time helping clean up during the the IEP fiasco, and despite my view that up to now, the net benefit to Wikipedia of the formal education programs in general has been pretty negligible, in terms of the amount of money and editors' time they consume. But what exactly will "Facilitate effective partnerships between the Wikipedia community and academia to improve the breadth, scope, and accuracy of Wikipedia articles and promote information fluency" mean in practice? Suppose a university class project, despite all your best efforts to "educate the educators", starts causing problems and taking a lot of editor and administrator time to deal with them. There are plenty of past examples (I'm referring here strictly to USEP, not the IEP which was an extreme case). How do you see your new program's role in helping to sort out problems and/or potential conflicts? Would you be advocating primarily for the academics and their students or for the rest of us who are impacted by their activities? Or both? Or neither? In other words, what happens when you receive complaints from the wider community about a particular project? Voceditenore (talk) 16:49, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
I can't speak for the whole Working Group on this issue, as we haven't drafted a guideline for dealing with problematic editing at present. My understanding is that the education project supports profs who have a good plan for adding good content to WP. The profs who have a misguided view about how Wikipedia works are directed elsewhere before the term begins. In no way would this group advocate on WP for profs/students who have knowingly added bad content, nor would it go to bat for profs who are indifferent to what their students place on WP. In my experience, this describes a very small percentage of professors in the current program. However, conflicts do happen, and students don't always listen to their profs. The group would be a communication channel between Wikipedians and professors, and would strive to keep professors "on track" in regards to WP policy. In the rare case where a student editor has been made aware of problematic content, and continues to add it, the Wikipedia behavioural norms take over (i.e. warning, block, ban). We have no desire to "facilitate" bad actors, or people willfully ignoring WP norms. The Interior(Talk) 17:39, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
And does it work the other way around? It would be nice to know that if you see people mucking up, you'd deal with it before it becomes the problem of the community as a whole. Ironholds (talk) 21:21, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Yes, that's what we currently do. We try to stop problems before they get out of hand whenever possible. JMathewson (WMF) (talk) 21:28, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Okay; my question was whether this would be built into the successor programme :). Ironholds (talk) 21:28, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Let me clarify. I'm not talking about the odd "rougue student". Nor do I assume any of these professors would knowingly start a project that would add "bad" content—copyvio, BLP violations, fake references. I'm talking about problematic content—using poor references or misunderstood references, adding original research/synthesis, poorly integrating material into established articles, creating articles on subjects of very dubious notability, "writing essays", etc. It happens all the time whether the new editors are students or not. And we deal with it all the time. The problem is that by the very nature of college courses, we get dozens and dozens of new editors, all making these mistakes at the same time and in the same subject area. It can overwhelm the number of experienced editors working in the area who deal with any fallout. For example, this semester one university alone has an Introduction to Neuroscience class of 92 students, and there are another 70 in two other universities working in very closely related areas (Brain and Behavior, Cognition).
Often times the online ambassadors do not have editing experience or expertise in the areas they've been assigned to, and may not even be aware of the problems. I don't think these potential problems should be minimized, at least not if you're trying to get the support of regular editors here. Obviously, working very hard on prevention is the best way to avoid them. But what do you mean by the program being a "conduit" when they do crop up? Will you have a central place on-wiki and on-record where editors can voice concerns about a particular class project? Will the professors be required to interact in that place with editors who raise these concerns? How do you foresee the program reacting to those concerns? Voceditenore (talk) 06:19, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Good points. I agree there has to be better processes for dealing with problems, and I did not intend to minimize them with my earlier comments. (I was perhaps overcompensating for some of the, IMO, overly bleak portrayals of student editing on this page) Part of this group's mandate will be to identify problematic trends in approaches to course design and create solutions. Again, heading off professors who don't grok it (to borrow Fluffernutter's term - hope I'm using it correctly) is step one. However, if we deprecate the Education Program, there will be no solutions forthcoming. And problematic classes will continue to use WP in their coursework.
On your last questions, the Education Noticeboard was set up for the purpose you describe - to be a central area for editors to discuss issues. A second important mechanism is talk page templates for all articles being edited by students. These templates (in use right now) should in the future have links to this noticeboard, and to the professor's talk page. And yes, community engagement should be a non-negotiable part of listing a course, just as it is non-negotiable element for the editing community at large. One small clarification - online ambassadors are not assigned to classes; they self-select. I note that one of our medicine-savvy editors has signed up for the course you mentioned. (And maybe we shouldn't predict failure for that particular course ;)) (although, to be honest, I predict one of the findings of any research we do will be that large freshman or sophomore survey courses don't integrate well to WP). I am confident, mostly because I have seen it firsthand, that the combination of a prof who gets it, a supportive ambassador, and a realistic syllabus can produce amazing content for the encyclopedia. My own topic area, Western Canadian geography, experienced a most wonderful explosion of well-referenced, high quality content from a University of British Columbia class last spring. And I was tickled pink to be able to help them do it. I consider it some of the most productive time I have spent on Wikipedia. But I accept that the inverse of what I described above is also true, where the content is not good and there is no one to shepherd the students, so I appreciate the position of some of the opposers here. But that is the nature of Wikipedia, is it not? Both good and bad content will come down the chute, and the regulars will have to deal with it. I had hoped we could set up a body to minimize the bad and maximize the good. One positive thing about this RfC is that even if there isn't support for a new structure, it does force us to discuss these issues. The Interior(Talk) 07:59, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Just as an fyi, the 92-person class actually has been running a Wikipedia assignment for 5 years. The professor was interested in getting even more support for his students than he currently offered, so now he has Ambassadors on campus and online who are working with his students. I know the larger classes can be more overwhelming, so we've been working to limit those (in response to the community's request). This class, however, has already been operating at this size for years and years. If a professor who's doing that is having a great experience and there hasn't been any backlash (which there must not have been, since the students were having a great experience, and those tend to go hand-in-hand), then I think providing more support that he requests is not doing any disservice to the encyclopedia. Also, this professor is incredibly enthusiastic about Wikipedia, finding out how to improve his assignment for both students and Wikipedia, becoming a part of the community, and having his students engage with the community. I think we want to encourage relationships with exactly those kinds of professors. If we can develop the support for professors to a point that more of them align with these motivations, I think it will not only improve Wikipedia but will also allow for that experience that TheInterior talks about (a truly enjoyable one for involved Wikipedians). JMathewson (WMF) (talk) 18:40, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
From what I gather from the answers so far, the new program will basically concentrate on preventing problems and strengthening past weaknesses but won't have an official role built in for dealing with classes where "regular editors" (for want of a better word) are indentifying existing problems, nor will it have its own "central place" for reporting them. This will be left to the Education Noticeboard. Fair enough. I still intend to support this program, basically for the reasons outlined by DGG in Alternatives, but I just wanted to clarify exactly what the program is proposing to do and not to do. And well, try to point out where you need to be especially clear about what sorts of issues are leading to the number of oppose votes. While stuff "comes down the chute" here all the time, the EPs inescapably send whole piles of stuff down narrow chutes in a very concentrated space of time. Yes, the Neurocience project does have an OA experienced in the subject area but so far s/he is alone with 92 students to look after. The Cognition project has 30 students and no OA at all yet. I'm not predicting a failure for either of these projects, but you can see why editors would be concerned about the larger issues reflected in those figures. Voceditenore (talk) 10:05, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
I must say we get into these kinds of discussions all the time with enterprises that are embarking on a new strategy. As I like to tell my clients, everyone is behaving normally, as they are here. People concern themselves with the tactics--the How is this going to work?--questions without actually focusing on or agreeing on the desired end-states. Just as an example in our strategy, our Future Picture, we say under the heading of:
Operating System: In June 2015, the US Canada Education Program operates with open, collaboratively created governance that ensures rapid, effective decision making by program staff and volunteers, effective resourcing and execution of program projects, rapid and effective consensus building and collaboration between all stakeholder groups. The US-Canada Education Program, its stakeholders and benefactors are strategically aligned on goals, projects and innovations that support free knowledge and information fluency in education.
Open, transparent collaborative systems are being used by all stakeholder groups and participants in the organization's projects.
All stakeholder groups participate in strategic initiative planning and strategic milestones are being met.
Would any Wikipedian be unhappy if the US Canada Education Program Operating System functioned as described and was delivering results as described in June 2015? Is it relevant that you know exactly how the future is achieved? or is it relevant that the future is achieved? It seems highly probable to me that if the program undertook activities that were disruptive to the WP Community, then it would not achieve its Future Picture. I would like to see more discussion around the proposed end-states, not the tactics to achieve them. Questions about the clarity of language, especially as it applies to end-states are good, welcome and go a long way toward aligning people on strategic goals. Questions about tactical details are interesting, but tactics follow strategy. --Mike Cline (talk) 17:00, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Mike, I know you're really enthusiastic about this whole thing and just really want to help people understand, but is there any chance you could tone down the marketing-speak and try using normal-Wikipedia-speak instead? Things like "enterprises that are embarking on a new strategy", "our Future Picture", "one of the realities of strategic thinking" really don't resonate with the culture you're working in here, and in fact may be working against you by making you sound like someone who's playing buzzword bingo instead of speaking from a true understanding of things. I really, really don't mean that sound like I'm saying I think you don't know what you're talking about, because I'm quite convinced you do know what you're talking about; it's just that it's very hard to derive any useful sense of what it is you're talking about when it's all couched in "Innovative Stakeholder Strategy Embarkation For Our Future". A fluffernutter is a sandwich! (talk) 17:21, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
@Fluffernutter, I agree with you (it happens in all types of organizations) and I find that using a common language can sometimes be an issue with diverse groups of people. Everyone presumes there own meanings from the world they live in. It isn't marketing-speak, jargon or buzzwords as you characterize it either, it is language that attempts to capture the essensce of what we are trying to accomplish strategically. It really doesn't matter what words I use as long as the message is clear: There is a fundamental difference between strategy and tactics and tactics must follow strategy to ensure success. Re: speaking from a true understanding of things. I am open to all suggestions for new language, as long that language conveys things strategically. If I don't do that, I will be failing in my committment to the WMF, the community, academia and the working group to keep them strategically aligned and poised to achieve these goals. --Mike Cline (talk) 17:52, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
My suggestion would be talk like a Wikipedian. As someone who is not Fluffernutter: what you're saying comes off as marketing. Whether you think it is buzzword-heavy or not, how people are interpreting it is what is important. And I think the comment above makes clear that your meaning is being obscured. It doesn't matter if it's "a language that attempts to capture the essence of what we are trying to accomplish strategically" if nobody can understand what you're saying. And most Wikipedians tend not to care about big, theoretical, strategic pictures: we are largely practical people. We want to know what you're doing, what evidence you have it'll be a good idea, how much it'll cost, how much of a pain in the backside it will be for us to curate, and how we can kill it if it goes sour. Ironholds (talk) 17:57, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Cripes! I taught sociolinguistics and discourse analysis in a British university for many years, and I found the language virtually incomprehnsible. Whatever people call it, Mike, the register you're using is failing to communicate with the people this RfC is presumably trying to communicate with. Perhaps more accurately, it is communicating something to your audience, but I'm pretty sure it's not what you are intending to communicate. It comes across, rightly or wrongly, as deliberately vague and an attempt to position anyone who questions the how and why of this program as being er ..."strategically out of alignment with the Wikimedia Foundation’s and Wikipedia strategic goals". I support this project despite the marketing-speak. Similarly, others are opposing despite it. But some may be opposing or leaning to oppose because of it. If you want to win them over, it's probably best to avoid it. Just a bit of advice from a retired linguist. Voceditenore (talk) 07:47, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
Not marketing, exactly, more like what it really is, organizational consulting. Mike, many-- perhaps most-- of the people who work on WP do so because we have some degree of dislike of working within more formal organizations and prefer a more chaotic & individualistic manner. We are aware that the experts in organizational behavior predicted that WP would break when it reached one million articles; we thus do not assume that skills in formal organization are relevant here. The language you have been using is not "language that attempts to capture the essence of what we are trying to achieve" At least, not if "we " means the actual active WPedians interested in the education project as a part of WP. The essence of what we are trying to achieve is to improve WP will the knowledge and skills of college students and faculty.
And there is something more basic: many of us here are and intend to be as much concerned with tactics as strategy: we want to improve WP, but improve it in the general manner that WP uses, with the tactics we use here--I would hope refined a good deal, but still the basic tactics of ad hoc organization and a single open community. If something is best organized another way, it will be some other project that WP. While raising money and working with external groups like colleges requires a certain degree of formal structure, we don't want the formal elements to dominate what we do. Many of us think things at WP have gotten much too bureaucratic, we think the WMF returning this project to the community is a wonderful and realistic opportunity to make it less so, and we see you trying to do just the opposite. — Preceding unsigned comment added by DGG (talk • contribs) 05:32, 4 October 2012
+1 to DGG and Voceditenore. And if you've got DGG and I agreeing on something (and I presume that DGG would agree with me here ;p) we're probably right. Or, at least, representing an improbably wide range of opinions. Ironholds (talk) 09:53, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
+1 here, too. Frankly, the more of this jargon I read, the more nauseated I feel. And I'm basically predisposed in favor of the proposal. --jbmurray (talk • contribs) 06:40, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
(transplanted from oppose section) Gigs (talk) 02:14, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Oppose What is it about the foundation and programs encouraging POV pushing and COI editing? We don't need special foundation blessed Wikiprojects. The ones we have now are often bad enough. Gigs (talk) 00:33, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Please elaborate how this project encourages POV pushing and Conflict of Interest. The Interior(Talk) 00:49, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Have you look at the proposed list for these "thematic organizations"? "Wikimedia LGBT", "Medicine", "Indigenous Languages", "Travel", "Catalan language and culture". We should not lend credibility to this flawed "thematic organization" process which will create partisan Wikiprojects with special blessing from the WMF. Gigs (talk) 01:40, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Okay, so you oppose thematic organizations in general, fair enough. But you haven't backed up the very serious allegations you made in your original post. The Interior(Talk) 01:45, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Do you really think we should have a special step in our dispute resolution process to request a gay mediator if one of the parties is gay, and special gay OTRS addresses? Or that a WMF supported organization should be engaging in political advocacy to change laws regarding medical research? While I don't disagree with a lot of what these proposals are proposing on a personal level, I think it's a disastrous idea to have organizations like these with official WMF support, when they have self-declared partisan agendas. Gigs (talk) 02:08, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
I think this concern is premature. None of the proposed thematic organizations have actually formed and been recognized by the WMF yet, so there's no evidence that thematic organizations are or will be likely to engage in the bad behavior you imagine. And if, as you seem to suggest, a group interested in a particular theme is inevitably going to fall into biased editing, then I'm not sure why WMF allows geographically-based chapters either. It sounds like on your view, we should ban the D.C. chapter because it's going to inevitably modify articles to have a D.C.-centric bias. This just has not been the experience with chapters and I see no reason to expect it is going to be the experience with thematic organizations. They are simply chapters organized around a theme rather than a geographic location. Brianwc (talk) 16:17, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
I don't think we should give a geographic group, or any other biased group, especially ones with declared agendas that don't reflect relatively uncontroversial community-wide values, special recognition or monetary support. That's different from banning them. Gigs (talk) 16:28, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Support. I fully support thematic organizations. I disagree that they will cause conflict of interest and bias, any more than WikiProjects do. What they can do is avoid a bias towards the English Wikipedia and cover all, or a range of, WMF projects. I do not come from the US, so I do not want to comment in details about this US/Canada project. However, I would have thought that educational outreach might include Commons, Wikisource, Wikibooks, and Wikinews. It should also include Wikiversity, as a central theme of encouraging learning. This would be a good thing for Wikiversity also. The French Wikipedia might also get a look in in Canada and other wikipedias with language students. --Bduke(Discussion) 21:33, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
Sorry, I did not intend this to become a vote on thematic organizations in general. My oppose was a transplanted vote from above, which I moved so as to not distract the main RfC from its core question. Gigs (talk) 14:37, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
There has been some concern raised about funding sources. Though there will be some funding from the WMF, particularly in the transition phase, it is the plan of the working group that the majority of funding will come from independent sources. Several working group members have significant experience in securing large academic grants of this type, which should greatly aid medium-term planning. This approach would to a large degree benefit from being able to make use of national-specific grants like that which supported the Public Policy Initiative, and also others that have had to be rejected since the adoption of recent WMF policy changes.--Pharos (talk) 05:34, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
It may clarify things to consider the alternatives, as I see them
I. If we do nothing at all, the programs will either die or be supported on an ad hoc basis by volunteers acting without any centralized support. The existing programs have taken about 1.5 active staff members, engaged for the most part in responding to inquiries, trying to encourage new courses to get started nd giving new prospective faculty and ambassadors basic instruction. These activities could be continued, and we might be able to maintain current classes, but the growth of the program would be sharply limited. It is also questionable whether without something organized, we will be able to recruit significant additional faculty.
II. A program be run directly by the US & Canadian chapters. I might think it preferable, if such a structure were in place, which at present it is not, except for NYC and Washington DC and the rather spread-out Canadian chapter. This is not the same as in some of the other English-speaking coutnries, where the chapters are much further developed. The remainder of the country will probably need mostly regional chapters, and this will take a while to organize. It is perfectly in accord with the role of a chapter to run outreach programs in its area, and whether or not the program suggested here is approved, any chapter could do so, and some probably will. But waiting for this will mean not having something in place in June, when the current program will no longer be supported. If the chapters do become ready, a proposal will always be in order that they should take over the program.
III The role of GLAM be extended to this. GLAM, however, is internationally based & this might cause some confusion with other organizations. The reorganization and coordination of GLAM projects is not really far enough advanced to take on additional major projects of this sort. Perhaps they will in the future. Perhaps they can me merged. In the meantime, there is no reason why individual GLAM projects cannot organize and run classes (indeed, I intend to do just that this spring as Wikipedian in Residence at the New York Public Library of the Performing Arts, presumably with cooperation of the NYC chapter). There is no reason why they could not do so even after this starts, whether with or without coordination with the new structure.
IV Organization as a wikiproject. Wikiprojects in general do not have the structure necessary for this, nor the guarantee of persistence that would be needed for this. If the right peoeple participated, they could . But, what is most important, they do not have the ability to receive grants, not being corporately organized. The education program involves joint participation with dozens of outside organizations having their own complex structures and goals, Conventional wikiproject organization can not deal with it--some sort of long term professional assistance is needed, This could perhaps be provided, but that a wikiproject could not raise money of its own will be permanently limiting . It is not clear how much money is needed, but some will be, and quite apart from outside money, it is not even clear thet the WMF or its FDC could give money to a Wikiproject. ,Naturally any project could still run whatever programs it wished that did not tke financial resources, regardlesss of whether the main program exists. or , and if it exists, approves. It is also questionable whether something organized in this manner will be able effectively to recruit faculty.
V. Multiple pathways. The argument against multiple pathways is that we will get inquires, and need a single point of contact, and something specific to direct them to. Multiple pathways will discourage funding; they will encourage perhaps the innovations that can be done without funding, but any substantial diversity will require some The main fault in practice of the WMFs program was that it had so little imagination it considered only a single stereotyped model of courses, due to the limited experience. Diverse support might encourage greater variation, but the lack of substantial funding for any one group will be a major handicap. In practice, I suspect the diverse groups will tend to just do more of the same thing. And one critical component, the availality of faculty to recruit other faculty, will be greatly handicapped if there is no central program.
VI. The program as proposed in the RfC. This will provide a structure from maintenance of the current work, for expansion, for obtaining funding for new projects and experiments, for greater involvement of faculty and Wikipedians. In particular, I think it represents the best chance of engaging additional faculty, who are accustomed to working formally in grant-based structures. Especially if it remains as over-organized as it is looking like it will do, it will probably lose some of the non-organizationally minded Wikipedians like myself, who prefer to work independently, but the programs can be designed so that we too can join in them -- and in any case, will not exclude other methods which we may choose to do. As an illustration, I would remain available to help any particular class in my area that asks me, in or out of the program. Even I working independently would rather have the backup of a formal program, with the possibility of some funding should it be needed. DGG ( talk ) 13:28, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
A few points of clarification here from a Wikimedia Foundation perspective:
In no way is the Education Program no longer wanted by WMF; the 2012-13 Annual Plan includes the Education Program as one of five areas of planned activity for the 2012-13 fiscal year. The goal for the U.S. and Canada program has always been for it to be a volunteer-led program. Our first attempt (during the latter half of the Public Policy Initiative pilot in 2010-2011) didn't work out. (I'll take a large share of the blame for that, as it was part of my job to get the community to take ownership of the project.) The Working Group is more structured and better-thought-out approach to reaching that point. On behalf of the whole Global Education Program, I'll say that the Working Group has done exceptional work in driving a plan for its future that reaches consensus between academia and Wikipedians. It was a challenge to do so, and we thank them for their incredibly hard work to get to this point in time.
The WMF currently runs four programs: U.S., Canada, Egypt, and Brazil. There are at least 10 other programs run by chapters and other volunteers in countries around the world. The goal for the Working Group has been to create a structure that can support the day-to-day running of the U.S. and Canada program similar to how chapters and volunteers support similar programs in other countries and languages. We expect something similar for the Egypt and Brazil programs in the future.
The WMF will continue to support — but not run — the U.S. and Canada programs. The Global Education Program currently provide feedback, communications, and data analysis support for programs operating in other countries around the world. (Unfortunately, our data analysis support capabilities have taken considerably longer to develop than expected. But, we're getting pretty close now to having a system for automated monitoring of education programs.) For example, we do not run the Czech Republic version of the education program, but it was largely modeled after the U.S. program and receives support from WMF staff (such as blog post help and brochures) as requested. The plan is to do the same for the U.S. and Canada programs under the new structure (whether that means this proposed structure, or something else).
I'll also note that the process of recruiting professors has changed substantially since the Public Policy Initiative pilot. One of the things we figured out midway through was that the more someone had to be 'sold' on doing a Wikipedia assignment, the less of a fit they were for Wikipedia. Now we both do more training of new professors, and only work with ones who demonstrate they're willing to learn Wikipedia's way of doing things (and adapt their assignment ideas accordingly). So they are a lot more like Brianwc in recent terms than the average professor during past terms.
Again on behalf of the Wikipedia Education Program team, we'd like to extend a huge thank-you to all the members of the Working Group who have been working hard to reach consensus on the best path forward for the U.S. and Canada Education Programs. We also apologize for not having the data about the quality of student work out before the start of this RfC. We look forward to seeing the direction this volunteer-led effort takes.--Sage Ross (WMF) (talk) 21:04, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Re the data, who made up this "group of Wikipedians", exactly? Ironholds (talk) 21:15, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
You can see who did the reviews here. By and large, people with a fair amount of high quality article writing under their belts.--Sage Ross (WMF) (talk) 21:24, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
As far as "Regarding questions of staff Wikipedia experience and the India Education Program that have come up in the discussion, please see Common misconceptions about the Wikipedia Education Program"...Sage, I don't think anyone is arguing that "IEP proved that all education programs are broken", so that linked page is arguing against some strawmen. What we're saying is something more like "Education Programs around here seem to be failing in some systematic ways, based largely on how the management behind them has been lacking in understanding of Wikipedia and its community." IEP was the end-of-the-line, worst example of that, but that failing has been reflected in the playing out of missteps in many of the education programs. What the opposers seem to be looking for, almost to a man/woman, is evidence that we've moved on from that sort of "have some non-community members throw some stuff up against the wall, see what sticks, look surprised when the community is annoyed at the mess on their wall" approach toward an approach more resembling "What color of wall paint would suit the way Wikipedia is expanding? Do they have any expert painters who are looking for volunteer work in their spare time? We don't want to track red paint all over their carpet or anything, so let's make sure we only bring in painters who understand how to handle paint rollers." Replying to people who don't want to see a "fling stuff" approach with "Well YES, we'll admit there was that one instance where a painter we hired painted the PEOPLE red instead of the walls, but that shouldn't mean you can't trust our painters to be competent!" is sort of missing the point.
Goodness, that was a weird analogy. But still, it's the best way I can think of to explain right now.
I'm also going to point out - and in this I may only be speaking for myself, I don't know - that it seems weird to me that this proposed working group is being explained to us here as being run by Wikimedia volunteers, but only seven people out of 16 in the Working Group appear to be Wikimedians with solid edit histories. The rest are staffers, professors (some of whom may be Wikipedians, some of whom may not be), and a facilitator (I'm not sure whether Mike is working on this project in an official, job capacity; a semi-official "lending professional expertise" capacity; or a "just a Wikimedian" capacity). Either we've got a project that's going to be volunteer-driven, or we have a WMF project that has a couple Wikimedians thrown in for flavor, and with the current demographics of the working group, it's hard to tell which. A fluffernutter is a sandwich! (talk) 21:38, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Mike Cline has graciously donated his professional experience to facilitate the Working Group processes as a volunteer. This has been extremely useful, as he does have an understanding of the Wikipedia community as well as using Wikipedia in the classroom. As for the makeup of the Working Group, you're absolutely right that only about half of the members are experienced Wikipedians. Sage mentions in his first bullet point above that one of the original problems when trying to hand the program over to volunteers was that WMF didn't realize at that time that the community within the Education Program is not only Wikipedia but also academia/professors/Ambassadors/students. For the program to be successful, the Working Group strongly believes both groups should be represented and able to come to a consensus about a program that is mutually beneficial for Wikipedia and students. Because, well, you're right that many non-Wikipedians don't understand the Wikipedia community and norms that are so essential to keeping a strong, reliable encyclopedia. Similarly, many Wikipedians aren't familiar with the higher education community. So 7 Wikipedians and 7 others from the latter group make up the Working Group slots. Annie and I also serve in the group to lend our own experiences with facilitating the program. Please let me know if that still doesn't help answer your concerns about the motivations behind the Working Group selection. JMathewson (WMF) (talk) 22:10, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Sorry, Fluffernutter, that was poorly worded. I didn't mean to put words into anyone's mouth. So, I'll admit—readily—that transitioning to a volunteer-led program from a WMF-led program is really hard, in ways that I didn't at all appreciate at the beginning of the PPI. But I think the typical quality of student work we've seen so far, and the enthusiasm among professors to do a lot more of this, means it's something we, the Wikipedia community, can't afford not to keep working at until we get it right super awesome. As to the working group, tt this point, I would count every one of the professors in the working group as a Wikipedian... they've shown they respect the community and want to learn how to improve Wikipedia, even if some of them primarily do so through their students. And Mike Cline's role is probably best described as the "lending professional expertise" capacity. He's a dedicated Wikipedian since long before the education program, but he's volunteered to put on his 'strategy consultant' hat from his professional life for helping with the working group.--Sage Ross (WMF) (talk) 22:20, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Yeah, can you ask him to take off the damn hat? I think it would help all around. --jbmurray (talk • contribs) 03:42, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
In case this isn't explicit enough in the RfC: The Wikimedia Foundation will continue to support the U.S./Canada Education Program after May 2013, as we support all chapter- and volunteer-run programs, but we will not be involved in the day-to-day running of the program.
What this means is that the work Jami and I do on a daily basis will need to be absorbed by another group. I encourage you to read this page for in-depth information, but essentially, the role we play in strategic planning, meeting with professors, addressing conflicts, and developing training materials for the English Wikipedia needs a new home. The Wikimedia Foundation will continue to support the U.S./Canada Education Program (and all other volunteer- and chapter-led education programs) with learning and documentation, datatracking and analysis, software development, and communications support.
While Sue Gardner's recommendation of narrowing foundation focus makes clear that the Wikimedia Foundation's role will increasingly be to support programs through grant-making, rather than directly running programs like this, this shift in the US and Canada educations programs has been planned since the Public Policy Initiative pilot in 2010. Our task was to start the education program, prove the concept works, and bring it to a point where it could be successfully handed over. The Brazil and Egypt programs (the other two programs currently being run by Wikimedia Foundation directly) will soon also be at the point where they can be handed over, and the Wikimedia Foundation will focus on supporting all programs with documentation, data analysis, software, and communications, as mentioned above.
We are deeply committed to the future of the U.S./Canada Education Program. It's been clear from the first term of the pilot project that there is huge potential for improving Wikipedia by working with educators and their students. The challenge is to provide the right advice, training, and social and technical support so they can contribute their knowledge without breaking existing community processes and putting undue burden on experienced editors.
New users will always make mistakes. Since the beginning, we've worked hard to lessen the impact of our students' first edits by educating them and handholding them along the way. Have we gotten it completely right? Of course not. We found many little things to do and not to do (and a few big things definitely not to do), but each term, we learn more about how to get professors and their students to contribute their knowledge without breaking the wiki. We have purposefully not grown as fast as we could and have declined to work with professors who we felt wouldn't be a good fit for Wikipedia; we've become progressively more strict with screening professors, even while doing less and less direct recruiting. We expect as the learning continues that the costs will continue to decline while the benefits expand.
The Working Group that put this RfC forward is a group of volunteers and academics who know the program best, and who can make sure the program gets the day-to-day support it needs from the new organization, just as volunteers and chapters give programs around the world. The goal in commissioning this Working Group was to make sure that there is a structure in place to continue and build the program, making sure professors' assignments are a benefit to Wikipedia and that what is learned each term is incorporated into the next. I think the thematic organization proposed above is a good solution; DGG's post above lists other alternatives as well. But we don't want to see this program die; we want to see it flourish under the new structure, and be an asset to both the content and community of Wikipedia.--Sage Ross (WMF) (talk) 22:51, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
Quality of work done via the US and Canada Education Program in spring 2012Edit
More than one editor above has said something along the lines of "there's no evidence these education programs are benefiting Wikipedia". Jami mentioned above that there are now partial results available for the spring semester of 2012, so I'm adding this section specifically for discussion of those results. I think bad experiences get much more publicity than good ones, so it's worth highlighting positive news. To summarize what's on the other side of the link: of 82 existing articles in the sample, 67 were improved, 7 were unchanged, and 8 were made worse; the average over all 82 articles was an improvement of 2.94 points on a 26 point scale. There's more data analysis underway to see if the outcomes can be correlated with other factors (e.g. whether there was a campus ambassador available for the class), but those results are not yet available. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 01:00, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
How has the Education Program Helped Students Contribute More Effectively to Wikipedia?Edit
To address some of the questions that have been raised, I'd like to give some examples from my own experiences as a professor in using Wikipedia for my classes. Prior to getting support from the program, I assigned students to write for Wikipedia based on my own guesswork about what such assignments should be. In those classes, the resulting experience was a mixed bag ~ not just for students, who were often confused and unsure about how to best proceed, but also for Wikipedia. I didn't fully appreciate the advantages of students learning the whole Wikipedia process, and had them completely develop their work prior to posting. The assignments were pretty much limited to developing their entries. After training and advice from online and regional ambassadors through the education program, I've improved my assignments so that students work more interactively with the community, learn how to contribute in various forums, and how to better meet Wikipedia aims for articles. Many continue to improve their assignments after the course has ended and they branch out into providing other content, and they are much more likely to become engaged Wikipedians. I'm proud of my students' work, and I think they have provided some excellent and much needed missing content, particularly in areas where content in the encyclopedia is less well represented, such as in race, gender, and poverty. The support of the program has been instrumental to my ability to provide assignments that really make a difference for the encyclopedia and which also engage my students to become ongoing contributors. Here are just a few examples from my students' work:
Those topics aren't politically biased at all. Gigs (talk) 02:11, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Is this a random selection? Does the Education Program give added value over, say, asking for advice from the general community? MER-C 05:50, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Over in Australia we had one academic (user:KteachK) conduct classes using Wikipedia without any program or assistance (and to be frank the academic had bugger all experience on Wikipedia, but they planned very well - see here) and right at the end of the semester the Wikimedia Australia membership was asked to review the articles, which were
We were pleasantly surprised at the quality. In cases like this, where a group of students are working together, and they are closely monitored, I think it works well, and the institution and its students rightfully should feel proud of the result. Wikipedia can be very useful as a tool in learning new skills. However using Wikipedia in grading competency in those new skills causes grief to both Wikipedia and the students in almost every case that I have seen. Also scale can cause new problems; courses running under an approved program feel they have some right to allow students to push crap articles into mainspace for the community to assess - they should remain in userspace until the overseeing academic is proud of the content. I have yet to see any evidence that the education program is adding to our ranks of permanent editors, which means its a large money and time sink. Maybe it is more cost effective to provide beer and pizza once a month for a Wikipedia Editors Club at each uni campus. What I would be especially interested in is whether the professors become regular editors as a consequence of them being involved in the education program. John Vandenberg(chat) 06:41, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
John, I'm a little puzzled why you think that should matter. The question is more, whether any of the professors go on to teach further courses using Wikipedia; of the ones on this group, most or all of them have done this. Of those I know not on this group, some have also. The goal of the education program isn't to make faculty into WPedians, but to use the skills of faculty and WPedians for the common benefit of the encyclopedia, the students, and the public. DGG ( talk ) 04:50, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
Hi David, I am looking for ways that this education program aligns with Wikimedia Foundation strategy. And one of the items in he strategy is to bring new expertise to the projects (e.g. academia). See strategy:Strategic Plan/Role of the WMF#Encourage the health and growth of Wikimedia communities and the projects they create and manage. If the students and the faculty are only donating content and leaving, the education program hasn't hit this objective. All efforts to increase the number of editors are failing. :/ It would be good to know whether the students are returning after the class (iirc, the answer is 'no'), but it might be easier to demonstrate that the faculty are becoming regular contributors via this program, since they are a common element when the same unit is run year after year, and I expect that if they run the unit a few times I am hoping that a decent percentage will understand and care about the underbelly of the project. John Vandenberg(chat) 10:46, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
For the Education Program, the WMF has been pretty clear that the goal is improved content, not editor retention. However, even if faculty don't edit directly very much, and their students are not retained as editors, there is still a positive effect from the expertise of the academics involved. For example, Brian Carver teaches intellectual property law; his students add articles on important cases, such as Gordon v. Virtumundo, Inc.. Brian picks the cases that are important enough to be made into articles, and the students do the work; in that sense, Brian is curating that area of Wikipedia, which is a good thing. Academics who stay in the program are likely to (and should, in my view, be encouraged to) think of their relationship with Wikipedia in this way. If they identify gaps in Wikipedia in their area of expertise, and, via their classes, assist in filling in those gaps, that's a big benefit to Wikipedia. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 11:19, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
I think our Montana State University experience can provide some insight into best practices for the program from both a quality content and editor retention perspective.
1) One of the products of our first class encounter—A graduate level class in Federal Indian Law and Policy--was this Outline of United States federal Indian law and policy. Here graduates students completed a pretty comprehensive survey of literature and survey of Wikipedia articles corresponding. Their work was then transformed into a WP outline. The outline was designed to provide a roadmap for future classes to identify WP articles that needed to be created or improved with the realm of Federal Indian Law.
2) On editor retention (creation) we’ve taken a long view and started working with classes on freshman writing and research. From our work with MSU reference librarians we determined that freshman students right out of secondary school used, but feared WP because of the way it is perceived by secondary school teachers. So by assuaging that fear early on with research and writing assignments supported and encouraged by librarians and instructors, involving WP in a variety of ways, we believe (as do the reference librarians) that students will grow into betters users (and maybe editors) of WP as they progress through their college career. We combined that with the creation of a WP Student Club which is currently attracting reasonable interest under the guidance of a computer science graduate student dedicated growing the club into a self-sustaining entity at MSU. As we become successful with a handful of instructors using WP in the classroom, where instructors are becoming evangelists for WP as a tool, others will follow. As others follow there will be new opportunities to tap into the storehouse of scholarly resources--both student and instructors. That’s our long-term plan at MSU. --Mike Cline (talk) 12:59, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
Good plan, the more students you encourage to edit who arent only creating articles to pass exams the better. There has been several studies finding that when you incentivise folk to do voluntary work with tangible rewards, it can actually hurt their inherent motivation, especially once the incentives are withdrawn. Which might be why few seem to carry on editing once they've completed their assignment. Perhaps this could change with extra effort to convince them that editing can be rewarding for its own sake, and even fun. FeydHuxtable (talk) 19:37, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
I am not sure whether or not any of the work done at Montana State University was subject to any community assessments, but I am confident it contributed to Wikipedia in a positive way with no adverse burden on the community. I linked a summary in my support about, but anyone is free to evaluate the work listed here.--Mike Cline (talk) 09:18, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
I had a look at all of them, Mike. What a wonderfully eclectic bunch of topics. I'd agree that they're all a positive contribution, some much more than others, but all of them better than the average newbie article. I did notice that quite a lot of them were poorly integrated into Wikipedia—orphans and/or no WikiProject banners on their talk pages. I took the liberty of adding appropriate banners to the talk pages and tagging the orphans as such. I get a little annoyed when I see people making sweeping generalizations that student projects per se "damage Wikipedia". I think a case can be made that up to now, the amount of money it has cost to run them and the amount of editor time taken up by some of the less well-run US/Canada projects has cut into their net benefit, but I see that getting better in the future. What really damages Wikipedia, and takes up enormous amounts of editor and admin time is the exponentially increasing corporate and personal advertising here. I did a stint at new page patrol during the IEP mess, and I was shocked at the floods of it, dozens of profoundly non-notable advertorials day in and day out. Even when the topic scrapes notability, the flaming prose (often accompanied by copyvio) takes a lot of time to fix. Yuck! Voceditenore (talk) 17:23, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
Just to add that about half the articles at Wikipedia:Articles for creation fall into this category. It has a backlog of well over a 1000 articles, which means that the ones by legitimate editors are languishing there for ages. We've also got a backlog at WP:Copyright problems going back to July! Again, a significant proportion of these are COI. Frankly, any past problems that stemmed from the US and Canada EPs pale into insignificance compared to this drain on our resources. Why on earth oppose a program that has a good chance of further improving student contributions, which for all their faults are at least in Wikipedia's original spirit of collaboration and knowledge sharing? OK rant over. :) Voceditenore (talk) 11:48, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
Measuring the burden placed on the community by the US & Canada Education ProgramsEdit
Since some of the comments here have been about the burden that students place on the community, I've started a table at Wikipedia:Ambassadors/Research/Spring 2012 burden analysis to do a detailed analysis of the work the students have done, and the work that has had to be done by the community in response -- cleanup, reversion, etc. The courses evaluated are the ones on this page; and the students are the alphabetically first and last ones listed in the course tool -- see the table for details.
This is going to take me a while, so if anyone is willing to help with the analysis, please post at the talk page and I'll explain how to help. It's fairly mechanical, except for the subjective analysis of the quality of the edits, so many hands would make light work here. I think this is worth doing, because there really hasn't been a way to evaluate the burden placed on the community, so people have been citing their own experience and hearsay, and it's hard to know if those are truly representative of the impact the programs have had on the community. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 15:17, 13 October 2012 (UTC)
A draft is now completed; if you're interested in the question of what impact the students have on the community, take a look here. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 16:17, 21 October 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for doing this work, Mike, as it gives a bit of an idea of what we are getting from this project. I did some additional background work, to identify that the US/Canada programs had just under 70 courses for that term, with about 1700 students; however, many of these students never edited at all, and the burden analysis only reviews 34 (less than half) of the "enrolled" courses. Perhaps more importantly, most of them do not include an actual burden analysis. They focus on the change in article quality before and after, and whether the individual editors whose work was sampled were useful contributors, not how much "other editor" time it took to bring the edits to "wiki-quality" (the burden). Now, the methodology of the study isn't entirely clear to me — since I don't see any indications to suggest otherwise, I'll have to assume that only the classes in the study resulted in mainspace edits; and thus, it is likely only about half of the "enrolled" students did course-related mainspace editing. Let's call it 1000 students just to give us a round number. Frank Schulenberg, in an off-wiki discussion, told me that approximately 4% of student editors stick around and become "regular" editors; that would be about 40 students in the term. (For the record, a 4% editor retention rate is much better than I expected, and is higher than several other editor engagement processes.) For these courses, over 100 editors volunteered to be campus or online ambassadors; let's call their average time investment to be the equivalent of 0.5 weeks of editing per person, at 100 volunteers ( = 50 "editing weeks"). And then there's the staffing, at 2 FTE x 0.5 year = 1 FTE at a (very conservative estimate of) $60,000/FTE. So...for 34 new or improved articles of above-average quality and 40 new editors, the cost to the project was roughly $60,000 plus 50 volunteer editing weeks. (I'll note this is not counting any travel or other expenses; for the global education projects, this cost would easily double, although they have a better editor retention rate.)
Now, I'll admit that these calculations are pretty much back-of-the-envelope, and can't be considered confirmed in any sense of the word, but I don't think I'm that far out. But that's not a great return on investment compared to other less expensive editor engagement programs, such as the Teahouse. Risker (talk) 06:04, 6 November 2012 (UTC)
Risker, thanks for engaging with this data; I appreciate it. I think the more data we have to look at the more likely we are to be able to agree. Just a couple of comments.
First, just FYI: the 34 courses are just the ones that show up in the pulldown menu of the "Course tool", here. I don't know why the other courses you mention aren't there but I don't think it would be safe to assume anything about the edit patterns for those classes.
Second, you say that the analysis doesn't look at "how much 'other editor' time it took to bring the edits to 'wiki-quality' (the burden)". You're right that I didn't put a number of hours on that, but every one of the edits is classified as to whether it required a response at all. That is, if an edit was inherently an improvement (minor or major) it required no response. If someone subsequently came along and further improved the article, then that's great for the encyclopedia, but the time spent doing that shouldn't be regarded as burden. Burden is work that shouldn't have had to be done, and I think you can get a fairly good idea of the level of the burden from the data given. A complaint frequently made by opposers of the education program is that the student edits are not worth the trouble; I believe this data shows that that is not the case. Thirty-one of the thirty-six classes assessed had only productive students.
Third, and related to the second point above: I wouldn't use the burden analysis to quantify the quality improvement. The quality analysis has more complete data on quality, and would allow a numerical value to be placed on the article improvements. I also think that if we were to argue that the quality improvement seen doesn't justify the efforts made, we would need a control group -- particularly in order to argue, as you do, that one must take volunteer hours into account in the investment. How many hours of volunteer effort go into creating an FA? I would guess the Shakespeare authorship question FA took several hundred hours of editor time; perhaps more than the entire support needs of a semester of the EP. It was worth it, of course; and I think the EP is worth it too.
It depends on what the subject is, and what sort of shape it's in when you start. California State Route 52 (my next FA goal) took roughly 2 days of researching, 3 days of writing, and 1 day getting through the partially-complete ACR. --Rschen7754 10:41, 6 November 2012 (UTC)
Yes, it can be done quickly; I think I've done FAs in only fifteen hours of work, though one should count reviewer time too. But my point was that one would not usually evaluate Shakespeare authorship question's value to the project by the number of hours put in by volunteers. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 10:46, 6 November 2012 (UTC)
I think it was also the subject of an ArbCom case. :/ --Rschen7754 11:15, 6 November 2012 (UTC)
Rschen7754 is correct about Shakespeare authorship question, and it would be a fairly terrible example of taking an article to FA given the longterm battlefield that article has been; I'd seriously question the judgment of any professor or ambassador who allowed students to get in the middle of that. I do, however, understand the point that is being made here. My point was that it's a misnomer to call something a burden analysis when the burden hasn't been measured, at least not in any consistent way. The volunteer hours I was referring to in my comments above are the hours spent by ambassadors, who have dedicated a portion of their wiki-hours to assist classes; they're not about volunteers unaffiliated with the EP. If the program didn't exist, one assumes those volunteers would be doing something else of equal value to the project. Risker (talk) 16:06, 6 November 2012 (UTC)
The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page, such as the current discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.