You don’t learn how to ride a bike by standing on a hilltop and letting yourself roll down. Wikipedia is no different. New editors need training wheels, or things (metaphorically) go downhill fast. Since September, the Wiki Education Foundation has worked with our technical partners at WINTR to design, write, test, and deploy a new suite of training and orientation tools. The goal is to help instructors and students get started on Wikipedia.
We looked at tools from some of the best online education platforms we could find. We drew from the collective experience of Wiki Ed staff, surveys of instructors and students, and intensive beta-testing. The new training isn’t just the nuts and bolts of editing. It’s also about how to become part of the Wikipedia community.
For instructors, we’ve created a streamlined orientation to Wikipedia that helps them understand the culture of Wikipedia before they start designing assignments. We’ve also included new case studies for translation, multimedia, and science-writing courses. We’ve tested these trainings with new instructors, and have heard overwhelmingly positive feedback. You can take that orientation here.
The same infrastructure is being used to develop a range of student trainings. Aside from two introductory courses on culture and editing basics, the student training is broken down into segments. Each piece pops up when students or instructors need them the most. Rather than putting everything into one long tour of Wikipedia for students to take at the start of the course (and forget by the time they need it), the new training follows the instructor’s timeline. Now, students are alerted to trainings relevant to what they’re doing in class that week. These trainings can be assigned and graded by an instructor, or left optional.
Here’s an example: Let’s say it’s four weeks into the assignment, and a student is about to start contributing some research they’ve found at the library. Before, they’d have to re-take the entire online training to dig out the nugget about properly formatting citations. Now, they’re just a click or two away from a citation module that takes them through the process, with some deeper explanations. These stand-alone modules can be assigned to students who struggle with trickier ideas, such as close paraphrasing, or moving a sandbox article into Wikipedia “mainspace.” We even have one that helps students do a peer review, and another for tackling medicine or psychology articles.
We’re very excited about another new feature: quizzes. For the first time, we’re able to ask students to remember and apply what they’ve learned in the training. When they get an answer that isn’t quite right, they’ve given an explanation and asked to try again. That way, quizzes help students engage with what they’ve learned, rather than simply “test” them. Quizzes are interspersed throughout longer modules or at the end of shorter ones. They’re assessed on the fly, and “wrong” answers are explained, rather than penalized. You can take a sneak peek of the student training here.
As students move through the course timeline, the instructor can easily see which students are up-to-date on assigned trainings by checking in on the course Dashboard.
We’re eager to hear feedback on any aspect of the training experience. Send ideas, suggestions, or compliments to firstname.lastname@example.org.