It’s time to announce Wiki Education’s new Annual Plan for the 2018–19 fiscal year, approved by our Board of Trustees in early June. The plan prescribes activities, goals, and targets for our organization from July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019, and also reports on the successes and learnings from last year.
As we look ahead toward this next year, we reflect on the work of last year, which has been a time of growth for our organization. This year alone, a small staff of 12 supported a total of 718 instructors and more than 15,000 students. For the first time in the history of our organization, we had more returning than new professors, which is a strong indicator of the value instructors see in Teaching with Wikipedia. And after eight years of our Classroom Program, students enrolled in our program added more than 44 million words to Wikipedia in April, eclipsing the amount of information available in the last print edition of Encyclopædia Britannica. With our new Wikipedia Fellows program, we also made a long-standing dream come true: to recruit and empower academic subject-matter experts as contributors to Wikipedia.
Academics, students, and Wikipedians alike recognize the value of contributing academic knowledge to the world’s leading source of online encyclopedic information. It is not lost on our program participants that millions of people are digesting their work in order to make informed political and behavioral decisions in their lives. In fact, that mass audience inspires an increased sense of responsibility in students in our Classroom Program. It also inspired a number of academics to apply to be part of our new Wikipedia Fellows cohort tasked with improving Wikipedia articles related to midterm elections.
Wiki Education is the only organization devoted to systematically improving Wikipedia’s reliability and completeness with a model that shows clear impact. We hope to continue providing support to instructors, students, and academics to bring their knowledge to the resource for many years to come. So as we expand and engage even more individuals in this mission, we look ahead toward new ways to create sustainable practices around our systems of support. To do so at the rate we have been growing is to make purposeful changes in how we operate.
The coming fiscal year will be one of transition. We hope to continue to grow the impact we’ve made through our programs and will engage new revenue streams to be able to do so. This means uniting with our already avid supporters at the more than 500 universities we engage to further incorporate the improvement of Wikipedia into the structures of academia. We will be evaluating the viability of selling some of our core support services to universities and colleges that want to encourage their faculty to teach with Wikipedia and improve student learning. We will also continue to explore Topic Sponsorships, a component of our fundraising strategy that seeks annual gifts of $50K+ to support ~200 students to improve Wikipedia in key topic areas, ranging from anthropology to linguistics to zoology. These new revenue streams will be our answer to a widening gap between an ever increasing demand in our programmatic offerings and the limited amount of funding we are able to create through philanthropy.
At the same time, we will be investing in our technical infrastructure to bring our systems of support to even more people globally. Wikimedia programs worldwide already rely on our digital platform to enable new users to contribute to Wikipedia and to measure the impact that they make. Sage Ross, our longtime Product Manager, will head our new Technology Department, a move that will set us on a path for being a reliable source of support for the thousands of users of our Dashboard software.
Our main focus this coming year will be on getting the organization ready for executing our new 3-year strategic plan. We will minimize our expenses in programs like Visiting Scholars that have not scaled and build our capacity in promising new approaches like the Wikipedia Fellows program. By generating new revenue streams and by improving our technical capabilities, we will create the pre-conditions that will be required to make the vision of our board and staff come true in the years to follow.
If you’d like to delve deeper into our plans for this next fiscal year, I encourage you to read the full Annual Plan document here. We will also continue to share our progress through monthly reports to the Board, which are shared on our website.