In early 2018, Wiki Education piloted a new program, which we called Wikipedia Fellows, and which we’ve since re-launched as Wiki Scholars & Scientists. In the program, we empowered subject matter experts to contribute their knowledge to Wikipedia through a structured online synchronous 12-week course. We ran one course in early 2018, after which we published an evaluation report. In the intervening months, we’ve run 11 additional courses, and today, we’ve published an update to our evaluation report documenting our additional learnings.
We ran six courses in summer 2018 and five courses in fall 2018, all told training an additional 163 subject matter experts to contribute content to Wikipedia. Participants added 265,000 words to 572 articles, including creating 65 new articles, and demonstrated the impact that bringing academic expertise to Wikipedia can have. This program tackles article topics that are otherwise hard for existing Wikipedians — who may not have the subject matter expertise — or new academics — who may not have the Wikipedia knowledge — to improve. Examples improved through the program include:
- Feminist poetry is a new article created by a program participant. Creating a new article on a broad topic like this requires a broad understanding of the subject-matter, which is the kind of thing an expert can provide.
- The hometown association article was heavily tagged and poorly organized. It was the kind of article that accretes content over time, but lacks coherence. A program participant was able to put the pieces together and give it the coherence it was missing.
- Bette Korber‘s biography, which was created by a program participant, successfully captures her achievements and puts them in the proper context. Again, it’s easy to write a biography as a series of events that give little sense of the importance of their work. It’s harder to put that in context, and show the most important aspects of their professional achievements. It’s the kind of thing an expert, who understands the importance and can contextualize it, is better-equipped to do than someone with less breadth and depth of understanding.
That’s why we think this program is so meaningful to improving Wikipedia content — and why we hope other Wikimedia organizations will adopt similar programs in their language Wikipedias. In order to facilitate this happening, we’ve published an update to our pilot evaluation, with more details on what we learned in the next 11 cohorts, and an explanation of where we are taking the program in the future. The report was written by Program Managers Ryan McGrady and Will Kent, with input from Senior Wikipedia Expert Ian Ramjohn and Director of Partnerships Jami Mathewson. We firmly believe detailed evaluation reports like this are an important part of participating in the Wikimedia movement, and we are committed to continually documenting our learnings for the benefit of others in the Wikimedia movement. I’ll be speaking about this program at the forthcoming Wikimedia+Education Conference in Donostia, in an effort to encourage more Wikimedia education groups to adopt our model.