Monthly Report, June 2020

By on August 19, 2020

Monthly Report, June 2020

By on August 19, 2020

Monthly Report, June 2020

Highlights

  • June marked the end of our Spring 2020 cohort of courses, and we couldn’t be more proud of our instructors and students. To say that Spring 2020 was a challenging term is a gross understatement, and we’re incredibly grateful to and impressed by all of our instructors and students as they forged ahead with their Wikipedia assignments in spite of the upheavals brought about by the pandemic. Students edited 6,390 articles, created 591 new entries, and added 5.27 million words and 56,700 references.
  • In June we debuted our three week long Wikidata Summer Institute. The idea behind this new approach was to condense the length of the course and meet twice a week instead of once. Scheduling has proven to be challenging during the pandemic and this seemed like a worthwhile change to test. Although total edits were significantly lower than the longer courses, the engagement and enthusiasm of the participants was as active as ever. Take a look at this Dashboard to see a detailed list of their accomplishments. We were thrilled to work with participants from Western Canada, LACMA, and some independent data consultants.
  • In June, we were happy to work with the American Academy of Developmental Medicine & Dentistry (AADMD) to meet their members virtually. Several AADMD members joined our Wiki Scholars course sponsored by the WITH Foundation, and we enjoyed speaking to members about Wikipedia’s missing coverage of healthcare access for people with disabilities. We’re excited to see the work those members will do in our current course to make Wikipedia more equitable.

Organizational updates

Take our survey

We’ve been publishing this Monthly Report in the same format for many years now. As we turn to our new fiscal year on July 1, we are interested in determining if the report still meets our stakeholders’ needs. We’ve created a survey about our Monthly Report. If you read our report, please take a few minutes to give us your feedback.

Staffing

At the end of June, we said goodbye to several staff members, a painful decision necessitated by the economic uncertainty in the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We express our deep gratitude to the following individuals for their contributions to Wiki Education:

  • Paul Carroll joined us in February as our Director of Institutional Funding. While we didn’t work with Paul long, he dove right into Wiki Education’s world. Paul made every effort from the first day to use his considerable network in the philanthropic community to support our work. We appreciated his enthusiasm for our work.
  • Elysia Webb worked for us as a Wikipedia Expert for nearly two years. She supported countless student editors and participants in our Scholars & Scientists Program, answering questions and providing excellent feedback on work. More recently, she taught some of our Scholars & Scientists Program courses, where her knowledge of Wikipedia enriched the participants’ experiences.
  • Cassidy Villeneuve has served as the voice of our organization since 2017. She has expertly guided our blog, social media, training material development, marketing, and any other communications task we threw her way. Cassidy’s work is read by thousands of our program participants each year as they seek out her clear explanations of complex Wikipedia policies and guidelines, and we know her work will continue increasing our visibility and informing our participants
  • Ozge Gundogdu’s work as office manager, executive assistant, and human resources manager entailed tracking a lot of little details, from ensuring we paid our rent on time to making sure our time off was accurately recorded. She worked closely with our ED, supported our external accountants, and served as the liaison to the board. Throughout it all, Ozge made everyone feel supported and appreciated.
  • Shalor Toncray single-handedly supported thousands of new Wikipedia editors each year as a Wikipedia Expert. As the first Wikipedian many of our participants engaged with for the last three years, Shalor showcased the best newbie welcome Wikipedia can offer. She was exceptionally dedicated to ensuring Wikipedia’s quality got better while student editors had a great experience.
  • Ryan McGrady worked for Wiki Education for more than five years, serving in a variety of Program Manager roles. He’s overseen our Wikipedia Student Program, our Visiting Scholars Program, and most recently built our Scholars & Scientists Program’s Wikipedia courses. His deep engagement with both Wikipedia and academia shines through everything he does, and his dedication enriched every program he’s worked on. His influence will elevate our work for years to come.
  • Samantha Weald joined Wiki Education in 2014, and for many instructors in our Student Program and participants in our Scholars & Scientists Program, she has been the first person they meet. Her outreach skills have brought participants into every program we’ve run, and her ability to make literally hundreds of individuals feel personally welcomed simultaneously is nothing short of astounding. Samantha has been instrumental in establishing processes that have helped Wiki Education scale our impact with limited resources, and we’re grateful for her adaptability and role as a team player.

We wish these seven individuals all the best in their future endeavors.

Programs

Wikipedia Student Program

Status of the Wikipedia Student Program for Spring 2020 in numbers, as of June 30:

  • 409 Wiki Education supported courses were in progress (268, or 65%, were led by returning instructors).
  • 7,498 student editors were enrolled.
  • 54% of students were up-to-date with their assigned training modules.
  • Students edited 6,390 articles, created 591 new entries, and added 5.27 million words and 56,700 references.

June marked the end of our Spring 2020 cohort of courses, and we couldn’t be more proud of our instructors and students. To say that Spring 2020 was a challenging term is a gross understatement, and we’re incredibly grateful to and impressed by all of our instructors and students as they forged ahead with their Wikipedia assignments in spite of the upheavals brought about by the pandemic. 

The Student Program team spent much of June closing out courses from the spring term and planning ahead for the fall. We know the Fall term will also be full of uncertainties, and we’re striving to support our program participants in the ways that help them most.

Student work highlights:

The idea that plants, which lack a brain or nervous system, are capable of “behavior” may seem odd to many, but that’s the focus on Elizabeth Van Volkenburgh’s Plant Behavior class. Students in the class created articles on hydraulic signaling in plants, plant nucleus movement, Mechanoreceptors (in plants), root phenotypic plasticity and plant memory. Another student tripled the size of the plant root exudates article, which had been created by a student in an earlier iteration of the class back in 2018, and another expanded the kin selection article, an important concept in evolutionary biology, to include information about plants.

For the fourth consecutive year, students in Ashleigh Theberge’s Meso and Microfluidics in Chemical Analysis course continued to expand and improve the droplet-based microfluidics article that students in a previous class created in 2016. Other students in the class made major improvements to related articles like microfluidic cell culture, digital microfluidics, paper-based microfluidics as well as the main microfluidics article.

Scholars & Scientists Program

Wikidata

We’re excited to be trying out a new version of our Wikidata program. In June we debuted our three week long Wikidata Summer Institute. The idea behind this new approach was to condense the length of the course and meet twice a week instead of once. Scheduling has proven to be challenging during the pandemic and this seemed like a worthwhile change to test. Although total edits were significantly lower than the longer courses, the engagement and enthusiasm of the participants was as active as ever. Take a look at this Dashboard to see a detailed list of their accomplishments. We were thrilled to work with participants from Western Canada, LACMA, and some independent data consultants.

This group did some excellent work. Check out the newly-improved item for Salome Bey, a Canadian singer, composer, and actor. One participant also did some excellent work on the Plan of laying out the ground of Publick Square, London (Ontario) item.

This new approach to the Wikidata courses will create new opportunities for more participants to take the course and we hope the new schedule will be easier to fit into participants’ already-busy weeks.

Wikipedia

This month we wrapped up our first COVID-themed course and launched a second 6-week intensive course. The idea behind both of these courses is to focus on improving Wikipedia’s coverage of COVID-19 pandemic information, specifically state-specific articles. Since responses vary so much from state to state, capturing this information has become even more vital. This original blog post details how we are able to run a course at no cost to participants in order to shore up this essential content.

From the course that wrapped up, you should spend some time looking at how much the North Dakota article has expanded. Similarly, new sections have appeared on the New York article. Although these courses are condensed, the urgency around this topic places a special emphasis on the timeliness of high-quality information on these articles. We have yet to see how this will impact continued editing after the courses wrap up, but it is our hope that these participants are able to continue to add to these articles and develop them.

Our second COVID-themed course has also begun. We are thrilled to be working with these 17 editors, most of whom have not edited Wikipedia before. The approach to this course is identical to the first one. A set of editors in this group have taken to improving the impact section of the articles. Most impact sections have, so far, only addressed the pandemic’s impact on sports. These participants acknowledge that the impact of the pandemic extends into other aspects of life – education, economy, workplaces, and specific communities of those affected by the pandemic. Spend some time on the South Carolina and Arizona articles to see these newly expanded sections. We’re looking forward to all of the contributions this group will be making to these articles.

We are pleased to announce that we have started a second Wiki Scholar course with the WITH Foundation. As with the first course, the focus of this course will be improving articles in the field of disability and individuals with disabilities. We are just a few weeks into the course, getting to know these 14 excellent participants. As the weeks go by, keep your eye on this Dashboard to track their hard work and new developments.

This month we launched our fourth course Wiki Scholars course in partnership with the Society of Family Planning (SFP). As with the previous courses, this course will focus on training SFP members to improve Wikipedia articles related to abortion, contraception and related topics. We know that Wikipedia plays a significant role in the personal research people do about health and medicine, and we are happy to work with SFP to ensure the public has access to the highest quality information about family planning. Visit this Dashboard to keep up with their contributions to free knowledge. 

Advancement

Partnerships

In June, we were happy to work with the American Academy of Developmental Medicine & Dentistry (AADMD) to meet their members virtually. Several AADMD members joined our Wiki Scholars course sponsored by the WITH Foundation, and we enjoyed speaking to members about Wikipedia’s missing coverage of healthcare access for people with disabilities. We’re excited to see the work those members will do in our current course to make Wikipedia more equitable. 

We confirmed a Wiki Scientists course with the American Physical Society and will spend July and August recruiting members who are eager to expand Wikipedia’s coverage of physicists. 

Finally, we spent the month recruiting scholars and scientists to participate in our third Wiki Scholars course about state and regional responses to COVID-19. We look forward to seeing the great work this engaged group does to bring regional data to the public.

Communications

Blog posts:

Technology

June was a busy month for the Wiki Education technology. We deployed a bevy of updates to the Dashboard and wikiedu.org to prepare for our Wikipedia Classroom Program plans for Fall 2020, and our two Google Summer of Code students, Amit and Shashwat, got off to very productive starts to the official “coding period” of their projects.

For the upcoming Fall 2020 term and the new application process for the Wikipedia Student Program, Chief Technology Officer Sage Ross worked with Student Program Manager Helaine Blumenthal to update our instructor orientation, the Dashboard course creation process and assignment wizard, and many of the automated emails that the Dashboard sends to instructors before, during and after the term. Sage began preparing an FAQ system for the Dashboard, which will replace our earlier question-and-answer system (ask.wikiedu.org) in July. We also finished up and deployed a feature developed by former Outreachy intern and Outreachy mentor Khyati Soneji: tracking contributions to specific sets of articles defined with the PagePile tool, which is an alternative to using Categories or templates to identify a relevant set of pages.

We also fixed several bugs that affected specific browsers, and updated the Dashboard for the domain switch from tools.wmflabs.org to the venerable toolforge.org.

Returning Summer of Code student Amit Joki implemented a set of changes that reduce the amount of JavaScript required to load the Dashboard. This will improve site load times a little bit, and may make a substantial difference for Programs & Events Dashboard users with significant bandwidth limitations. Summer of Code student Shashwat Kathuria integrated better error tracking into the Dashboard stats update processes, so that each course can now show program organizers when there has been a problem importing recent editing activity for their event. These projects continue through August, and we anticipate both students will move on to some of their stretch goals for the final weeks.

Finance & Administration

The total expenditures for the month of June were $167K, ($16K) under the budget of $183K. The Board was under ($9K) by moving the Board Meeting from In-person to Remote. Fundraising was over budget +$3K due to employment costs +$4K while under ($1K) in Travel. General & Administrative were over +$7K due to Indirect overhead allocation change +$5K, Payroll Costs +$1K, and Administrative Costs +$4K while under in Professional Fees ($2K) and Location Expense ($1K). Programs were under by ($17K) including Payroll ($7K), Travel ($2K), Communications ($2K) and Indirect costs ($6K).

The Year-to-date expenses $2.219K were ($58K) under the budget of $2.277K. The Board was under budget by ($16K) due to a combination of +$4K in payroll costs while under ($20K) in Board Meeting expenses. Fundraising was over +$19K due to interim consulting work +$10K and Payroll +$10K, while under ($1K) in Indirect Costs. General & Administrative were over +$129K. +$136K in Indirect Cost allocations, +$8K in payroll, +$7K in Travel, +$4K Furniture and Office Expenses, and +$4K in Communications while under budget ($6K) in Professional Fees ($24K) in Occupancy Costs. Programs were under ($190K), of which ($136K) were Indirect Costs, ($62K) in Travel, ($22K) Communications, (3K) Office Supplies, ($3K) Professional Fees while showing overages +$36K in payroll.

Office of the ED

Current priorities:

  • Finalizing the annual plan & budget for fiscal year 2020–21
  • Annual Board Meeting (Zoom)
  • Dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our organization

In early June, Frank sent the final version of the annual plan and budget for fiscal year 2020–21 to the members of Wiki Education’s board. Given the severity of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and the uncertainty around the endowments of institutional funders, we don’t expect to generate the revenue that would be necessary for keeping Wiki Education’s operations on the same level as in the past. That’s why the new annual plan calls for moving the organization fully online to save the money we’re currently spending on our office space in the Presidio of San Francisco. Furthermore, the plan for fiscal year 2020–21 calls for reducing Wiki Education’s headcount significantly, yet in a way that will allow the organization to provide our core services to an extent that is reasonable under the current conditions.

On June 5th and 6th, the board held its annual board meeting. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s board meeting took place virtually through Zoom. On the first day, Frank reflected on the past year, which – until COVID-19 hit the United States – had been on a very good trajectory. Then, Frank presented the annual plan for next fiscal year, followed by LiAnna and Sage who talked about our plans for Programs and Technology. Subsequently, the board approved the plan & the budget. On day two, the board renewed the terms of some of its members and then discussed the current status of Philanthropy and Education in the United States before moving into the Executive Session.

During the rest of the month, Frank, supported by Ozge, dealt with the layoffs due to COVID-19.

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