Posted on December 23, 2011
Wikipedia Education Program
It’s been a while since I last wrote a blog post, and this is in part due to the last extension I wrote sadly enough not being available under an open license due to client demands :/ This blog post is about what I’m currently working on, new infrastructure for a project that I hope you’ll agree upon is totally awesome.
Open knowledge and open learning tools go hand in hand, thus Wikipedia can be an amazing resource for education further then simply looking up things. The Wikipedia Education Program strives to involve university students with the Wikipedia community, by creating and editing articles as part of their coursework. This is a real win-win for everyone involved. The students get to do something which is actually useful, as their work won’t disappear into some dusty archive of their university, and they learn working collaboratively with other people in the Wikipedia community. The gains for Wikipedia, and it’s community, are probably pretty obvious; more contributors, more content, more people to help increase the quality of the encyclopaedia as a whole.
If you are interested in bringing this program to your university, definitely check out the Wikipedia Education Program (WEP). Also, you can find more comprehensive posts about the program itself, as well as many success stories, on the Wikimedia blog.
The WEP started several years ago with a handful of universities participating. Such participation and enrolment was kept track of manually on wiki pages. Obviously, this does not scale well, and now that the program has two or three orders of magnitude more students, new tools are urgently needed. The main goal is having a way for students to enrol themselves, and then be tracked by their mentors and people of the community wanting to provide assistance where needed. Further a lot of nice things can be done, such as keeping track of contributions, drop-out rates, ect, so that problems can be spotted, and measures can be taken to avoid these in the future. You can find an initial draft of the requirements here.
I’m implementing this as a new MediaWiki extension, which will when completed, be placed onto Wikipedia. The extension is, probably unsurprisingly, called Education Program. It’s currently in early alpha stage, so not much to see there yet. However, a draft of it’s functionality can be found here. Management wise it’ll be somewhat similar to Contest, but more extensive (since there is more stuff to manage), and hopefully improved along multiple dimensions. I still need to put more thoughts into the exact flow for students though, and discuss this with the other people involved.
This is a screenshot of one of the many special pages making up the management interface. It lists all courses, allows you to browse through them (paged) and filter on criteria. Program administrators and mentors also get to see a control to add new courses, which then takes them to a new page with a form. Very similar pages exist for other types of objects, such as Institutions, Terms, Mentors and Students (although the later two are somewhat different, since they cannot be modified by people other then the students or mentors themselves).
I will likely be working on this for another 2 months, after which I will start work on an even more awesome project (don’t get me wrong, the WEP is definitely awesome), on which I’ll post more later on.