The Wikimedia Foundation has recently launched the India Education Program. The goal is to encourage professors in India to join a growing global community of educators who use Wikipedia as a teaching tool in their classes. Both teachers and students will receive guidance and support from Wikipedia experts as well as free educational materials developed by the Foundation and tested at first class universities in the United States like Harvard, Berkeley, and others.
This is the first time that they have tried the initiative outside the US. As a first step they have decided to run the program at select universities in Pune. This would give students the opportunity to participate in the world’s largest online encyclopedia and to improve their media literacy skills. Hisham Mundol the coordinator of the program in India shared with us that ‘Information about India and contributions from India is not adequately represented on Wikipedia, and we want to change that.’
As part of the plan they will have a number of Campus Ambassadors – volunteers chosen by the Wikimedia team, who would train students on how to write and edit articles on Wikipedia. These Campus Ambassadors will support both students and teachers during the course of the semester. This program generated an overwhelming response. ‘We got more than 700 applications and enquiries from all over the country. It’s been heartening and inspiring!’ says Hisham. They have selected 22 people who will work with educators in Pune.
At the core of the program, they propose to replace some coursework that students do (projects/reports/homework) with working on Wikipedia articles. The Campus Ambassadors would work with professors and teachers to identify potential articles on Wikipedia that can be created or improved through coursework for that particular semester.
Hisham and his team have been working closely with teachers and administrators in various institutions in Pune to evince interest in the program. ‘We also conducted detailed faculty workshops for 6 institutions in Pune where nearly 30 teachers and administrators attended. This was for the institutions that we have selected for the very first roll-outs. I’ve also visited Pune to support the training for the first lot of Campus Ambassadors that we have.’
They saw Pune as the ideal location for this program for a number of reasons. The large number of colleges and universities with over than 2,00,000 students attending was one of the main attractions. ‘Pune’s student community comes from all over the country, making it an ideal place to engage a diverse group of participants. In addition, the largest part of the success of any Wikimedia program is the community of volunteers, of which there is a vibrant and active community in Pune.’ Says Hisham.