Learning patterns/Advanced workshop with focused and dedicated participants
What problem does this solve?
In several workshops, you may find a mixed audience. Some of the participants may be editing in a very advanced stage, and some others may want to learn more about some basic stuff.
Let's imagine this scenario. A group of Wikimedians conducted a regional workshop. There were around 15-20 participants. After the workshop they got these two pieces of feedback.
|Feedback A: Expected more (more, more) technical stuff||Feedback B: Go slow, focus on basic questions, please|
|The workshop went well. . . . . . However, most of the topics discussed in this were easy to understand. I was expecting more technical stuff and advanced topics such as Lua modules, AWB plugin.||I learnt new things in this workshop. I would have appreciated if you had given more time on explaining what are the five pillars of Wikipedia, and on the issue how can we rely on Wikipedia when anyone can edit it?|
Have you ever faced something like this? Have you received contradicting feedback? Some felt that the workshop had too many technical and advanced topics and some others felt that those were basic stuff?
If yes, perhaps next time you can try an Advanced workshop with focused and dedicated participants
This is true that in several workshops this model of mixed participants is intended AND following "Wiki" principle ("anyone can edit") we should invite all type of participants (advanced Wikimedians, beginners, non-Wikimedians but like-minded people etc.)
However there are negative sides also.
- You can not have a dedicated and focused training.
- There is a possibility that one group or the other group (or some participants) will lose interest/attention in some parts of the workshop.
- It might be a nightmare for the trainer to serve all type of participants.
What is the solution?
Let's start with a question: what is the objective of the workshop? Is it—
- Training Wikimedians with theme of assemble/reunion/gathering (such as Wikimania (or imagine local equivalents) where experienced Wikimedians can meet new Wikimedians. They all can learn things together.
- Conducting a workshop, but inviting all types of Wikimedians and also like-minded non-Wikimedians. Their presence is really important. Even if someone does not edit Wikipedia, in the workshop they can learn and share their experience.
- Conducting a workshop where you want to train specific people about certain topics. For example 5 Wikimedians are working really well on Wikidata and have thousands of edits, and they want to learn about Lexeme, OpenRefine, Advanced Query etc?
If your answer is #1 and #2, and you want to stick with it, this learning pattern is not for you. Also, as told above, it is very important and sometimes unavoidable to have a mixed audience.
Now, if your answer is #3 above, you may consider conducting a workshop for specific participants who are standing in the same level and share similar learning requirement.
Case study"Advanced Wikidata Training, India 2018
In November 2018, we conducted an Advanced Wikidata workshop in India. In India, many editors are editing Wikidata. Now if we look closely, as of November 2018 there were around 12-15 super-active editors making thousand of edits every month, creating and managing "this" and "that" portal and project. In brief, they are leading from the front. Now they have a different set of learning requirement than the many other editors who want to learn what is Wikidata, and how to run a query to know the list of the politicians whose fathers were also a politician.
We decided to conduct a focused workshop for these 10-15 editors. The list of topics were decided after needs-assessment. We got a excellent trainer as well.
In the notification itself, we clarified what we wanted to do. We also kept the criteria threshold a little high (editors who actively use Wikidata, with knowledge of Wikidata structure, basic query and tools like reasonator, quickstatements, and having at least 10,000 Wikidata edits).
We faced a few issues such as a) we did not get too many applications, b) despite attempting and promoting a lot, we could not bridge gender gap very, unfortunately.
However, these were the advantages I noticed after the workshop:
Step by step process
- Start with writing down a one-two sentence(s) objective of the workshop eg. after this workshop participants should learn all about Creative Commons licenses.
- Thinks about the participants. Who should join? Accordingly, write down the "Eligibility criteria" (how many minimum edits/actions/uploads/project-space edits/what else?
- Explain your objective well in the event page, mailing list email, and village pump post.
- If you are going to conduct advanced training, there is a possibility you won't get too many applications. Promote it well.
- After the selection is done, do a detailed needs-assessment
Things to consider
- I'd strongly suggest do not compromise with participants or selection process. Example: a) we expected at least 12 participants, but only 9 of them match criteria, why not take a couple of other Wikimedians? OR b) we need to invite local community members or some important person of the town/state, c) one participant told that he can attend only for a day, but he is really important. —I'd suggest not to do these.