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Report on WMDE’s Educational Activities (2010 – 2012)[edit]

Please find a summary of this extended version here.


The Education and Knowledge Department was set up at the beginning of 2012 to serve as a connecting point for Wikimedia Deutschland’s educational and knowledge activities and to make them more professional. Further aims included increasing the reach of our services and developing new formats and innovative topic areas. As part of this process the Education and Knowledge Department looked back on all previous educational activities, since the main objective in terms of planning and implementing future measures is to ensure that there is a good balance between the work involved and the results achieved and that the activities are clearly based on the needs of the target groups.

The aim of this report is to analyze both the strengths and weaknesses of the activities undertaken to date, and to evaluate the resulting conclusions. As a summary of all educational activities conducted from 2010 until the end of 2012, the report focuses both on the projects’ concepts and implementation and on their parameters and infrastructure. As the Education and Knowledge Department has so far hardly made use of quality-assurance instruments such as questionnaires or structured interviews, the assessment should not be understood as a methodologically controlled evaluation with a claim to intersubjective validity, but rather as a basis for discussion and thought. The report also forms the basis for decision-making in organizational developmental processes and thus serves to further develop Wikimedia Deutschland’s educational activities.

Which groups were included?[edit]

  • Experts from the community
  • People who took part in the various programs
  • Partner organizations
  • Wikimedia Deutschland employees

Which instruments were used?[edit]

  • Document analysis
  • Surveys
  • Academic papers (e.g. the master’s thesis by Annette Kintzi) [1]
  • Minutes of meetings and discussions
  • Reports by participants
  • Structured discussions

1. Target group: school teachers and students[edit]


Since 2010, the project Wikipedia macht Schule (Wikipedia Goes to School) has helped middle and high school students and teachers to learn about Wikipedia. The project focused on teachers as of 2012. The goal of the project was to explain the basics of Wikipedia and to clarify the mechanisms behind the concept. The idea was to encourage students and teachers to overcome their apparent reluctance to use Wikipedia, to foster understanding of the quality-assurance mechanisms, and to answer the following questions: How does Wikipedia work? Who is responsible for assuring the quality of the project? How can I evaluate articles? How can I use Wikipedia in class? How do I quote free content? How can students work usefully with Wikipedia? [2] The association also received a large number of questions from the school context, ranging from ministries to actors from the field of Open Educational Resources to dedicated individuals who produce teaching materials. In this section, the Education and Knowledge Department will focus on analyzing the school workshop activities, which have so far formed the main component of the Education and Knowledge Department's work in this field.

Activities and measures[edit]

Since 2010, the Education and Knowledge Department has held workshops and presentations lasting between two and four school periods as part of the Wikipedia macht Schule project. The teachers were free to decide how long the workshops should last and what topics should be covered. The information material on the project stated: “The training courses are specifically designed for active students and teachers at middle and high schools. We will gladly adapt events to your school’s needs, from a brief one-off session to a whole week on Wikipedia.” [3] On request, the Education and Knowledge Department often arranged several consecutive workshops for different classes, and sometimes for entire year groups. The Education and Knowledge Department also arranged large events for several classes. Before holding the workshops, the main contents and dates were agreed upon with the teachers. The workshops mostly started with a talk by the Wikipedia tutor in which he or she used presentation slides and Wikipedia. This talk was then followed by a longer discussion session. In terms of content, the tutor often started by giving an overview of the history of Wikipedia. An article was then used as an example to explain the structure of Wikipedia, as well as the association’s rules, guidelines, and quality-assurance methods. After the introduction, presentations to students were usually interpersed with activities in which the group used Wikipedia to research topics. The tutors developed various methods for these activities so that the contents were not simply presented to the students, but could only be found after a certain amount of active research. Between 2010 and 2013 around 70 workshops for teachers and 80 workshops for students were conducted by Wikipedia tutors, reaching over 1,360 teachers and 2,600 students in total. In addition, the Education and Knowledge Department conducted two pilot projects with students in 2012 which focused on practical work in Wikipedia. The Education and Knowledge Department also ran the Wikipedia Work Group pilot project in the 2012/2013 school year in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs of Lower Saxony. In this project, the Education and Knowledge Department advised teachers at five schools in Hanover on how they can use Wikipedia actively in class. This was the first time that a Wikimedia Deutschland staff member was involved in the project from start to finish and worked in a team with a community member. A special report on this project is available.[4]


The tutors’ reports show that the project always stimulated interest among the teachers and that the Education and Knowledge Department was able to answer many questions that went far beyond simply using Wikipedia. The feedback from both students and teachers was mainly positive. The teachers reported that they found the quality controls and the processes in the background, as well as the information on reading and writing Wikipedia articles, particularly interesting. However, the Education and Knowledge Department does not have much information on the extent to which students changed their attitude to Wikipedia after attending a Wikipedia macht Schule workshop, not least because these sessions were not academically monitored.

The feedback from the students on the practical exercises was mostly very positive. However, their feedback on the sessions on Wikipedia guidelines and background information tended to be negative. The Education and Knowledge Department should abandon the original classic separation between theory and practice sessions in favour of integrative didactic concepts and methods. This would also be a good place to start developing materials that would allow teachers to adapt the contents better to their students’ needs and skills. These materials could bridge the gap between external tutors and teachers in the Wikipedia macht Schule project and facilitate the permanent inclusion of the contents in class.

The teachers often said that they would like to do practical work in Wikipedia with their students. However, the tutors noted that many of the teachers are not sufficiently familiar with the basic principles of collaborative work. The “traditional” idea of individual authors who each write and then “publish” their own texts does not work in a wiki system. As a result, practical work only makes sense if the process is guided. However, this involves a major time commitment on the part of all those involved and requires intensive teacher guidance. Students feel very motivated when the content they write for Wikipedia is kept and expanded, and this generated a great deal of enthusiasm in the pilot projects. The Wikipedia Work Group project also found that it definitely makes sense for the participants to have their own account, as this also makes it easier to communicate directly.[5]

The topic of social communication in digital space was another important point. All those involved in the Wikipedia Work Group project benefited from working on this subject, although many participants initially felt nervous about it. Irrespective of whether classes worked on reading or editing Wikipedia, the project focused on its structure and the changes that this triggers in the understanding of what knowledge is and how it comes about. As the Wikipedia macht Schule project showed, teachers still find it very difficult to work on their own with Wikipedia after just one training session. They only asked questions at meetings, rather than online, although they had access to mailing lists and help pages. At the beginning of the school year, they mainly asked questions on controls, reviews, registration, and protected spaces, but as time went on, they enquired about communication, deletions, and explanations of rules. As the participants became more active, their questions became more concrete and could also be resolved within the group. The participants learned most when they left the protected spaces they had requested at the start of the project, and had contact with community members.

In the future, the group members should practice asking questions online among themselves, not least because many teachers are still uncertain about using Wikipedia and the Internet in general. Students are extremely interested in working actively in Wikipedia, and mostly do so straight away. The opportunity to learn from one’s own actions that there are guidelines and “caretakers” in Wikipedia has great potential in this context. After their account has been closed or deleted for the first time, most people become very interested in the Wikipedia system. This is the right time to learn about Wikipedia’s rules. The approach of discussing Wikipedia in class as an editable medium, and of improving, correcting, or expanding articles, proved to be useful. This approach can easily be linked to the students’ personal interests. Teachers should provide guidance on this practical experience, for example by discussing the collaborative process or legal aspects.

It is very useful for all those involved if teachers are guided on how to acquire their first experience and take their first steps in Wikimedia projects. The teachers’ feedback on and interest in other Wikimedia projects, such as Wikimedia Commons or Wikivoyage, was very positive, particularly in the context of their schoolwork. However, the teachers were critical of the fact that hardly any information or materials were available, which meant that they had to find their own way in these projects.

2. Target group: older people (50+)[edit]


The starting point for the Silberwissen (Silver Knowledge) project, which began in October 2010, was the fact that important demographic groups, including the 50+ generation, are significantly under-represented among Wikipedia authors. [6] This led to the goal of encouraging older people to do voluntary work for Wikipedia and its sister projects. Since October 2010, Wikimedia Deutschland has been a partner in the EU project, Third Age Online (TAO), via the Silberwissen project. This collaboration will continue until September 2013. The Silberwissen project is exploring how older people (50+) can be encouraged to do voluntary work for Wikipedia, what provides a particular incentive for such work, and how their motivation to do voluntary work on a long-term basis can be strengthened. The partner organizations involved in the international context of TAO [7] are pursuing similar aims, which are adapted to their particular situation. The findings of a worldwide Wikipedia survey conducted in April 2008 [8] by UNU-MERIT on what would motivate senior citizens to write for Wikipedia provided the basis for planning the project activities. The following answers were given most frequently: “[…] if I knew that there was a special area where my help is needed”, “[…] if I knew that other people would find my work useful”, “[…] if someone would show me how it works.” The basis for the results presented in this section include the analysis of questionnaires from the Silberwissen events; reports by the tutors; an quality assurance workshop with educational institutes; the master’s thesis by Annette Kintzi;[9] and the results of the collaboration between the German Senior Citizens League and the North Rhine-Westphalia Association of Adult Education Centers.

Activities and measures[edit]

The first step was to define the target group and the potential Silberwissen project participants more precisely. The Education and Knowledge Department always made sure to inform its partners that the project was only open to senior citizens who already use computers and the Internet, have extensive knowledge about their profession or hobby, are interested in sharing their knowledge worldwide, and are willing to learn something new. The next step was to set up a network of project partners from the field of senior citizen education so that courses with these organizations could be offered. This network of partners also provided a means of sharing and discussing experiences. At the same time, a pool of independent Wikipedia tutors was set up and thus to make sure that the Wikipedia courses for senior citizens could be conducted. The Education and Knowledge Department worked together to draw up basic material for beginners and methods for introducing people to Wikipedia. It was then experimented with various ways of encouraging older people to write for Wikipedia: on the one hand, it was made use of existing networks and structures in various organizations that provide education for senior citizens, while on the other, the Education and Knowledge Department used the information and motivation provided by associations that have a large number of older members, cover specific topics (such as local or regional history), and are interested in disseminating information on their field. The Education and Knowledge Department also published information as widely as possible to test which results can be achieved. In cooperation with the German Senior Citizens League (DSL), a nationwide information campaign in “aktiv”, the DSL’s magazine, was run, with the aim of getting readers interested in working with Wikipedia. In addition, the North Rhine-Westphalia Association of Adult Education Centers supported the project by distributing information to all adult education centers in the state. During the reporting period, the Education and Knowledge Department conducted over 80 events (orientation sessions, workshops, and weekend seminars), which were attended by around 600 people. The Education and Knowledge Department produced a short brochure for the participants which was distributed by the tutors. Small groups of around ten people worked best for providing a practical introduction to Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons.


At the beginning, the Silberwissen project had a fairly rigid structure of an introductory session followed by workshop 1 (editing) and workshop 2 (Wikimedia Commons). However, this structure was made more flexible over time. The experience showed that it is a good idea to get the participants actively involved from the start. In terms of overcoming psychological and technical barriers, it works better to hold several modular workshops on editing and internal communication between Wikipedia authors. The personal contact to the tutors that was established during the workshops was very important to the participants. They always went back to “their” tutor when they needed advice. In contrast, the online support structures were less important to the participants. Despite being recommended by the tutors, the participants made little or no use of Wikipedia’s mentoring program. In general, there were fewer participants in the courses at the adult education centers, far less interest among these participants in “joining in”, and less interest on the part of the adult education centers in long-term collaboration. The Education and Knowledge Department did not expect to encounter such clear differences between the senior citizens’ universities and the adult education centers as regards participation and commitment. According to the tutors, the participants who developed ideas for their own Wikipedia articles before or during the seminars were particularly motivated. This was important in terms of overcoming difficulties in getting started. The older group of senior citizens in particular had problems working with computers and the Internet. This led to delays that had nothing to do with the actual work on Wikipedia and made it more difficult for groups to work together. The participants praised their tutors’ dedication, expertise, approach to questions, and patience. A few participants were critical of the speed with which the material was covered in the workshops. The older participants were more likely to feel that they were not always able to keep up. Depending on the location and group, between one-third and two-thirds of the participants said that they would be interested in continuing to work with Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons. The tutors’ role is also important for the target group of older people: enthusiasm about the notion of free knowledge and comprehensive knowledge about Wikipedia are one thing, but it is equally important that the tutors have experience in adult education. Both the tutors and the participants generally agreed that for the majority of senior citizens, three events are not enough to introduce people to Wikipedia and to guide them as they take their first steps. Many questions only arise once people become more active. The tutors and participants reported that the difficulties can be divided into three groups:

(1) For many people, the unfamiliar user interface in Wikipedia’s editing mode was an obstacle that could only be overcome with help. The degree of difficulty in resolving this problem depended on the participants’ age and interest in technology.

(2) Writing an article for Wikipedia presents significant challenges in terms of contents and regulations. It can be more difficult to overcome the technical obstacles than to actually write the article, although the contents are crucial for working on Wikipedia.

(3) The participants need good computer and Internet skills in order to be able to cope with the wide range of steps involved in editing and drafting articles or in uploading photographs in articles. Recently retired people who have competences and skills from their work are at a clear advantage here. Moreover, these people are less likely to already be doing voluntary work in comparison with older senior citizens who have often found a new role.

And finally, legal aspects were also a cause of uncertainty and reluctance to get involved among the older participants.[10] Post-training support has proved to be a time-consuming task. So far, this has not been included as much as necessary in the program. In recent years, the name Silberwissen (Silver Knowledge) mainly attracted older senior citizens. The group of people aged between 50 and 65 generally felt that this name did not refer to them. As a result, it is important to find a name that is not specifically based on the demographic features of a target group and appeals to the specified target group of older people who are interested in the Internet. The discussions with the education institutes focused on improving the long-term impact of the workshops. These talks concentrated on various aspects of building up personal contacts in order to support “newcomers” and on discussing technical and content-related aspects of working on Wikipedia. Ideally, the participants should have a designated contact person for help with questions after the workshop. The Education and Knowledge Department discussed the following options: further contact with the tutors; training “Wiki buddies” (former Silberwissen participants who receive good training in a small group and then look after future participants) or closer collaboration with Wikipedia mentors. The fact that older people have more free time fundamentally means that they can be more active in Wikipedia than people who are still working. However, the education institutes and the participants pointed out that the Silberwissen project addresses people who are already active in various fields. In general, Wikipedia is an additional voluntary activity for these individuals. The Education and Knowledge Department should also focus in particular on the younger generation of recently retired senior citizens, and develop and test ways of specifically addressing this group. The Education and Knowledge Department also developed a support mechanism of joint research activities as a basis for working with Wikipedia. There are many possible formats here: informal get-togethers over coffee, tutorials, excursions, intergenerational research events, work groups, etc. Further support activities could be initiated at the local level, such as meetings between experienced volunteers and newcomers or introductions to authors and their articles. Overall, it is recommended that volunteers are integrated into the Wikipedia community from the beginning.

3. Target group: women[edit]


The participation of women in Wikipedia has been an increasingly important focal point for Wikimedia Deutschland since late 2011, following a study on the make-up of Wikipedia authors by the Wikimedia Foundation and a nationwide survey [11] which both indicated a significant lack of female contributors to the site. The lack of female involvement in Wikimedia projects[12] was initially addressed in a discussion forum at re:publica 2012 in Berlin,[13] in a brainstorming session within the community on the best ways to reach out to more women, and at Wikimania in Washington. In addition, public lectures were held during Social Media Week in Berlin and as part of the Lokales Forum series of talks and workshops set up by Wikimedia Deutschland in various regions throughout Germany. The 2012 budget included the target of a 50 percent increase in active women within Wikipedia. This target was not met, despite considerable efforts by the Education and Knowledge Department during 2012 to generate more interest in Wikipedia among women and to attract more female writers. However, the Education and Knowledge Department initially had neither an established program nor a concrete plan on how best to motivate women to participate.

Activities and measures[edit]

The Education and Knowledge Department specifically added women as one of the target groups for its existing educational programs, seeking project partners who reach a large female audience through their work and can therefore function as disseminators, or who have access to educational facilities such as classrooms. The Education and Knowledge Department conducted a total of ten events during 2012,[14] for which the number of female participants was not precisely recorded. Roughly half of these events were one-off occasions explaining the inner workings of Wikipedia. In addition, the Education and Knowledge Department organized an open brainstorming session at the WMDE offices in late 2012 in which ideas and strategies were developed for attracting more women to Wikimedia projects.[15]

Throughout the year, various speakers and participants called for the creation of a long-term series of events which would allow the female Wikipedia community to meet on a regular basis. In answer to this, the Education and Knowledge Department established the Women Edit project: a monthly meeting place for women interested in Wikipedia, created in cooperation with the Women’s Computer Centre Berlin (FCZB), the Competence Center Technology-Diversity-Equal Chances (Kompetenzzentrum Technik-Diversity-Chancengleichheit e.V.), and with the help of a Wikipedia tutor. The meetings usually last two and a half hours, and end with a social event. During the open meeting there is always a round of introductions and a discussion, followed by an independent editing session in Wikipedia. The tutor is responsible for preparing each session and is on-hand to answer questions. Around 30 women took part in FCZB’s Women Edit events, ranging in age from 18 to 60 and including students, computer trainers, teachers, computer programmers, management consultants and online-feminism activists. Key topics addressed in the workshops included Wikipedia’s core content policies (on neutrality, relevance, evidence, copyright etc.); page histories and article discussions; setting up user accounts and project pages; first edits (in their own WikiSandbox or in the Lists of common misspellings); an overview of Wikipedia methods of communication, structures and portals – particularly women’s portals. There was also allocated time for individual questions.


Most of the women participants did not like the idea of working within female-specific sites or programs. However, they were very interested in the idea of a “protected space” – both real and virtual – in which they could work with no outside interference during the initial stages. The Women Edit project seems to strike the right balance, and, as the participants repeatedly told the tutor, the concept of women-only events was regarded as extremely useful. This view is supported by various studies that have found that women and girls learn better in female-only groups, especially if the topic is IT-related, as they tend to participate more and feel more confident asking questions. The participants had the same “new contributor” status as everyone else. The Education and Knowledge Department found the participants showed most interest in topics related to their own professional background. Other general areas of interest included filling the existing gaps in women’s biographies and editing articles on women’s rights, film, neuroscience and various other topics. All participants decided to register specifically as active female users (German: Benutzerinnen rather than Benutzer) on Wikipedia, so that they would be addressed accordingly.

The Women Edit project does not focus solely on teaching new skills; its starting point was the development of the participants’ own skill sets. From the very beginning the project focused on enabling the participants to communicate independently within Wikipedia. A new area of focus was on familiarizing participants with project pages, topic selection and article discussion pages. It became increasingly clear that the success of the project depended not only on teaching rules and technical skills, but also on the participants’ ability to interact with each other and members of the wider community. Discussions about communication rules and with “active” female writers proved very motivating for the participants and generated useful feedback on help pages and existing supporting structures.

The first articles produced through the Women Edit project have already been published online, and one English article has been translated into German. Some participants have by now obtained the status of “passive reviewer” (passiven Sichterinnen). Participants can network online through the Women Edit website – an idea that was covered by the media[16] – and are hoping to achieve maximum distribution of information in their role as disseminators.

The Education and Knowledge Department found that the participating women tended to see writing for Wikipedia as a long-term and time-consuming commitment, which made it fairly unattractive as a leisure activity. On the other hand, the diverse range of tasks the activity entails (editing, adding photos, correcting and expanding on articles) was a very appealing aspect for both tutors and participants.

Courses offered by educational centers or women’s technology centers seem to be less appealing to young women with an interest in the web; they prefer less formal settings for meetings and discussions, for example in a café. This is certainly a potential area for further development. In terms of future activities, although the Education and Knowledge Department cannot draw on findings and feedback from previous programs in this particular field, some clear results have certainly emerged:

One-on-one contact with both experienced and new authors is an extremely important factor in building confidence; anonymous web interaction is a deterrent for many people and real-life social situations, such as meetings, parties or any place that encourages personal interaction, are considered the best environments in which to network and achieve a sense of community.[17]

Since many women shy away from taking the initiative to write for Wikipedia themselves, they need to be sought out and approached directly. Furthermore, the Education and Knowledge Department needs to make it clear that various levels of commitment to Wikipedia projects are welcome.

4. Target group: university staff and students[edit]


Universities have always played a central role in the international activities of the Wikimedia chapters. Many projects and initiatives run by the Wikimedia Foundation and local associations are targeted at the higher education sector.[18] In the concepts developed so far, the students were usually trained by community members; alternatively some students were schooled as Wikipedia trainers in advance. The aim of the project Hochschulprogramm (University program) was to foster a long-term relationship between Wikipedia and higher educational teaching methods. The main focus of these efforts was thus on teaching staff. “The teaching staff was key to the original university program. Wikimedia tutors trained them and supported their activities wherever necessary.”[19] The program was thus directed at university staff and students. Different goals were set for both target groups: The main goal regarding the teaching staff was to convince them of the benefits of integrating Wikipedia in university courses, and abate skepticism about it in a series of workshops. Goals regarding students were to build up media literacy and develop skills in academic research and the use of quotations using Wikipedia as an example. The superordinate aim for Wikimedia in this project was to attract new authors able to produce good quality articles.

The university teaching staff chose the methods by which to implement these activities themselves. These were neither recorded nor evaluated by Wikimedia Deutschland. However, it is worth noting that a direct response from students only resulted at one university, making it impossible to draw more general conclusions for this target group. Universities already play an important part in other Wikimedia Deutschland projects including the key topic Open Science and the biennial Wikipedia: Academy.[20]

Activities and measures[edit]

Activities involving universities have taken various formats. The biggest project so far is the Hochschulprogramm initiated in 2012. Beginning with just five universities, the program soon gained momentum and expanded to include a total of ten courses at eight different universities.[21] In each case, university staff were trained by a freelance tutor from the Wikipedia community before the semester started. The training sessions took one or two days and were structured according to a curriculum that would lead through the semester. The aim of these sessions was to enable university staff to independently integrate Wikipedia into their teaching. Throughout the semester that followed, the Wikipedia tutor remained available to teachers for questions and support. All the teachers who received this training made Wikipedia a part of their courses. Beginning with the curriculum suggested by Wikimedia Deutschland, they often proceeded to adapt it to suit the demands of their course. In the winter semester 2012/2013, two courses were given in which the original concept had already been modified: the Wikipedia tutor simply replaced the university lecturer. One of these courses took place at the HTW Berlin University of Applied Sciences and was very well documented.[22] Alongside the university program, many individual activities, workshops and seminars were held by community tutors on Wikipedia and how to work with it. A student initiative in 2012 – WirkCamp – was a three-day event during which participants focused on one particular subject and produced a series of Wikimedia articles about it. Since early 2013, the Wikipedia Hochschulprogramm project page [23] is also being used and expanded on for independently run university projects.


Activities at universities have shown that staff and students work to a high degree according to their own initiative. The extent to which the original concept was modified at the various universities shows that this environment is very capable of adapting projects to suit its particular needs. The fact that the Wikipedia Hochschulprogramm project pages were independently expanded to become a hub for internal communication further underlines the importance of providing adaptable curricula and study materials. Both the WirkCamp and the HTW semester project were developed in cooperation with the university and adapted to the course and subject matter. All participants displayed a very high level of motivation as they were able to act in their familiar environment. This arrangement allowed the teaching staff to be very flexible in terms of time and course content. So far the Education and Knowledge Department's university activities have taken a “bottom-up” approach;[24] it is worth considering whether future activities should take a “top-down” approach instead. The aim of increasing ties between Wikipedia and the higher education sector could be based on the principles of collaborative work and – on a technical level – the involvement of Wikis in research activities. One of the greatest problems concerning the Hochschulprogramm is the very heterogeneous reality that lies beneath a seemingly structured facade. A great number of the goals formulated in the program were not clearly communicated, causing unnecessary complications for the teaching staff and the process of looking back on our activities. The results of the Hochschulprogramm are summarized in more detail below: With a few exceptions, all the university lecturers involved were trained by a community tutor in compact 1:1 seminars; during the following semester, the same tutor was responsible for providing them with individual support whenever necessary and guiding their use of Wikipedia in teaching. All the lecturers then proceeded to use Wikipedia to supplement their teaching. In one case, the Wikipedia tutor taught two courses himself. The Education and Knowledge Department has little feedback at present as to the longer-term impact of the course. The compact 1:1 seminar for the teaching staff and the support given during the semester required less time and organization than expected, but depended a lot on the community tutor’s own commitment, and did not foresee any form of longer-term support that might be required after the end of the semester.

Contact between the universities and the Hochschulprogramm came about in two ways: either the university lecturers contacted Wikimedia to enquire if the program could be implemented at their university, or WMDE contacted lecturers who had signaled their interest or were Wikipedians themselves. No attempt was made to contact universities in a more systematic way. Too little account was taken of the students in the program as a whole, even though they were the ones who were supposed to actively contribute. The declared goal for the students was to build up media literacy and develop skills in academic research. The concept’s strong focus on teaching staff resulted in a lack of feedback from students, making it difficult to specify results here. Students of the University of Bremen described their experience of “looking behind the scenes" of Wikipedia and learning to see it as a “living entity” rather than just a platform for useful information as particularly interesting and impressive. [25] Of course this can be regarded as enhancing media literacy, but owing to the concept priorities, this was not defined as a primary aim. A skill which students were not able to fully master was that of communicating within Wikipedia. This observation was made by the Wikipedia tutors, some university lecturers (Universities of Mainz and Bremen) and community members who participated in the project. University lecturers reported that students displayed a greater level of awareness in handling information gained from Wikipedia. Student evaluations of skills gained in the program included writing articles in an encyclopedic style, developing and improving texts, and background knowledge on Wiki syntax. These results coincide with reports from other projects conducted in non-university environments.[26] As for the aim of acquiring new authors, it is questionable whether this is at all realistic within a single semester. Reducing the experiences gained to the number of articles or edits actually produced is misleading, because not all the articles that were written ended up in Wikipedia.[27] However, several articles were put on the list of good articles.[28] Several articles are listed in the Did you know [29] section of the Wikipedia main page. Looking through the user names registered for the Hochschulprogramm, no significant gain in new authors (to establish the writing of Wikipedia articles as part of a university course) can be registered. However, in each course, at least one participant continued working on articles after the end of the semester, and at the University of Marburg, this number reached seven. Clear goals must be formulated for all activities involving universities. Although solid research and correct quotes are essential for the writing of Wikipedia articles, the similarities and differences between articles written for encyclopedias (i.e. a general readership) and academic research (i.e. a more specialized audience) require more emphasis. Clear goals would also make it easier to evaluate learning effects and knowledge gained.

An important result of all activities involving universities is the influence that direct responses from the community has on student motivation, and the effect of knowing and working with “real” Wikipedians. Although these aspects can be very inspiring, it is important to keep these in a didactic framework to make sure that the motivation actually translates into action. Greater emphasis should be placed on the subject of motivation, both for students and teaching staff. Subject-specific initiatives with motivated participants showed a much more sustained level of activity than all other registered users of the university program. The conclusion is obvious: highly motivated students producing articles with a specific aim in mind remain active for much longer than those who are simply in search of credit points.

In conclusion, it should be noted that the “social space” i.e. the internal Wikipedia communication channels were generally avoided by students and often perceived in a very negative way. This concerns the communication on the discussion pages in the various namespaces as well as the issue of dealing with comments from external users. Lecturers remarked on several occasions that students were annoyed or disturbed by comments from community members. Premature interference from community members in the creation of new articles, for example, can thus be said to have a de-motivating effect. On the other hand, contacts with the community increased as soon as the new users were made visible (the user names were listed on WP:HP). This increased visibility attracted a great deal of interest among Wikipedians, particularly at the universities of Marburg and Potsdam. In this context, personally meeting active members can therefore also have a very inspiring and supportive effect. In future, direct communication between teaching staff and community members is to be recommended and facilitated. Committed Wikipedians who are experts on the subjects in question can then be involved in longer-term projects at universities, and independently created structures will result, as is currently the case with the project page. Sparking true enthusiasm for the Wikipedia project is just as important as the ability to answer subject-specific queries.

Several high quality articles were produced in the course of the Hochschulprogramm.[30] However, the number of regular contributors Wikipedia gained from the program is very low. Judging from the present results, the university program has not led to to a sustainable increase in the number of authors or volunteer motivation. A uniform program, as the title of the program might suggest, never really existed. This is partly due to the extent to which the contents were adapted to the requirements of individual courses, a situation that was greatly underestimated. The impressive momentum generated by the project page in Wikipedia should be given greater consideration in further projects involving universities.

Conclusions for Wikimedia Deutschland from the educational projects implemented so far[edit]

The following conclusions are intended for general use and should be taken as prompts for further thought and action. Strengths and weaknesses are weighed up and presented with a healthy degree of self-criticism, serving as a good basis for measures to improve quality and organizational development processes and to provide inspiration for further discussions within Wikimedia Deutschland. Changes in the educational activities of Wikimedia Deutschland should be seen as an ongoing process. The conclusions have been summarized in six key points.

1. Structures[edit]

Up to now, it has been the Education and Knowledge Department's practice to focus on “programs”. However, this structure has never been seen as a rigid plan of action. In fact all its activities so far have departed quite a long way from their original concept and adapted to circumstances as and when they arise. Aiming for a rigid project structure therefore seems to make little sense. On the contrary, the Education and Knowledge Department should aim to create more flexible structures. Working in the realm of the Internet leads people to ask very basic questions about society and the way we live. It encourages a perspective on education that focuses on experimenting, questioning traditional structures and the creation of open learning and teaching spaces. That is what the Education and Knowledge Department should build on.

  • Target groups: Future structures should be tailored to the specific target group; uniform and generalized approaches do not further the Education an Knowledge Department's project aims. The concept of target groups should be dissociated from institutions or particular demographic features. School students in the eighth grade should be approached differently from those in the final grade. It is the job of the Education and Knowledge Department to focus more on the world outside, to identify the different target groups and develop appropriate ways of addressing them and getting them interested in Wikimedia projects. Needs and structure analyses about the respective target groups must be given more consideration in future activities. Learning and teaching formats should not be exclusively based on real-life scenarios, but offer a combination of online and offline elements.
  • Supporting structures: A further vital aspect is the increased creation and use of supporting structures. All the projects aimed at getting new authors on board (Silberwissen, Hochschulprogramm, Women Edit) have shown that time-consuming follow-up support and motivation are factors that must be considered. New contributors can only be gained and retained if a long-term support structure is developed for them. All approaches in this direction should be continued. Future activities should focus on the interface between gaining new volunteers and existing support structures. Projects like the Teahouse[31] are of increasing importance for new contributors.
  • New formats and concepts have proven to be an important motivating factor for new contributors (target groups - the elderly and women) as they provide encouragement to keep going and join in. From casual meet-ups to group excursions and cross-generational approaches, there is a lot of potential here that needs developing. Supporting activities like these could be an important supplement to future educational activities on a local level. All participants emphasized the importance of having a person to contact in case of questions. Online support mechanisms directed at these needs could also be developed further. Particularly in the start-up phase, future projects should present an opportunity to make personal contacts (like the “Wiki buddies” or the “protected spaces”). The creation of a casual atmosphere and regular contact between contributors within the Wikipedia community should be considered from the very beginning. Informal settings (such as in cafés, for example) seem more appropriate for long-term projects. Further formats should be tried and tested here. Regular meet-ups and on-going support between these meetings seem to be a more productive way of getting women on board than one-off meetings. Future activities should therefore consider personal relationships between participants and tutors and direct networking within the group.

2. Quality assurance[edit]

It is very important that the Education and Knowledge Department sets up quality assurance mechanisms in order to encourage reflection about the quality of its measures and projects on various levels, using various methods, and from different perspectives. The Education and Knowledge Department need to introduce alternating quality assurance methods, which should address at least three levels:

  • quality assurance of the event level in order to further develop its programs on the basis of accumulated participant feedback.
  • quality assurance of the project and program level in order to cover overarching quality aspects. For example, this includes the project/program contents, the structure, the organization, and the resitsce requirements.
  • quality assurance of the parameters in order to assess the available infrastructure.

In order to develop these structures, the Education and Knowledge Department needs to define the goals of the individual projects and activities clearly and specifically. This will allow us to conduct projects successfully and to evaluate the results. Depending on the goals, the Education and Knowledge Department should aim to use a sensible combination of quantitative and qualitative criteria. It does not make sense to have projects with up to seven different goals, as was the case in the university program.

3. Voluntary work[edit]

Activities with volunteers play a central role in the work of Wikimedia Deutschland. For its future work, the Education and Knowledge Department needs to develop a mixture of voluntary work and structured training. In this context, a combination of local activities and wide-ranging education projects seems to be a very promising option. At the same time, this approach facilitates longer-term structures, which have not been a feature of the activities to date. It is important that such models can be transferred to other projects.

  • In the future, the Education and Knowledge Department needs to create more scope for volunteers to contribute their own ideas. A standardized approach in the form of “programs” was not conducive to individual initiative. The Education and Knowledge Department needs an open discussion on how best to combine the voluntary work by community members on the one hand and the association’s targeted work on the other.
  • The Education and Knowledge Department should certainly continue to make the communities aware of the obstacles faced by people who have recently become active in Wikipedia and of the questions that these newcomers may have. In all of its activities, this combination of invitation and welcome proved to be essential both for the length of time newcomers spent on Wikimedia projects and for their level of motivation. It is a good idea to make community members aware of how to convey their knowledge, as this proved very positive in the previous activities. In terms of encouraging more women to participate in Wikipedia, the Education and Knowledge Department should also make sure to have female role models.
  • Bringing experienced volunteers and newcomers together: The Education and Knowledge Department should continue to develop previous volunteer initiatives, such as the network of active community members or contact pages (please refer to the Wikipedia page from the Hochschulprogramm), with an appropriate inclusion of feedback from the community, as such “buddy programs” offer great potential. This can only be decided together with active community members. This could make particular sense in the Wikipedia macht Schule (Wikipedia Goes to School) program, which developed from volunteer activities and has a community-based approach. Wikimedia Deutschland is currently working with the members involved to develop the next stage of the project. In the future, the activities at schools should be more closely based on new formats and on developing appropriate materials.

4. Developing materials[edit]

All types of participants said that it was very important to work with training materials. This was particularly true of participants from schools and those involved in activities with older people. These materials should be developed both for institutional contexts and individual learning. At schools and universities, Wikipedia is a major medium for actively acquiring knowledge, thinking critically about knowledge, and doing academic research. This is a particular reason why Wikimedia should evaluate all of its experiences to date and facilitate broad adaptation, as many teachers would welcome. In the school context, teachers’ didactic skills have proved a key factor in achieving longer-term involvement. As a result, the Education and Knowledge Department should focus on projects in which teachers are actively integrated (please see Wikipedia Work Group). It is important to provide information materials and support structures for such projects in order to be able to produce suitable teaching and learning materials at a later stage. Digital media skills training also plays a very important role in schools and universities. The Education and Knowledge Department should initiate projects that address and reach students directly. There is great potential here as regards combining online and printed materials. The materials produced should focus on all Wikimedia projects. The Education and Knowledge Department's experiences with older people show that the Education and Knowledge Department needs to develop teaching and learning materials so that people can learn the basic principles of working on Wikipedia on their own (material for “newcomers”). At the same time, the Education and Knowledge Department also needs to do more to develop materials for multipliers. It should ensure that both types of material have a high standard in terms of methodology and didactics and that they provide the specific user groups with ideas for practising their skills and examples of use.

5. Collaboration[edit]

The Education and Knowledge Department's activities to date have shown that the Education and Knowledge Department needs to work more closely with project partners and institutions in order to firmly establish successful concepts. Basing activities closely on the target groups’ needs is important as regards planning future activities, also because aspects such as follow-up guidance and support have proved to be key issues. In the case of universities, the Education and Knowledge Department has found that it is vital to involve faculty from the planning phase onwards. Their experiences are very important for the successful organization and running of the project. The Education and Knowledge Department must make sure that it fosters teachers’ initiative in the future. Associations or groups that wish to contribute specific topics to Wikipedia are suitable project partners for the work with older people. Senior-citizen universities are also potential project partners. The Education and Knowledge Department should make use of the opportunities to establish links between the various courses on offer. On the basis of the experiences to date, the Education and Knowledge Department should not attempt to pursue further activities with adult education centers. In terms of its work with women, it was a good idea to address groups that are already established in order to discuss the options for getting involved in Wikimedia projects. The Education and Knowledge Department should aim to acquire project partners who are well-informed about the target groups and to involve these partners in the planning process.

6. General conclusions[edit]

  • Forms of participation: All of the Education and Knowledge Department's activities with new volunteers showed that it needs to highlight the various ways that people can get involved in Wikipedia. In other words, it is not “just about editing” – the Education and Knowledge Department also needs to inform new volunteers about communication and collaborative work as a central element of all Wikimedia projects. Small steps can also help to motivate people to “stay on board”. It became particularly clear in the university program that the “Wikipedia system” needs to be explained. As a result, the Education and Knowledge Department should highlight the voluntary aspect of the work.
  • Topics: Topic-based approaches (e.g. “history and Wikipedia”) proved to be more motivating for participants than purely method-based sessions (e.g. “Learn how to edit”), both in the university context and in the activities with older people. The motivation to share knowledge in Wikimedia projects is based on the willingness to contribute a specific topic. Such interest exists among groups that are organized around a particular subject (e.g. associations.) This motivation is a very important factor for encouraging longer-term commitment and can be used to promote the cause of free knowledge. The experiences with women also showed that a topic-based approach works well; the Education and Knowledge Department also needs to make sure that other Wikimedia projects such as Wikimedia Commons and Wikivoyage are included in the future. The feedback by participants was particularly positive in this regard.
  • Wiki communication: The Education and Knowledge Department should focus more closely on “social components” in the future, particularly on how to deal with comments and discussions. By introducing the VisualEditor, technical barriers to editing articles are broken down further. This means that the Education and Knowledge Department can put the focus on other key areas that are important in terms of helping people to take their first steps. These aspects include the content requirements for articles in an online encyclopedia, literature and sources, and communication and support in Wikipedia. Our introductory sessions and relevant learning and teaching materials should also include an explanation of community projects aiming to improve Wikipedia or to incorporate new contents. It may be easier for people to become actively involved in Wikipedia if they take their first steps in interesting collaborative projects.


  1. Kintzi, Annette: Senioren und Online-Communities: Analyse von Bildungsmaßnahmen zur Aktivierung und Einbindung von Senioren in die Online-Community Wikipedia im Rahmen des Projekts „Silberwissen“, [Senior Citizens and Online Communities: Analysis of the Educational Measures to Mobilize and Include Senior Citizens in Wikipedia’s Online Community as Part of the Silver Knowledge Project”], Heidelberg 2012.
  2. http://wikimedia.de/wiki/Schulprojekt
  3. Ibid.: http://wikimedia.de/wiki/Schulprojekt
  4. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0c/WikipediaAG_Abschlussbericht_WMDE.pdf
  5. Ibid. (published on 05.02.13)
  6. Merz, Manuel (2011): Wikipedia Editor Satisfaction Survey. Erste Eindrücke. [„Wikipedia Editor Satisfaction Survey. First Impressions“] WikiCon, Nuremberg, September 9 – 11, 2011, www.purl.org/merz/2011090
  7. http://www.thirdageonline.eu/de/
  8. Glott, Ruediger und Schmidt, Philipp: PRELIMINARY ANALYSIS OF WIKIPEDIA SURVEY DATA, Topic: Reasons for non-contribution, United Nations University MERIT, April 2009, S. 48
  9. Kintzi, Annette: Senioren und Online-Communities: Analyse von Bildungsmaßnahmen zur Aktivierung und Einbindung von Senioren in die Online-Community Wikipedia im Rahmen des Projekts „Silberwissen“, Heidelberg 2012.
  10. http://blog.wikimedia.de/2013/03/04/silberwissen-ruckblick-und-ein-erster-blick-voraus/
  11. http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/1705173/merz2011wikicon.pdf
  12. http://www.grouplens.org/system/files/wp-gender-wikisym2011.pdf
  13. http://blog.wikimedia.de/2012/05/21/republica-nachlese-frauen-in-die-wikipedia/
  14. http://blog.wikimedia.de/2012/06/14/wissen-teilen-frauen-starten-gemeinsam-in-die-wikipedia/
  15. http://blog.wikimedia.de/2012/07/23/nachlese-workshop-mit-sarah-stierch-in-berlin/15
  16. http://www.wdr.de/tv/frautv/sendungsbeitraege/2013/0314/thema_2.jsp
  17. http://blog.wikimedia.de/2012/07/23/nachlese-workshop-mit-sarah-stierch-in-berlin/
  18. http://outreach.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_Campus_Ambassador (Accessed on April 26, 2013, 12:01 UTC)
  19. http://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia:Hochschulprogramm (Accessed on April 26, 2013, 11:01 UTC)19
  20. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Academy_2012 (Accessed on April 26, 2013, 12:35 UTC) 20
  21. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:HP#Kurse (Accessed on April 4, 2013, 13:01 UTC)21
  22. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Hochschulprogramm/HTW_Berlin,_WS_2012/13/Auswertung (Accessed on April 24, 2013 12:02 UTC)
  23. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Hochschulprogramm (Accessed on April 24, 2013 11:30 UTC
  24. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top-down_und_Bottom-up (Accessed on April 26, 2013 18:22)
  25. See open letter sent by the students: http://blog.wikimedia.de/2013/03/15/reflexionen-zum-hochschulprogramm/
  26. http://blog.wikimedia.de/2013/03/01/examenswissen-auf-wikipedia-erfahrungen-mit-einem-juristischen-wikipedia-seminar-an-der-universitat-zu-koln/
  27. Page: Wikipedia: Hochschulprogramm. In: Wikipedia, Die freie Enzyklopädie. Status: March 7, 2013, 18:44 hrs. URL: https://de.wikipedia.org /w/index.php?title=Wikipedia:Hochschulprogramm&oldid=115099472 (Accessed on April 4 2013, 13:01)27
  28. Page „Wikipedia: Lesenswerte Artikel“. In: Wikipedia, Die freie Enzyklopädie. Status: April 4, 2013 at 05:53 UTC. URL: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Lesenswerte_Artikel (Accessed on April 4, 2013, 11:32 UTC)
  29. Page Wikipedia: Hauptseite/Schon gewusst. In: Wikipedia, Die freie Enzyklopädie. Status: May 20, 2012 at 21:25 hrs. UTC. URL: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Hauptseite/Schon_gewusst (Accessed on: April 4, 2013, 11:34 UTC)
  30. cf. Wikipedia articles classified as “good“, e.g. Mary Cover Jones, Totenhütte von Benzigerode30
  31. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Teahouse. (As of April 26, 2013, 7 p.m.)


Cornelia Trefflich, Education and Knowledge Department, Wikimedia Deutschland – you can get in touch via her user page or via email (bildung@wikimedia.de).