Putting the spotlight on a Wikipedia Education Program tutor who was once its student.
By Sandister Tei and Justice Okai-Allotey
Meet Ismael Andani Abdulai, a part-time lecturer at Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) in Accra.
Ismael did his master’s in law, at the University of California, Berkeley. At Berkeley, he took part in a Wikipedia Education Program (WEP).
“WEP was introduced to me by my Cyber Law lecturer.”, he says.
“As part of our assessment for the class, each student was required to write a Wikipedia article on any topic related to the course.”
“We were also, required to peer review the articles of at least two of our colleagues.”
As a student, Ismael was not a fan of assignments. But to his surprise, he was excited and enthused about getting graded for editing and reviewing Wikipedia.
“I was … keen on this assignment mostly because I thought it would be a fun way to contribute something useful to the world.” He says.
Besides being enjoyable and novel, Ismael had another motivation for editing.
“There is also a sense of pride and achievement each time I see my article pop up in a search.”, he admitted.
Ismael understood the benefits of the program and years down the line in 2017, he wanted the same for his students. He called on the Wikimedia Ghana User Group to help him set up a program.
“I thought I would give my students an opportunity to share in the same excitement I did when it was introduced to me.”
“It was also an opportunity to share more material on Ghana law.”
Since Ismael was teaching a class on Intellectual Property Law in Ghana, his students were to create articles around that topic.
The program, named ‘Wikipedia Education Program Gimpa’ or simply ‘WEP Gimpa’, had 60 participants who made up the entirety of Ismael’s Intellectual property law class at Gimpa.
The Wikimedia Ghana User Group had two workshops for the class as part of the program before the assignment got underway.
The first workshop introduced the students to Wikimedia, Wikipedia and the Wikipedia Education program globally. The second gave them the opportunity to create Wikipedia accounts and also learn how to create and edit articles.
The next, activity was the assignment to write articles.
“It was a mandatory assignment, so it was not too much of a problem getting them involved.”, Ismael recounted.
“The articles formed part of the final grade, so there was that advantage.”
The user group took note of the versatility of Wikipedia as a teaching tool in the classroom.
In one activity, students could learn through writing articles, contribute knowledge and get rewarded. The tutor could also rely on it as an innovative way to give exercises.
However, these benefits didn’t come without hurdles.
“Many of them [students] didn’t quite understand Wikipedia editing standards, and that was quite a challenge. Also, because of numbers, they had to work in groups so managing them was a bit easier, although I’d have preferred individual assignments.”
Speaking of individual and group work, while Wikipedia editing fosters collaboration, a successful WEP must clarify what collaboration means to students.
The user group found that while school allows students to do group work where output and assessment come from a group, Wikipedia doesn’t allow more than one person to edit from a single account.
The perception that a group can edit from one account needs to be quelled from day one when a WEP program leader holds their first meeting with students.
For Ismael, in a next program, he would try something new.
“I’d device a way to improve supervision, both in terms of content, and in terms of actual editing.”
Regardless of the setbacks, Ismael ended his interview hopeful, “Yes, I am [happy]. I’m hoping at least one of them [students] would take it a step further.”
If you are interested in a WEP but don’t know where to start, you can contact Wikimedia Ghana User Group via email@example.com.