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The Wikimedia Foundation’s Campus Ambassador program: Would it work in Jordan, Egypt, or Qatar?


Background



Scholarly knowledge: Academia produces scholarly knowledge, operationally defined here as a body of knowledge and discussion built upon both observations of the known universe and the work of other scholars. Students have traditionally contributed to the body of scholarly knowledge by writing papers, but unfortunately few student papers are read widely. Students invest many hours in their papers, and the knowledge contained therein typically benefits few readers.

Student papers to digital student-created content: Digital media, and projects such as Wikipedia, present academia with an opportunity to put their students’ scholarly contributions in front of the eyes of more readers. Making student work available on the internet increases the possibility that readers will benefit from the time and effort students invest in their work.
Writing papers and editing Wikipedia are similar: It is also possible that writing and/or editing Wikipedia pages could become formal academic exercises in the instruction of students as they create scholarly knowledge. Several of the skills necessary for editing Wikipedia entries are similar to skills needed to write traditional student papers. such as the conceptual understandings of plagiarism and citations. Additionally, university students today must have sufficient access to computer resources before they can produce works of scholarship.
The Campus Ambassador program. Would it work in Arabic-speaking universities? The Wikimedia Foundation is developing the Campus Ambassador program in several countries to make local trainers available to universities to facilitate the incorporation of Wikipedia editing into university classroom curricula. Should an instructor be interested in requiring students to contribute to Wikipedia instead of write papers, an ambassador is made available to give classroom instruction on the use of Wikipedia. The Wikimedia Foundation is interested in expanding this program to universities in several Arabic-speaking countries, specifically Egypt, Jordan, and Qatar, in order to encourage the expansion of Arabic-language content on WIkipedia

Potential cultural obstacles: Wikipedia’s citation and plaigarism standards are similar for the English and Arabic sites. However, there may be cultural differences between practices in the universities of the English-speaking and the Arabic-speaking worlds on these topics. Cultural differences could be potential obstacles to the implementation of a program that works well at English-speaking universities in some or all Arabic universities. For example, it is possible that Arabic-speaking university students are taught about citations and plagiarism at an earlier or later time in their academic careers than students in English-language universities. Additionally, Plagiarism- and citation-related knowledge may not be valued similarly across cultures. And finally, sufficient computer hardware, software, and bandwidth are necessary to edit Wikipedia entries may not be universally available to students in the universities of the Arabic-speaking cultures.

The Survey


This survey is an attempt to gather knowledge related to the possibility that cultural value-related obstacles on the topics of plagiarism, citations, and computer access need to be addressed as the Wikimedia Foundation’s Campus Ambassador program_ attempts to expand into universities in Jordan, Egypt, and Qatar. A questionnaire was developed and a survey was conducted by telephone.
The sample: Crowdsourced directories of universities in Jordan_, Egypt_, and Qatar_ appear on Wikipedia. A random number generator was used to select three universities from the list from each country, for a total random sample of nine universities. This exceeded the sample size recommended by the professor in the class for which this project was completed. The desired contact at each university in the sample was an admissions officer. An assumption was made that each university would have an admissions officer on staff whose position included the responsibility of answering questions about the university posed by potential students enquiring about the university's academic program, student body, and facilities. When a university was randomly selected, a search for a telephone number that could lead to an admissions officer began. The university websites were searched for telephone numbers along with the 19th edition of World List of Universities
The questionnaire: The following questionnaire was developed and administered for the purpose of data collection over the phone.

Are the majority of students at your university capable of writing in Arabic?
a) yes b) no

When do students typically write their first paper in which they must cite one-or-more publications or documents?a) before arriving at your university b) towards the beginning of their studies at your university c) towards the end of their studies at your university d) following their studies at your university
When do students at your university typically master the process of citing their work?a) before arriving at your university b) towards the beginning of their studies at your university c) towards the end of their studies at your university d) following their studies at your university
In a typical student paper at your university, how much text can be copied directly from a publication without quoting and citing it?a) more than three paragraphs b) between one sentence and three paragraphs c) less than one sentence
When do students at your university typically understand the concept of plagiarism?a) before arriving at your university b) towards the beginning of their studies at your university c) towards the end of their studies at your university d) following their studies at your university
Think of all the times when you have accessed the internet by using a computer on your campus in the last two weeks. How many times were you NOT able to log on due to computer or connection problems?a) 0 b) 1 c) 2-3 d) 3 or more

Results



This study was inconclusive in addressing its research questions. The data did not answer the questions of whether or not universities in Qatar, Jordan, and Egypt a) have different cultural interpretations of the concepts of citations and plagiarism, b) have student populations who can write in Arabic, or c) have be reliable computer hardware, software, and internet connections.

However, the study did reveal a few unexpected findings that do inform the Foundation's efforts in these three countries

First, one of the nine universities answered all the questions in a way that sets itself apart as particularly well situated to incorporate an Arabic language Campus Ambassador program. Most of its students speak Arabic, their internet and computers are very reliable, and both citations and plagiarism are It is a private university in Qatar that will be revealed by name to our client at the Foundation.

Second, Wikipedia's lists of universities include entities which don't function as traditional universities. Out of nine randomly-selected universities, two engage in activities other than teaching undergraduates or graduate students to participate in academic scholarship. One was a college-prep program, another was a research center which falls under the umbrella of a Western university. Yet these entities were listed as universities on Wikipedia's university directory. This could be an indication that these pages do not receive sufficient editing. Traditional paper-based directories of universities contain fewer entries than Wikipedia so they are less likely to have this problem.

Third, it is difficult to find working telephone numbers for the admissions offices of universities in all three countries. For each selected university, a search for an admissions office or general telephone number was conducted both on the internet and using traditional paper-based directories of universities. Even with this extensive search for contact, an officer could not be reached, during business hours and using multiple numbers, for five of the nine randomly-selected universities.

Identification of obstacles: This study used random sampling, not convenience sampling. While a convenience or snowball sample would be less representative of all universities in these countries, it is likely that a greater volume of data could have been collected successfully. Additionally, this study attempted to collect data which could be analyzed quantitatively. A categorical/qualitative approach based on the categorization of responses to open-ended questions could have permitted this study to reveal more as it took an unexpected direction.

Conclusion


Soliciting responses to multiple choice questions over the phone was not an efficient method of data collection in this study. Selecting a random sample of universities in Egypt, Jordan, and Qatar from Wikipedia's lists turned out to be problematic due to the over-inclusion of non-traditional university entities on Wikipedia's directory pages. The culture and practices of one university out of nine was particularly compatible with Wikipedia's standards on citations and plagiarism, and had students who were capable of writing in Arabic well enough to write and edit Wikipedia pages and had extremely reliable computers and Internet connections. The other eight universities either could not be reached or failed to answer the survey questions in a way that indicated that Wikipedia content creation in the university curriculum would be compatible with university culture and practice.

This study could be changed or expanded upon to reveal more information about the likelihood that the Campus Ambassador program could work at universities in Qatar, Egypt, and Jordan. But it is also likely that by taking a less formal approach (e.g. sending a Campus Ambassador to an academic conference in each country to network and ask informal questions) could provide more insight into this topic than a telephone survey conducted from halfway around the world.

For more information on the sample selected and the data collected, please contact the author of this report at fherrick@ gmail.com.



This research was done by Fritz Herrick, who holds a Master of Library and Information Studies degree from McGill University in Canada and currently uses his librarian skills as a Project Coordinator for a specialized index of research being organized at Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty. He is also enrolled in Columbia's School of Continuing Education. Email him at: fherrick@gmail.com

This is a sub-topic page, under Wikimedia in the Arab World.
See also: