Experienced Wikimedia volunteers who share their skills are vital to Wikimedia UK's mission to support free knowledge. This page has advice and resources to help volunteers run training events.
If you're interested in shaping the future of Wikimedia UK's training programme, please sign up for the Train the Trainers event (this page gives you a background on what to expect. To find out about future events contact the office on infowikimedia.org.uk).
Wikipedia is about sharing knowledge: Wikipedia trainers share their knowledge about how the site works. Simple enough, but consider these further points:
- You can do more to improve Wikipedia and the other projects by mobilising a room full of people, than you could do simply by working on your own.
- In training sessions you can demonstrate the community's values. You can show what free knowledge and good faith collaboration mean in practice. Your experience will be appreciated by others.
- Training events can be memorable and fun, and can kick off mentorships, friendships and working relationships.
- Training generates feedback. For example a session can identify usability issues with Wikipedia or a sister project.
- Your events can expand and diversify the contributor base, and attract favourable publicity.
We know that these events draw in further contributors and partner organisations.
General points about learning
- Some ways of conveying information leave a more powerful, lasting impression. The Chinese proverb says " Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand." Visual cues are stronger than auditory ones, and the experience of actually performing something imprints even more strongly.
- If the trainer is doing all the work, then learning probably isn't taking place. The approach we take emphasises active learning, in which the the trainer helps people to learn for themselves.
- A brain is not a receptacle. Your goal is not to fill it up with new knowledge, but to make the process easy and interesting enough that they keep learning after the session is over. Smaller groups allow more individual adaptation, and a group can be so large that a single teacher cannot monitor and adapt quickly enough. Team teaching is a wonderful resource when the teachers are comfortable with each other.
- A teacher cannot teach; they can only provide an environment in which a learner can learn. It is very easy to overestimate how much of what you say has been taken in by the audience. "Adduce the equine quadruped to element aquatic. Ingurgitation, it is said, is seldom automatic." - found on a toilet wall in the Cavendish Laboratory. Each student is different and there is no 'one size fits all' pedagogy. Even the best prepared presentation can flounder if a student simply can't grasp it, so you must be prepared to adapt and modify what you are presenting to ensure that everyone is getting the benefit of the session.
Pitfalls to avoid
- If you're already a good presenter, and used to meticulously preparing what you are going to say, you may look at a three hour training slot and wonder how you will fill up all that time. However, a session that looks very simple on paper can take a lot of time to do well. A single goal such as "get everyone in the room to upload a file" can take a big chunk of time, and the more people in the room, the more chance there is for someone to lose track and get left behind. In training, the challenge is to pare down the content to focus on what is useful to the audience, and what they can not just carry out but practice repeatedly until they feel confident. If things do move more quickly than anticipated, and you are sure that people are keeping up, set an on-wiki activity with a clear goal.
- Don't set your own expectations too high about what you can achieve in one session. There is no sure formula to make a regular wiki contributor: it's a combination of skill, interest, time, personality and other factors. You can show how easy it is to contribute, and can enthuse about how worthwhile the Wikimedia projects are, but the other factors are beyond your control. Think of training sessions as lowering the barriers that keep people out of Wikimedia, rather than creating another star editor or admin.
- When some learners have lost track, it is understandable why they might not shout it out to the whole room. Hence the trainer at the front of the room can get a false impression that everything is going quickly and smoothly. By frequently asking for questions or comments, you can make it easier for learners to raise problems. This is also why it is very useful to have colleagues who can wander round the room and give individual help.
- Looking at the same screen, an experienced user and newcomer do not see the same things. An experienced wiki user will open up an article history and see a series of edits from top to bottom, with particularly active users and acts of vandalism clearly identifiable. For someone seeing it the first time, it is a baffling screenful of letters and numbers. For example, it is not obvious that "diff" and "hist" are short for "difference" and "history". Thus, trainers can easily get the impression that they've already shown something when the audience have not yet seen it. Similarly, experienced users might think of a task as involving two or three steps when novices see eight or nine different actions or decisions. Perhaps the biggest challenge in training is to put your experience aside and see things from the learner’s perspective.
- It may be true in a more mundane sense that newcomers see something different from what you see. Have you enabled the gadget that shows quality assessments under the title of each article? Have you tweaked your CSS? If you’ve been a Wikipedia contributor for years, it's easy to forget these customisations, and to point out something that the audience can't see on their own screens. Some trainers maintain a separate account with default settings especially for training.
- Explain what the audience don't know in terms of what they already know. Even quite experienced trainers can sometimes spend time on things the audience are already confident with, or on explanations that don't benefit the audience. The answer is to frequently ask for feedback. For example, when using an analogy from pop culture, don't assume everybody in the room knows that film or that book: ask for a show of hands. If your explanation depends on people being able to see something, make sure that everyone in the room can actually see it clearly, or your explanation will be a waste of time.
- Don't fret about all the possible questions you might be asked. If someone asks an obscure question, showing them how to find out for themselves will be a more valuable learning experience for them than being told an off-pat answer.
Syllabi and resources
- Basic Wikipedia training for complete newcomers, to introduce basic editing
- Improving Wikipedia training for new editors who can handle basic editing, to get them creating or overhauling articles
- Basic Commons training for users with digital media such as photographs, to get them sharing files through the Wikimedia projects
- Wikipedia joint workshop for complete newcomers, to introduce both the resources of a partner organisation and basic editing in the relevant subject area
- Wikimedia for schools workshop for teachers, learning designers and other staff, to introduce the various ways Wikimedia resources can help them in their work
- Campus Ambassador training for staff, teaching assistants and volunteers to support Wikipedia educational projects, so that learners acquire subject knowledge and wiki skills in parallel. Includes accreditation as a UK Campus Ambassador
- Trainer training for users who are already productive contributors, to both deepen their knowledge and prepare them to teach others
See also Wikipedia:Training.
A good trainer
- Is respectful and professional with event hosts, trainees and colleagues
- Is accessible
- a) Conveys an appropriate amount of information for the length of session
- b) Explains potentially confusing acronyms or terminology as they are introduced
- c) Concentrates on what a beginner needs to know, rather than unnecessary detail
- Is responsive
- a) Checks that the pace is appropriate for the audience
- b) Solicits and answers questions
- c) Tailors training to the audience's interests
- Is engaging
- a) Conveys that contributing to Wikipedia and its sister projects can be worthwhile and rewarding. There is no requirement to convince everyone in the room.
- Seeks to improve
- a) Actively solicits and considers feedback from attendees and colleagues. This includes the use of an evaluation form.
Meeting the criteria: some suggestions
1. Respectful and professional:
- See Friendly space policy
- Set clear expectations of what learners will get from the session, at the outset and - if possible - in advance through an email.
- Face towards people when talking to them, so that they can read your body language (and lip-read if they have hearing difficulties)
- Don't give all your attention to the most vocal people in the room.
- If you have difficulty hearing a question (for example due to the speaker's accent), ask them to repeat or rephrase it, restate the question yourself and ask if you have understood it correctly.
- Try one-to-one training with a complete newcomer.
- Help at another trainer's session and see what learners have difficulty with.
- If the audience share a subject interest (e.g. a local history group or a scientific society), look at relevant Wikiprojects or Featured Content before the session to get examples of relevant articles or media files.
- During the session, frequently check that everyone in the room is up to speed. As well as asking the audience general "Okay so far?" questions, ask specifics like "Do you feel that you know how to reply to someone who posts on your talk page?" If someone has accomplished a task, that's not a guarantee that they can do it in future.
- Don't over-plan: be prepared to deviate from your plan of the session if you sense the audience would benefit from it.
- Think about your own positive experiences as a Wikimedia contributor, or talk to colleagues.
- Use impressive statistics about Wikipedia/Wikimedia's impact and success. Check the Wikimedia UK blog, Foundation blog or on-wiki newsletters for topical facts and figures.
- Use videos, slides and posters from the Outreach wiki or from past Wikimedia UK events.
- Keep things interactive: don't present for too long. The syllabus pages above have ideas for activities.
- Celebrate the learners' contributions. For example, at the end of the session get each person in the room to briefly say what they have improved or worked on. Remind them that the wider public will benefit from their work.
5. Seeking to improve:
- Make clear to the audience that, like any trainer, you are looking for ways to improve, and that it is okay to raise questions.
- Encourage learners to send you messages privately or on-wiki.
- "Best practices in training adults" from the Wikimedia Outreach wiki
- "Preventing and resolving problems": advice for university teaching assistants, some of which is relevant to training.
- For trainers/Sample sessions – one trainer's thoughts and reflections on delivering Wikipedia training in general and some successful sessions in particular (work in progress).