Tighe makes a really great point that it seems like normal student behavior to meet the bare minimum when possible. In the US and Canada, we measure bytes as a program to evaluate how we're doing from semester to semester (has our impact increased while our resources have stayed the same?). On a class level, though, professors rarely mention bytes in their syllabus or grading rubric. When there is a minimum length, it usually takes the form of "500 words" or "2 sections". I don't think the minimum length is inherently bad if the students are otherwise set up to do great work (research, writing, understanding Wikipedia policies and norms, etc.). If you can assume most of them are doing good work, then more content is likely better.

Most of our professors probably don't grade in this way simply because they don't know how to measure bytes contributed (it's not one of the training topics we cover). Similarly, I haven't seen students trying to inflate their content contribution with templates mostly because they don't know about them or how to use them (they're new editors). 

I really like the idea of making it more competitive, which we also did during the pilot of the program in the US. Of course, then the professor ideally is savvy enough not to count copy & paste from a sandbox into the article namespace when most of that content existed before they worked on it (this was a problem we saw with our tool). Hopefully the education extension will eventually tie WikiMetrics into it, which should make the content quantity easier for students/professors to monitor and measure. 

On Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 8:28 AM, Tighe Flanagan <tflanagan@wikimedia.org> wrote:
This is definitely an interesting discussion that has been ongoing in the Arab world education programs as well.

In Egypt, the program adopted a byte threshold/goal in most classes. Bytes do allow for quick, surface level evaluation to see how much students are contributing. Our ambassadors seem to appreciate having a benchmark for student contributions, but we have also gotten pushback from the Arabic Wikipedian community fearing that the primary focus is quantity, and not quality contributions (like Craig mentions). Most of our students in Egypt do translation assignments, so it is often more important to select high quality content in the other language, and ensure that students are not copying and pasting machine translations and wikifying their contributions. I've noticed students in Egypt like having a numeric goal more than their teachers do.

Here's an example course page from an English translation class at Ain Shams University. You'll notice they set a 50kb threshold, and also have a section for additional contributions of 5kb each. (To compare these numbers to English/latin scripts, you should halve the bytes because of the Arabic script which "inflates" the number):

Like all assignment guidelines, having a byte benchmark might be a necessary evil, just like traditional writing assignments tend to have minimum word count or pages. Depends on your context and goals. It would depend on the rest of the assignment and the rubric you would use to evaluate the assignment. Giving more weight to proper writing style and citations would probably be a good place to start.

Juliana, it does sound like you want your students to contribute more since they're stopping when they reach the minimum. That sounds like normal student behavior. Would there be a different way to motivate students to keep editing with extra points for going beyond the minimum thresholds, for example? Or a competition for number of bytes, articles created, citations added (they could all have different weights and be evaluated in conjunction with quality checks).

I'd love to hear more thoughts on the topic since it's something I struggle with as well!


On Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 9:06 AM, Laura Hale <laura@fanhistory.com> wrote:

On Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 2:12 AM, Juliana Bastos Marques <domusaurea@gmail.com> wrote:

Has anyone used this approach? Pros/cons? What would you consider a reasonable number for the minimum of bytes in the final article?


I have seen this done for classes, but the problem sometimes becomes students look at it as a exercise in adding content but ignore Wikipedia guidelines.  They end up adding essay like material, add information that makes existing tags worse in order to add material related to the course, etc.

Speculating, I would think a potential better criteria might be adding references to uncited materials related to the topic as there is a lot of unsourced material.  They would be adding pure bytes by adding sources.  It would also assist in making them more familiar with other sources that you may think valuable for them to be aware of.

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Tighe Flanagan
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