An editathon is an event where people develop open knowledge around a specific topic (Cress & Kimmerle, 2008; Kosonen & Kianto, 2009). The event can be online or face-to-face, giving participants opportunity to learn different types of expertise and accumulate social capital to help them learn (Lieberman, 2000). This paper explores learning in an editathon. The event took place over a number of days in April 2015. Over 50 participants created pages in Wikipedia. Collaboration was co-ordinated by facilitators who helped participants select which pages they would work on. An expert Wikimedian provided training on how to create and edit Wikipedia pages. The study explored the diffusion of social capital, examining how the participants learned. A quasi mixed-method approach was used, combining Social Network Analysis (Cela, Sicilia, & Sánchez-Alonso, 2015) with semi-structured interviews (n-=10).
A longitudinal, multi-level 2-mode Social Network Analysis revealed a Network of Practice with three types of participant interaction online:
leaders – creating a new wiki pages; collaborators – working on an established page; or lone workers – making standalone open knowledge.
Social Network Analysis of online activity there appeared to be little collaboration. Few participants edited pages initiated by other people and generally one participant would take responsibility for each page. However, the qualitative analysis identified a high level of collaboration offline, with participants agreeing a common structure for the site and co-ordinating how each would contribute to the site.
Collaboration was largely through in-person conversations, which were helpful for sharing information and the validation of knowledge. Specific curation of the editathon activities proved important: the presence of a list indicating who would initiate or edit each wikipage; reference resources (archived newspapers, historical books, etc); and structured training in specific editing skills all helped scaffold the learning. The Wikimedian played an important role in directing learning and activity, particularly when creating the initial structure of the wiki pages and introducing the technical knowledge. After basic technical training the participants were more able to take responsibility for their learning, engaging with particular strategies, resources and people as needed in order to perform tasks. Participants generally displayed high levels of self-efficacy related their prior experience with the technical skills required, established connections with other participants and confidence in their ability to learn.
Participants reported learning three different types of knowledge:
Knowledge of the topic – most people were not familiar with the topic and became interested and excited by it during the event.
Technical knowledge – most people were unaware of the degree of specialist knowledge required to edit Wikipedia pages and to apply creative commons licences. Socio-cultural knowledge of who to go to for specific information.
Much of the learning was not acknowledged, though there was clear evidence that everyone we interviewed had learned. All respondents reported that the editathon had a positive influence on professional role. They were keen to integrate what they learned into their work in some capacity and believed participation had increased their professional capabilities. Participants generally had confidence in their ability to learn and displayed high levels of self-efficacy related to learning the technical skills required, establishing connections with other participants.
There was continued engagement after the event; most participants discussed the editathon with colleagues who had not attended and several participants continued to contribute to Wikipedia. Overall, the editathon provided opportunity for professional learning, enabling people to learn a range of different types of knowledge useful for work.