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#IOLchat Report: Crowdsourcing and Online Education

Each week we meet via Twitter for #IOLchat to discuss current issues related to online learning. Participants have included students, instructors, eLearning companies, schools, publishers, and instructional designers.

This week we discussed the concept of crowdsourcing – what is it and how does it happen? Chat participants shared their ideas about how these techniques might be applied in a higher education setting. Here's a review of the conversation:

How would you describe crowdsourcing to someone new to the idea?

  • A group of people (students, instructors, administrators) serving as a source of information, rather than relying on just one person as the authority.
  • Teamwork focused on all members contributing their knowledge to a project.
  • An "idea management tool" in which ideas could come from anyone in the crowd all working together to solve problems.
  • A process for "idea polishing:" gathering ideas that the crowd helps to further define and focus for more specific application toward a project or problem.
  • A technique for leveraging the collective creative and intellectual capital of the members of your network.
  • It can begin with brainstorming – collecting as may ideas as possible about an issue, problem, or project – then work as a filter to distill the ideas and create a plan to move them forward.
  • A type of collaboration, or a prelude to more in depth collaborative efforts.
  • Example: Wikipedia – many contributors to single topics.

Should there be any specific guidelines or limitations regarding who contributes or who will be considered a member of the "crowd?"

  • Crowd participants may or may not be members of the organization that is coordinating the crowdsourced project.
  • One incentive to using crowdsourcing techniques is to collect information and perspectives that are as diverse and different as possible. Limiting access to the crowd would limit the scope of the input.
  • There is a potential benefit to having members of the crowd that are removed from the issues at hand. They may be "better able to think outside the box."

What types of issues or projects in online education might be addressed with crowdsourcing techniques?

  • Research projects conducted in the field, requiring information from different places, people, perspectives. May be especially applicable in the social sciences.
  • Use crowdsourcing as a technique to identify problems that need resolution in your students' area of study. Have students work together, perhaps as a smaller crowd, to collaborate and solve.
  • Crowdsource student study groups in which students support and interact with each other using tools like OpenStudy.
  • Consider the level at which the crowd will be activated (course, small group, program, institution).
  • Plan for different strategies based on the scope of the crowd's work (idea generation, problem identification, problem solving).

What are some of the benefits and challenges of crowdsourcing in higher education?

  • Benefits: you get input from many perspectives, foster innovation and evolution of ideas that are considered, transparency of the process especially through social media tools.
  • Challenges: managing the overall effort and progress toward idea implementation or problem solving. 

Could crowdsourcing ever replace an office at your school? Or an online education program as a source of skills and knowledge?

  • Perhaps not replace entirely, but improve processes and reduce time to completion, either of an administration process or a learning experience.

Thanks to @VolcadoDePila, @MaryKayMudd1, @PopeCenter, and @alexpickett for participating, and to @GdnHigherEd, @Tim10101, @adelinekoh, @sumitsinha3, @ifsKBank and @meganlisajones for their input and RTs!

What do you think about the potential for crowdsourcing techniques in higher education? Help us to continue the discussion by adding your thoughts via the comments area on this page.

For more from the most recent live session, take a look at the chat archive or this week's transcript. Follow us @OC_org and plan to attend our next chat! We meet on Wednesdays from 12pm-1pm ET and look forward to hearing your perspective.

This week's read-aheads:

Crowdsourcing the University's Future from California State University, Fullerton

Crowdsourcing in Higher Education IT from EDUCAUSE

Some Thoughts on the Hacking the Academy Process and Model from Dan Cohen

Is crowdsourcing dumbing down research? from The Guardian Higher Education Network

Facing Budget Woes, Prominent Crowdsourcing Project will Scale Back from Wired Campus

Crowdsourcing and Higher Education from

Udemy – One Step Closer to Universal Education from The Daily Crowdsource

November 16th, 2011 written by (learn more about our authors)

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