Upcoming webinar: 2024 FAA Data Challenge Information Session - May 22, 2024, 11 a.m. PDT

Crowdsourcing in Education: The Power of the Crowd and Open Innovation

BY GINA SPARROW | 4 min read

The world of education is undergoing a seismic shift. Long-standing traditions are rapidly making way for modern technology and attitudes. A blend of factors including crowdsourcing, open innovation, and open talent is shaping the future of education. We're moving from a closed system of conventional teaching and learning to a dynamic one that is catalyzed by the collective intellect of the crowd.

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X

Crowdsourcing: A New Approach to Learning

Crowdsourcing is playing a significant role in this transformation. This participative online activity leverages the power of the crowd to propose solutions, share ideas, and advance knowledge. Through crowdsourcing, students, teachers, and institutions can work collaboratively to reinvent learning experiences.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and open innovation challenges are remarkable examples of crowdsourced learning initiatives. This list of MOOCs contains at least 82 providers of online learning programs! These digital platforms provide access to a more diverse range of students, including working professionals, carers, physically challenged individuals, and older learners. This shift has significantly democratized education, offering greater inclusivity and accessibility.

Students and the Crowd-Based Model

Students, the primary stakeholders in the education sector, are impacted significantly by this shift. The traditional provision of education has given little room for students to influence its delivery. As a result, the sudden transition to online learning has sparked debates over value, privacy, and personal liberties.

Many students are pushing for partial fee refunds due to the perceived reduction in the quality of their learning experience. They question why they should pay the same fees for automated AI grading as they would for manual human assessment. Software used to monitor their online activity is also seen as invasive by some, leading to calls for standards and parameters on screen surveillance.

The Role of Educators in the Open Innovation Model

The rapid digital transformation has thrust educators into uncharted territory, forcing them to adapt their methods and tools. Preparing and delivering coursework online while navigating copyright uncertainties around recorded lectures have added new layers of complexity to their roles.

The rise of edtech has also brought the promise of personalized teaching methods through data collection. However, this innovation could potentially increase the workload for educators or necessitate additional hires, leading to increased costs at a time when students are arguing for fee reductions.

Institutional Changes and Challenges

Educational institutions are at the crossroads of this transformation. As they transition from being a place to a platform, they grapple with the dual demands of students wanting fee rebates and educators needing more support. They are also responsible for monitoring online behavior, safeguarding academic integrity, and enhancing cybersecurity.

However, the challenge lies in balancing these demands without alienating their student base. Over-digitization could motivate students to consider education providers worldwide, leading to increased competition.

Prize Challenges: Engaging the Crowd in Learning

Prize challenges, a form of open innovation, offer an exciting platform for students to apply their knowledge and creativity. Such initiatives provide students with opportunities to gain real-world experience in a competitive, collaborative environment. These challenges also bring students closer to industry-leading companies, effectively serving as recruitment drives to identify the next generation of innovators.

One amazing example is the NASA Lunar Loo challenge hosted on HeroX. The competition endorsed a 'junior' category and received submissions that far exceeded expectations. Nine-year-old Zyson Kang of Malaysia was among 897 children who took part in the Junior category of Nasa’s Lunar Loo Challenge. His 'Spacesuit Lunar Toilet’ design submission won the top prize. He shared, ‘It works by applying a manual mechanical kinetic concept to produce a vacuum suction power to crystallise the urine and faecal matter for safe disposal.' 

With a prize in-hand or not, participants of the competition now have an incredible line of experience, and a network that will grow with them for many years to come.

Check out the full winner's webinar to meet the rest of the NASA Lunar Loo Junior winners.

The crowd-based innovation model is also making inroads into universities. Some institutions encourage students to submit crowdfunding plans for community projects, thereby enhancing their marketing and communication skills and fostering a culture of entrepreneurship.

Extracurricular Learning and Microcredentials

Beyond formal coursework, online learning platforms are providing avenues for acquiring a mix of skills and competencies. Engaged learning through online forums, real-life workplace simulations, and technological skills enhancement are some benefits of this approach.

The idea of stackable micro-credentials or "education credits" from various sources, stored on a personalized educational blockchain, is gaining momentum. This could lead to a system where educational achievements from traditional and non-traditional sources are recognized equally, transforming education as we know it.

Conclusion: The Crowd as a Catalyst for Change

As we progress further into the 21st century, we see the collaborative power of the crowd transforming the educational landscape. The mix of open innovation, open talent, and crowdsourcing is reshaping the way we learn, creating a more inclusive and engaging education system.

We're in an era where educators and learners have an opportunity to collaboratively rewrite the rulebook. As we face the challenges head-on, we continue to break boundaries, sparking innovations that push the limits of our collective intelligence.

The world of education is no longer limited by borders. As the crowd grows in influence, so does our capacity to transform education into a more personalized, interactive, and meaningful endeavor. Let's embrace the change and seize the opportunities that come with it.

Examples from HeroX

At HeroX we are proud to have hosted challenges that sought disruptive ideas for online learning as an alternative to traditional higher education as well as one to discover new and creative ways to address the factors that determine student success. Our largest to date is the Base 11 Space Challenge. This $1,000,000 prize purse challenge aimed to diversify the STEM talent pool through its liquid-fuel rocket challenge. 

While these are just a few ways that crowdsourcing is playing a role in advancing education, there are a variety of other ways you can use this strategy. You can crowdsource ideas directly from your faculty and students to improve your individual school or an entire district. A more ambitious project would be to crowdsource the development of a new app or program for virtual classrooms. The possibilities are endless!

Ready to see what the power of the crowd can do for your education needs? Go ahead, start creating a challenge yourself or contact our Possibilities team to learn more.

more like this
Data Science
Who was Robert J. McEliece and the people behind this Cryptosystem?
Learn more about the mathematicians behind one of the world's most secure annd valuable cryptosystems.
1 min read
Data Science
Scalability of New Approach Methodologies (NAMs) and their Global Impact
Check out these five potential impacts that NAMs could have on the scale of medical research across the whole world.
3 min read
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and New Approach Methodologies (NAMs) in Biomedical Research
Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools are poised to play a crucial role in advancing New Approach Methodologies (NAMs), complementing and unlocking the improvements that can be achieved with these new methodologies.
2 min read