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Innovating Pedagogy 2013: Crowd learning

blendedlearning's picture

The Innovating Pedagogy report is an annual overview of edutech from the Institute of Educational Technology at the Open University. The 2013 report, the second in the series, selects 10 emerging innovations from the long list of existing technologies which the institute believes have the potential to make a significant impact on education. These are not technologies which are in development or even new, but rather technologies and ideas which are already being effected but have room to expand. The report ranks each innovation in terms of potential impact and timescale for implementation, describes its current application, and then explains the pedagogy behind the innovation and how it could be re-envisioned for maximum impact. One of the innovations described is harnessing crowd learning.

Potential impact: high
Timescale: medium

Crowd learning is more or less what it sounds like. Done right, it captures the expertise and ideas of many people and brings them to bear on a question or problem. Crowd learning platforms are less formal and allow a much shorter gap between having an idea and getting that idea out than, for example, academic publishing. As a result, crowd learning can answer questions quickly, or even in real time. This speed makes sense for our era of instant information. Taking advantage of this kind of easy access could provide a slew of benefits to learners: it allows a unique kind of control over one's learning, maximizes the scale of the virtual classroom, and let's anyone with a contribution have the opportunity to be a teacher. It can give learners ownership over their own learning process, allowing them to set their own curriculum on a micro level.

Of course, minimizing the distinction between teachers and learners is not without risks. The danger of crowd learning is that it could provide users with massive volumes of unvetted "information" which turns out to be unclear, misleading, or just plain incorrect. Some resources, like Stack Exchange, try ato address these concerns head on by establishing an internal system of reputation and reliability. Crowd learning is fast, it is personalized, and it costs users nearly nothing. However, it depends on a kind of volunteerism from others: a group of well-informed, interested, and invested experts who will contribute their knowledge, even without any formal compensation. If this group can be cultivated - and the evolution of existing crowd learning websites suggests that it can - then crowd learning has the potential to change the way we approach the pursuit of information.

For more information or to read the full report, visit Open University's blog.