25 Great Ways Colleges Are Using Crowdsourcing

I’ve dedicated a couple posts in the past few months to crowdsourcing and the field of education, and was recently contacted by Carol Brown from onlinecollege.org who gave me permission to share this guest post from her entitled “25 Great Ways Colleges Are Using Crowdsourcing.” Check it out below!

Despite what some academics may wish for themselves, the whole of knowledge cannot be possessed by one person alone, or even a small group. It’s within the minds of the world that knowledge exists, and until now, we haven’t really found a great way to harness this knowledge and put it to good use. With crowdsourcing projects, colleges and universities can use collective brainpower and energy to complete what they can’t do on their own, going beyond their budgets and time constraints. From transcribing ancient documents to documenting campus crime, these college crowdsourcing projects are downright awe-inspiring.

1. Tiramisu
Anyone who has ever ridden a bus knows the agony of waiting and waiting for it to get there. Sure, there are posted schedules, but buses often don’t run like clockwork, leaving passengers to wait and wonder when they’re going to get picked up. Carnegie Mellon University has created an iPhone application that solves this problem, telling transit riders where their bus is, as well as how full it is. Where does the information come from? The people on that very bus. And the great part is that the existing riders don’t have to do anything at all — their signals from the app will indicate location, and the number of signals indicates fullness. This project is a great feat of hands-off crowdsourcing for the common good.

2. Volunteer Smithsonian weather observers
Crowdsourcing may seem to be a new phenomenon, but the innovators at the Smithsonian have been doing it since 1847. The Smithsonian’s first Secretary, Joseph Henry, started the Meteorological Project, which enlisted the help of hundreds of volunteer weather observers. These observers were in Canada, Latin America, Mexico, and even the Caribbean, submitting reports to be analyzed and published in a two-volume report and large weather map. This project went on to become the National Weather Service.

3. Predicting world events
Can the crowd tell the future? Wake Forest University is part of a project that is working to find out. Through crowdsourcing predictions, the Aggregative Contingent Estimation System is working to predict the future of world events. With everyday citizens signing on, the group can forecast the price of gas and even Iran’s nuclear capabilities, combining “individual judgments from a lot of people who all know a little to provide a tremendous amount of information.”

4. The Great Sunflower Project
San Francisco State University associate professor of biology Gretchen LeBuh created the Great Sunflower Project with leftover grant money in 2008. Hoping to grow this honeybee study project started in Napa Valley, she reached out, emailing gardening groups across the country and offering to send sunflower seeds to volunteers who would catalog how often honeybees came to visit the plants. An army of volunteers she hoped would reach 5,000 has now grown to 80,000, creating a honeybee census that takes her project way beyond just a local survey.

5. Crowdsourcing heritage
Shawn Graham of Carleton University is using crowdsourcing tools, including text messages, voicemail, and the Internet to capture the local history of the Pontiac region of West Quebec through the people of the Pontiac. Through HeritageCrowd, the project is creating a database to create online historical exhibits, using information from the people who actually live in the area. They’ve found that people love to “play a role in how people define their own local history,” contributing to academic work as a community.

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2 responses to “25 Great Ways Colleges Are Using Crowdsourcing

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