Crowd sourcing is the term du jour in many professional service industries today but that isn’t to say it’s a passing fad. The concept is as old as brokering the services of people and that has been going on for a very long time. The irony is that crowd sourcing as a solution began to lose favor when it looked like computers would be able to assume the tasks of multiple humans. The premise was that computers would become more efficient in terms of speed and accuracy than their human counterparts. Transcription services are one area where confidence was running high that computers would take over. That has proved untrue and human transcription has surged ahead of computers in favor by those who require high accuracy and decent return times, but transcription isn’t the only field experiencing a return to mass human resources.
Educators are enjoying the benefit of crowd sourcing. One brilliant example of crowd sourced education resources is BetterLesson: Crowdsourcing for a Better Education. In 2009, Alex Grodd launched the idea of pooling teacher resources to help new teachers create meaningful lesson plans. The collaboration allows teachers in the kindergarten to grade 12 years to share lesson plans, files and other teaching materials between groups. Grodd’s objective was for struggling new teacher to be able to learn how to create lessons by more experienced teachers who understood the methods that work best with students. Teachers could access hundreds of ideas and lesson plans and share their own experiences and ideas with other teachers across the United States. Grodd had essentially provided a cost-efficient alternative for obtaining teaching materials and learning from more experienced peer groups.
The BetterLesson platform is free for teachers to join and share curriculums and experiences but also has available paid packages of services designed for schools within different districts. Schools joining the platform can access professional learning communities, content presentation tools and advanced analytics, among other services. This crowd sourcing initiative recently received a big funding boost of 1.6 million dollars and its user base is growing by 250 new teachers daily.
To say that crowd sourcing is simply giving tasks to humans is too simple. Crowd sourcing means to give the job to many humans; otherwise, you might just say you’re employing a person. Employing a person is dramatically different to employing a crowd. Crowd sourcing is more appropriately termed as mass collaboration and as such, it has the benefit of bringing together multiple experts in a field, each lending their respective brainpower to group goals. That is exciting and really, that is the essence of the human contribution. A contribution no computer is likely to emulate in the near future.