Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Crowd-sourced Learning Content: Opportunities and Challenges – (Part 1)

We are doing this post a bit differently. We present a short interview with Vikas Joshi, the primary author of this blog, and Maheshkumar Kharade, a technology expert. In this post, we start by understanding the opportunities inherent in crowdsourced learning content.
Q: How is the nature of learning content changing with time?
[Vikas Joshi] Nowadays crowdsourcing is playing an increasing role in the creation of learning content. When people have a question, they simply post it on a social networking site, and elicit responses. Sites like Quora organize questions and answers into topics, and make them searchable. People are increasingly open to participating in online platforms such as Wikipedia, that deliver crowd-sourced content. Increasingly, organizations are seen using internal portals that support crowdsourcing among employees. Learning content, therefore, comes not only from some pre-defined curriculum, but it evolves as people ask questions and contribute answers. 
Q: Can this lead to new ways of evaluating learning?
[Vikas Joshi] Absolutely. Now we are not limited to evaluating learning outcomes—we can also evaluate the learning process. There is an opportunity to evaluate people based on how they are contributing to crowd-sourced content. There is also an opportunity to observe how people are learning, the kind of questions they are asking and how engaged they are in the community of learners. Such fine-grained evaluation can create opportunities for better remediation, leading to better outcomes.

Q: Doesn’t that make the job of evaluation more complex?
[Vikas Joshi] Undoubtedly. The key issue is the following. If you evaluate only behaviors, you will get right behaviors, but you won’t know if the student has really understood the subject matter. You will keep wondering if the student is simply parroting the right answer. If you observe the thought process instead, you get a better view into the student’s learning. This is hard work, but it may be worth the effort. Maybe peers can play a role in making this easier in an online community.
Next week we will explore the technology challenges in making this possible.