What Is Crowdsourced Learning?

crowdsourced learning

Crowdsourced learning is learning content requested, developed, and delivered by a group of individuals not normally tasked with creating learning content. 

Crowdsourced learning need not be sourced from a specific set of designated learning and development professionals or instructional designers. Instead, crowdsourced learning originates from anyone within a department or company who can provide meaningful, actionable content for learning experiences that benefit others.

Part I: Crowdsourcing Training Requests

For an organization to adopt crowdsourced learning, the first step is to ask employees what it is they actually want (and think they need) to learn. This can be done via electronic surveys, kept anonymous or not.

Boeing sought to crowdsource learning and development by polling its 141,322 employees, who weighed in with more than 40,000 ideas about how the world’s largest aerospace company should invest the $100 million it had pledged toward a workforce development program.

The survey was e-mailed to workers and also made available on branded iPad “idea stations” set up in its factories around the world. It also offered managers the option of polling their teams and recording responses on their team members’ behalf. 

“A majority of our learning programs were instructor-led or required training” and took more traditional forms, said Bethany Tate Cornell, vice president of leadership, learning, and organizational capability at Boeing, in an article in SHRM Online. However, “we knew that our learning approaches needed to change and become faster.” 

By seeking training requests, and then building courses mapped to those requests, learners feel that their voices have been heard. Learning experiences will be more engaging, leading to stronger learning outcomes and ROI.

Even if your company isn’t the size of Boeing with a budget of $100 million, there are still ways you can begin crowdsourcing learning ideas and fielding requests. A Learning Design System can effectively take ideas from employees, organize them, and see them to completion as a course ready for learners.

Part II: Creating Crowdsourced Learning

Beyond the capture of ideas and requests is the actual creation of learning content, the next phase of crowdsourced learning.

We’ve written before about how employees are often the best source of learning material. Such subject matter experts (SMEs) are lurking within your organization and can be tapped to provide the content necessary to help develop effective courses. Lean on managers and internal word-of-mouth to identify these important experts.

The challenge, of course, is converting this expertise into a course. With a system that converts technical content into courses, based on proven learning models and company- and industry-wide standards, this is easily accomplished.

And crowdsourcing your learning content from SMEs will be more effective because learners prefer to learn from others within their organization. In this year’s Global Human Capital Trends report, HR consulting firm Bersin by Deloitte found that organizations are moving to a “joint ownership, joint accountability” model of workforce learning, in which L&D and the business share responsibility for developing learning, creating on-the-job interactions between peers, teammates, and managers. Employees are comfortable both learning from their peers and serving as the instructor, and is now becoming a natural extension of everyday work.

Crowdsourced learning absolutely needs to be a part of your L&D strategy. Roy Saunderson, CLO of Rideau Recognition Solutions, notes in Training magazine:  “Because the goal of all learning is focusing on the needs of the learner, crowdsourced learning is a way of enlarging our village and collaborating, so everyone involved can learn, too.” 

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What Is Crowdsourced Learning?