Enterprise social media has definitely caught on in terms of adoption. It’s no longer a fancy concept discussed in the confines of conferences.
However, the concept of learning through crowdsourcing, aka crowdsourced learning has blurred the boundaries between crowdsourcing and collaboration. Talking of collaboration, here is an extract from an interesting document titled “The Competitive Advantage of Corporate Mutual Collaboration”. The difference between crowdsourced learning and collaboration can be understood if you examine the definition of crowdsourcing closely.
According to Wikipedia, here is what defines Crowdsourcing - Problems are broadcast to an unknown group of solvers in the form of an open call for solutions. Users—also known as the crowd—typically form into online communities, and the crowd submits solutions. The crowd also sorts through the solutions, finding the best ones. These best solutions are then owned by the entity that broadcast the problem in the first place—the crowdsourcer—and the winning individuals in the crowd are sometimes rewarded. In some cases, this labor is well compensated, either monetarily, with prizes, or with recognition. In other cases, the only rewards may be kudos or intellectual satisfaction.
When you apply to this definition to learning, here is the use case that will best describe crowdsourced learning. Let’s say John is expected to pass a certification course on corporate ethics. The traditional way for John to learn the concept using courseware created by the training department or participate in workshops or classes conducted by the training department. Let’s say John has the option to pick a course on Udemy rather than take a class organized by the training department. John now has access to variety of ethics related training courses through Udemy that were created by an online community of domain experts who get paid if John chooses to buy their course. And here is a video about Udemy is you are curious to know more.
Now, can crowdsourced learning also happen within the enterprise? After all Fortune 500 companies are mini “United Nations” in their own right, with thousands of geographically distributed employees connected through the intranet. The possibilities of learning from one another are immense. However, the real question is can John declare his intention that he is interested in taking a course on ethics and a colleague in Africa recommends a courseware that she has access to?
I am afraid not considering the fact that structured course material may require localization and there could be legal implications of unfettered access to content in industries such as pharma or financial services. However, the idea is tempting. If Enterprises can figure out what is the best way to deliver training by reaching out to all the employees cutting across all the departments, it opens up the possibility of actually realizing the cliché – “out of the box thinking”. Should enterprises provide the option for all employees to spend 2 weeks in year to take up such enterprise-wide open training challenges?
While crowdsourcing is being embraced in a big way to solve challenges around innovation and new product development (Check out Innocentive), I am not aware of any example of crowdsourced learning or training in enterprises. I am discounting enterprise 2.0 apps completely as I am focusing only on structured learning through crowdsourcing.
Also, there is the pressing challenge of identifying what motivates people to share and how can they be rewarded. This question has spawned a whole new category of products called Behavior Management Platforms or Behavior Systems. Motivating people to share knowledge is a challenge even for implementing enterprise collaboration tools. Behavior management also ties into gamification of learning, another important trend in learning.