Crowdsourced Learning

AgileVentures is a project incubator that stimulates and supports development of social innovations, open source and free software. But first and foremost, we are a place for learning and personal development with members from across the world with various levels of competence and experience in software development.

In order to make learning across distances possible, we have adopted an organizational model that supports distributed software engineering as well as crowdsourced learning - an approach that aims to address the limitations of more traditional learning systems.

Crowdsourced Learning is when two or more people attempt to learn something or gain a better understanding of a specific subject by solving a problem or set of problems together. Crowdsourced Learning is based on the idea that knowledge can be created within a group whose members actively interact by sharing experiences and take on asymmetric roles.

Crowdsourced Learning refers to methodologies and environments in which learners engage in a common task where each individual depends on and is accountable to each other. This concept may be contrasted with competitive and individualistic learning, with the key difference between these methods being manifested in the way students learning goals are structured. The goal structure specifies the ways in which learners will interact with each other and the teacher during the instructional session. Within crowdsourced learning environments, individuals seek outcomes that are both beneficial to themselves and to the rest of the group. In competitive/individualistic learning environments students work against each other to achieve an academic goal such as a grade of “A” that only one or a few students can attain. In individualistic learning, students work by themselves and for themselves, to accomplish learning goals unrelated to those of the other members of the group.

In Crowdsourced Learning, the process is learner-centered rather than teacher-centered and knowledge is viewed as a social construct, facilitated by peer interaction, evaluation and cooperation. Unlike individual learning, members of groups engaged in crowdsourced learning capitalize on each others resources and skills (learners asking one another for information, evaluating one another’s ideas, monitoring one another's work, etc.).

In practical terms, a model emphasizing crowdsourced learning for a distributed team requires a technological platform in which cooperative efforts can be carried out. This platform must include tool for conversations and discussions (hangouts, online forums, chat rooms, etc.) as well as tools for software production and quality control (shared IDE's, version control systems, continuous integration and deployment tools, etc.).

However, technology can only facilitate the desired behavior, not produce it. For a group to adopt a structure of interaction that is collaborative in nature, technology must be supported by an management style that encourages crowdsourced learning.

Solely acting as a "manager" or "supervisor" is not enough if a group member wants to take an active role as a "driver" in a learning group. An individual that regularly takes on that role in group sessions, must concentrate less on creating a process of instruction or supervision, but more on the process of creating a learning environment. He or she must take on a role as a facilitator and mould, model, and encourage the desired behavior, with other group members being able and willing to adopt the core ideas of crowdsourced learning and participate in group activities regularly.

AgileVentures solution is to create an organizational and technical platform for interaction, discussion and collaboration that scaffolds a crowdsourced learning environment in order to support software engineering tasks. By focusing on both the technological solutions as well as the organizational and managerial aspects of supporting a distributed team in their learning process, we are building a foundation for online collaboration and learning. So far, we have been successful in creating far more interactions then we would be able to if we just relied on technology alone.