By Michal Borkowski
Not so long ago, learning was regarded as a tedious and uninteresting process of adhering to a rigid academic curriculum by students all around the world. Technological disruption, however, has introduced several new methodologies to make learning an active social process powered by authentic, engaging, and integrated knowledge sources. Crowd learning serves as the perfect example to this changed perception towards learning.
Over the years, it has been observed that the best learning happens when students are actively involved in empowering themselves and each other. This approach does not only help aspiring learners develop academically, but also fosters social relationships which extend beyond classroom and individual learning to the world of collaborative understanding and holistic development, in the following ways:
Analytical and problem-solving skills
An exploration of alternate solutions in a peer-to-peer environment leads to rational reasoning. Students also tend to question, observe, analyse and evaluate deeper when supported by their peers. Such collaborative exploration is essential to an appropriate crowd learning structure. Active engagement leads to multidimensional understanding, fuelled by thorough discussion and clarification of ideas and concepts. Since this enables participants to construct and decipher content with their own understanding, supplemented by their peers’ perceptions, crowd learning can be seen as an efficient facilitator of analytical and problem-solving skills among students.
By stimulating critical thinking in students, crowd learning helps with their creative development. They tend to tackle a single problem through various perspectives, thereby developing new ways of thinking. Furthermore, such a dynamic environment tends to nurture curiosity among young and impressionable minds as they go through a variety of new problems and their solutions, and interact and discuss about topics in addition to the one that they came for. Crowd learning helps boost curiosity in them and amid such support and cooperation, also promotes ideas and innovation that form the pillars of creativity.
Peer-to-peer learning and self-management
People hailing from different backgrounds naturally bring with them different cultures, skill sets, passion and knowledge. When brought together in a collaborative environment, one question raised can be answered differently by everyone around, each with a unique perspective. Students not only get answers from their peers but also learn about different approaches to the same problem, thus broadening their perception.
Along with learning from others, crowd learning helps one with self-management. As opposed to a school where teachers cannot cater to each student’s unique comprehension capability, this approach lets a student decide their own pace of learning as per their learning style. It also encourages a student’s responsibility towards learning by maintaining individual accountability amid a cooperative environment. Moreover, as they build a productive base and receive support from their peers, such an atmosphere of learning helps them gain confidence and surface through challenging questions and tasks.
Development of social and personal skills
One of the major advantages of crowd learning is the development of social and personal skills. In a collaborative environment consisting of people from diverse backgrounds exchanging knowledge and ideas, this approach inculcates and promotes a sense of respect for various cultures. Additionally, since students hold conversations with each other to seek and share answers and concepts, this method provides a fertile ground for social interactions. Gradually, students develop a way of interaction that has been moulded by an exposure to standards of courtesy across different countries. This places students in good stead for future interactions during their professional lives and in other real-life scenarios.
These friendly informational exchanges also lead to an inherent feeling of helping and motivating each other and feeling motivated through others’ gratitude in return.
Along with the development of social skills, crowd learning helps in the honing of personal skills as well. Students tend to become aware of and develop diverse interests in a supportive atmosphere. Since they get a variety of answers to a single question, it also leads to an increase in their retention power owing to iteration. There is a sense of increased awareness as well, since students get to know about their strengths and weaknesses through new approaches towards internal and interpersonal assessments.
An enhanced learning experience
Crowd learning is not just an academic and content-oriented model of learning. It can be seen as an authentic experience stimulating analytical abilities and incorporating real-life values in students while facilitating learning. Going beyond the concept of solving just problems, crowd learning enables a certain level of comprehension among the students. Through this method, students tend to go from questioning to understanding the core subject matter to even answering questions themselves.
It helps accentuate real-life experiences that hold immense value in the future, too. In the supportive environment that crowd learning facilitates, students learn to express themselves and voice their opinions out, motivate each other and get motivated, empathise with and celebrate diversity. This helps build a strong social support system, leading to an enhanced learning experience among students.
While the method of crowd learning is an age-old practice as students have always helped each other in their academic struggles, it has become more prevalent in recent times, thanks to several advancements in technology. It has increasingly become a combination of knowledge, process, technology, and diversity. According to the trends observed, crowd learning has evolved from a linear and rigid content-centric approach to a dynamic, flexible and decentralised learner-centric approach.
Among the major trends seen in the world of crowd learning, the foremost is the conception of online-based crowd learning platforms. These collaborative spaces serve as a community for students from different backgrounds and expertise to come together, brainstorm, and seek solutions for the endless questions asked. Since most of the students are ‘native speakers’ of the digital world, the parallel process of crowd learning online has found its place among them.
With a wide variety of information across millions of topics available from varied sources in a matter of minutes, these platforms have increasingly begun to help students go beyond solving problems to actually understanding the concepts to the core. Such a space also serves as a platform for students to share what they know or showcase what they are passionate about. Furthermore, with the vast exchange of knowledge that takes place in the cyberspace, it is observed that those pieces of information remain only among the people there and is often lost amid numerous such links. However, when exchanged on an aggregating online platform, the information is available for everyone at large to access and share, and gets stored in a knowledge-base ensuring no loss.
Such a dynamic and decentralised source of learner-driven information was and remains a necessity, and has therefore emerged as a major trend in crowd learning.
Another interesting trend that has been observed is the emergence of gaming as a form of collaborative learning. While gaming is inherently seen as a competitive activity, it stimulates cognitive skills, creativity, and cooperation in people of all age groups, especially those in their developing years. As team members help and motivate each other out through crises, striving to win a certain level, gaming inculcates a sense of togetherness amidst team members wherein they tend to motivate and help a member hone his skills instead of cutting them out and degrading their worth. Therefore, gaming races their brains in a cooperative environment and helps them learn how to encourage others, feel motivated and collaborate better with their peers.
The highly-engaging method of crowd learning has several benefits across various dimensions. These advantages, supplemented by recent digital trends, have made this approach one of the most effective methods of holistic learning and development in the modern education system.
(The writer is CEO, Brainly.)