10 Awesome Examples of Crowdsourcing In the College Classroom

by Staff Writers

Crowdsourcing is still an experimental, controversial system that's nevertheless taking hold in the business world. But it's also gaining fast traction in academia and could create new opportunities on campus, at online universities and in the field. From IT help desks to scientific research to making job connections, here are 10 awesome examples of crowdsourcing in the college classroom and beyond.

  1. GrouperEye: This "survival of the fittest" project was started by and for college students looking for contract gigs. Businesses post a case on GrouperEye's website and leave it open to students to solve. The company picks the best solution, and the student who came up with the idea is paid.
  2. "This Is Your Brain on the Internet" Course: In the fall of 2009, Duke University professor Cathy Davidson started a new class called "This Is Your Brain on the Internet." It introduces students to crowdsourcing by letting them accept some of the responsibility of running the class, including grading and teaching.
  3. Crowdsourcing Help Desks: IT help desks are a necessary service on college campuses, as so many students depend on their computers and Internet access to complete their school work or even attend class online. At Indiana University at Bloomington, new IT help desks began implementing crowdsourcing to alleviate the cost and pressure of having to answer so many calls. Students and professors post their IT problems on an online forum, where other students and amateur IT experts answer them.
  4. SOS Classroom: This program has helped sustain the Los Angeles Unified School District's summer school system. USC students — along with teachers and parents — designed and collected online educational materials to teach K-8 language arts and math to summer school kids. Much of the program includes volunteers.
  5. National IT database in the future: Notre Dame's Chief Technology Officer Dewitt A. Latimer hopes to engineer a national IT database — powered by crowdsourcing — in the next few years. It would be based on the success of user-generated sites like and Wikipedia, and if the economy can get off the ground, the Hosted Integrated Knowledge Environment Project, or Hike, could become reality.
  6. Recruitment: Champlain College started a Champlain For Reel program last year, inviting students to share their experiences at the school and how they benefited from their time there via YouTube videos. The YouTube channel serves to recruit prospective students and even updates alumni on the campus and community.
  7. Scitable social networking: Scitable combines social networking and academic collaboration. Through crowdsourcing, students, professors and scientists discuss problems, find solutions, and swap resources and journals. It's a free site that lets each individual user turn to crowdsourcing for answers while helping others as well.
  8. Predicting college sports: For this year's NCAA basketball tournament, the New York Times' Bits blog reported on a new Yahoo tool for predicting games, Predictalot. Through open public bets, new odds are created. They're not strategic predictors, but they do pick the most likely winners.
  9. Open, unaccredited colleges: What if people signed up to take classes just for learning's sake? If teacher's basic credentials were checked, Alex Reid wonders, would open, unaccredited courses still attract those who wanted to learn a new skill? These courses would be offered for free or at a low cost, and the teachers could be any type of expert who would be allowed to design the course however they wanted.
  10. The Great Sunflower Project: Associate biology professor at San Francisco State Univeristy Gretchen LeBuhn needed help studying honeybees, but she had limited grant money. After contacting gardening groups around the country, she found enough interested parties to send seeds to. In return, those participants recorded honeybee visits and activity for her on her website. All together, LeBuhn created a network of over 25,000 gardeners and schools to help with her research.