Crowdsourcing Management Education
Management education is under increasing pressure to respond to the growing demands from business, government, and students to offer programs more in tune with the globalized marketplace. One broad theme calls for the re-invention of business schools through the creation and delivery of alternative models of management education. A recent study, sponsored by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), revealed a wide gap between the changing needs of the business community and the programs being offered by the business management community. The AACSB report specifically calls for strengthening the use of international partnerships, expanding internationalization within the curriculum, and connecting various global activities through a comprehensive collaboration strategy. One approach for addressing these challenges is through the increased use of crowdsourcing.
Crowdsourcing, as applied to management education, involves the process of connecting with a broad-based group of external resources (e.g., students, faculty, researchers, and the business universe) for the general purpose of problem solving and developing new skill sets. The expression “six-degrees of separation” is an apt metaphor. First proposed in 1929 by the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy, six-degrees of separation suggest that in a network, like the Internet, you can connect with any other member of the network through no more than five intermediates. Several assessments, including one by Facebook, have been conducted on this theory. The results have reasonably validated this estimate. This is the fundamental tenet behind the crowdsourcing learning paradigm. To that end, social networks continue to grow in popularity, particularly among the millennial generation, on a worldwide basis. This cultural and technological phenomenon suggests opportunities for utilizing crowdsourcing throughout management education for enhancing the learning process and learning outcomes. Specifically, crowdsourcing can open up multiple options for adding new dimensions to learning and knowledge acquisition by allowing students to connect in both formal and informal learning settings. This pattern tends to mimic the increasing use of crowdsourcing in the business world. Crowdsourcing has improved workplace productivity by enhancing the communication and collaboration of employees, which aids knowledge transfer and consequently makes organizations more agile.
The Internet has altered many of the traditional power relations in education. Tasks that were previously the domain of faculty are now under the control of learners: searching for information, creating spaces of interaction, and forming learning networks. Through the use of social media, learners are able to engage and interact with each other and with researchers and faculty. ~George Siemens
Engaging faculty, educational researchers, and administration in the crowdsourcing paradigm is essential for ensuring success. Typically, faculty will provide the conduit for segueing from the traditional classroom format to a social media facilitated online learning environment. There are a number of factors that need to be addressed so that the faculty can successfully make this transition including: training, development, and incentives. Faculty driven collaboration networks can help facilitate the adoption of new learning technologies and modalities, like crowdsourcing, through access to community best practices. A management education collaboration network offers the business school community with the opportunity to converge, share, and exchange ideas to drive innovation in student learning.
Crowdsourcing continues to receive increased attention throughout a broad range of organizations. Even the federal government sees merit in embracing this paradigm as a means to engage citizens, foster co-production, and encourage transparency. In an academic setting, crowdsourcing, among other things, provides access to previously inaccessible intellectual capital. For example, it offers a forum for faculty and students to present their ideas and problem-solving abilities in front of an entire community, whereas these ideas are frequently lost in translation when transmitted through traditional institutional channels. Crowdsourcing can assist students hone their problem-solving skills by accessing a large talent pool via social media. This learning strategy represents the ultimate in collaboration.
As Web 3.0 continues to be deployed over the next decade, students will be able to participate using their mobile devices in a variety of project collaborations on a global basis and to employ intelligence tutors to access many types of learning resources. Teaching students self-directed learning skills provides benefits that outlast individual courses and programs. An individual self-directed approach is insufficient, however, given the fast pace of change students will be encountering in their professional lives. Communities of practice combine self-directed and collaborative learning to meet the challenges of today’s dynamic organizational environment. The increasing use of crowdsourcing via social media in management education will provide students and faculty access to the wider educational community of practice. Specifically, students and student groups can contribute directly to online discussion forums and share work for peer review in a manner similar to the current practices of the business community. Furthermore, the web-centric learning paradigm helps to increase student participation and promotes greater collaboration and deeper learning. A key challenge for the community of practice is to identify the best crowdsourcing practices such that students are motivated to contribute and participate more in the learning process.
Management education has entered into a seminal period that is being driven by globalization, technology, economic uncertainty, and changing demographics. Business schools need to better align their product mix with the changing needs of the business community. Crowdsourcing can support this transition through a variety of network arrangements including: one-to-many, many-to-one, one-to-one, and many-to-many. This approach can help reach students at a distance and seek reactions and feedback in a discrete manner. With the advent of Web 3.0 social media devices will be able to exchange learning data and information in a more efficient and timely manner. Intelligent tutors will be able to help encourage students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset where they will feel more empowered and prepared to take risks in learning. Achieving early success in the introduction of new learning innovations like crowdsourcing is a key factor for developing widespread acceptance and use by the majority of management educators. By offering tailored learning opportunities via crowdsourcing, business schools can leverage the intellectual potential of learners who may have been challenged by the traditional classroom setting. To that end, the crowdsourcing paradigm will position management education graduates to better meet the dynamic challenges of the 21st century workplace.
About the Author(s)
Owen P. Hall, Jr., PE, PhD, holds the Julian Virtue Professorship and is a Rothschild Applied Research Fellow. He is a Professor of Decision Sciences at Pepperdine University’s Graziado School of Business and Management. He has more than 35 years of academic and industry experience in mobile learning technologies and business analytics.