To influence education institutions, we need to speak their language and we need to put information in the places where they are looking for it.
The Jisc infoKits are online booklets for management, technologists and other staff in Higher and Further Education. This is where such people come for advice about Programme Management, Learning Spaces, Cloud Computing and many other topics. Today there is a new infoKit that I’ve written as part of the Jisc/Wikimedia UK partnership. “Crowdsourcing: the wiki way of working” shows how professionals and volunteers can collaborate to produce reference materials for education and research.
Like all infoKits, “Crowdsourcing” can be read from beginning to end or dipped into for short, self-contained examples and case studies. It culminates in a discussion of how collections of photographs and other digital media can benefit from sharing on Wikimedia Commons. Each section ends with a succinct summary of the lesson learned.
At around ten thousand words’ length, it is still only a skim over an enormous topic. No one has a sure recipe for success in crowdsourcing, but there are general and specific lessons to be learned from the most visibly successful crowdsourced projects: Wikipedia and its sister sites.
The title of the infoKit reflects that managers have to get used to working in an unfamiliar way: accepting risk, accepting openness, working without a plan, and empowering and motivating volunteer contributors. The free and open nature of Wikipedia and is explained not as a gimmick but as crucial to the success of the project. The infoKit warns managers against taking too much control of their educational or scholarly content and thereby suffocating innovative uses and improvements.
Organising and motivating an online community is hard: the infoKit is clear about this. It will often be less effort to move digital content into an existing community than to build a community around a collection of content.
I am going to take my own advice: the infoKit will be updated in future and I will crowdsource improvements by sharing the infoKit on a public wiki. Like all the outputs of my project, the infoKit is freely reusable under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licence. I’d like to thank Andrew Stewart and David Cornforth of Jisc infoNet for their feedback as reviewers and for their work making my text look so good.