Crowdsourcing Education with Social Media

In a world filled with social content, learning a new skill, language, or solution  has never been easier.  That is why students and professionals are turning to each other, instead of a classroom with increased frequency and confidence.

YouTube serves more than 1 billion videos per day — and they aren’t ALL videos of pets, pop stars and guys getting kicked between the legs. According to Google, “How To Videos” are among the most popular content genres. There are YouTube videos to help you solve a Rubik’s Cube and Advanced Calculus problems. You can learn to play the instruments, speak foreign languages, sew, cook, get in shape, and get the right job.  You can build projects and repair the world around you. According to ComScore, the average YouTube user views 187 online videos each month.

And, it’s not just YouTube. Dedicated ‘How-To’ sites like EHow, and Howcast attract wide traffic. EHow attracts more than 51 million visitors each month. The site offers more than 1 million articles and 170,000 high-quality videos.  Popular topics on EHow include losing 10 pounds in a week; making healthy snacks; dealing with manipulative people; sizing a bike frame; composting; utilizing Facebook; and properly boiling an egg.

Howcast streams tens of millions of videos every month. Howcast also offers the #1 mobile platform for instructional content in the world. Their iPhone app has been downloaded over one million times. They also offer an Android app. Top Howcast topics include using Twitter; having sex in a car; telling real breasts from fake ones; doing the moonwalk; picking a lock; and connecting your laptop to a PC.

In 2007, Apple created ‘ITunes U’ to manage, distribute, and control access to educational audio and video content and PDF files for students within a college or university as well as the broader Internet. Participating institutions — such as Harvard — are given their own iTunes U site that makes use of Apple’s iTunes Store infrastructure. Content includes course lectures, language lessons, lab demonstrations, sports highlights and campus tours provided by qualifying two- and four-year accredited, degree-granting, public or private colleges and universities. ITunes U is free to participating institutions.

Perry Hewitt, Harvard’s director of digital communications and communications services,  said  “Making Harvard University available on iTunes U is a logical step toward expanding our outreach… Our audiences have a strong interest in accessing all that Harvard has to offer online.”

From Textbooks to Bookmarks

Social bookmarking sites such as Digg, Delicious, Stumbleupon, and Reddit,  allow people to share, organize, search, and manage bookmarks of web resources. Unlike file sharing, the resources themselves aren’t shared — just the hyperlinks to them.

A recent “guitar” Digg search returned more than 44,000 shared bookmarks. “Guitar lessons” returned more than 2,100 bookmarks. Bookmark site users can also rate each other’s contributions.

Professionals,  coworkers and friends can connect with each other on social bookmark sites. Once connected, they can share all of their favorite resources with one another. As resources are added by friends, the individuals connected with them are notified online, by email, or using RSS feeds.

From Notebooks to Blogs

When people have problems, the first place many of them  look for answers is online. LinkedIn promises “fast and accurate answers to your business questions” by utilizing its users to answer each others questions and rate each other’s responses. Users that provide the best answers to questions earn expertise. Experts are featured on LinkedIn Answers home page, and in each category of questions.

LinkedIn even uses website visitors to support their own services. There are hundreds of questions and thousands of contributions to LinkedIn on the topic of ‘using linkedin’

From Blackboards to Slides

Slide presentations (aka ‘powerpoint’) are a modern-day currency of education. Slide Share is a slide sharing site that allows employees, instructors and speakers to upload and distribute their presentations. They can also add audio and attach related YouTube videos.  Slide Share users can browse slide presentations by category or keyword. They can also bookmark their favorite speakers, instructors, industry peers, or subject and be notified whenever new presentations are posted. A recent Slide Share search for “brain surgery” resulted in more than 1,700 slide presentations.

Credits: Cartoon by Randy Glasbergen.

The Math of Khan

No, It’s not a Star Trek sequel. It’s advanced math education from the Khan Academy —  recipient of the 2009 Microsoft Tech Award in Education.

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