Blog Post

Crowducate - Open Education

This is a modified version from first blog post on Crowducate. I would love to hear your feedback.

What is Crowducate?

At Crowducate the crowd educates itself. Hence, open education. You know this concept from Wikipedia. Unlike Wikipedia, Crowducate is not an encyclopedia. The two main differences from Wikipedia are structured and interactive courses. By structured I mean that the content is divided into bite-sized chunks (i.e. lectures), which are grouped into sections. Interactive means that each lecture checks if the learner understood the material – currently via a quiz (more interactive options follow soon).

Besides, courses are related to users. Other users can copy courses, which empowers them to develop the copied courses into different new courses (e.g. specializing topics, language translation, etc.). Some of you know these mechanics from open-source software and notably GitHub, respectively.

What is the Benefit to other Open Education Alternatives?

Many of you have notices the raise of massive open online courses (MOOCs). The question is, are they truly open? Most MOOCs have put offline courses online. They’ve “just” taken the conventional teaching model and scaled it. Have a log at the next figures (yellow indicating teachers and white students, respectively).

The system of classic teaching

The system of classic teaching

The system of teaching in MOOCs

The system of teaching in MOOCs


Don’t get me wrong. This is great. This empowers people all over the world to study from their electronic devices. Many courses have more than 100,000 students. Impressive.

However, a genuine open education means something else. It means that teaching, i.e. the content creation, also opens up.

The open education system of teaching and learning at

The system of teaching and learning at

Open Source on all Levels

In contrast to MOOCs, at Crowducate all courses are open source. This means people can copy courses to develop into different branches. Furthermore, the whole software itself is open source, too. You can find the source code at Github. You see, Crowducate is not only serious about open education but also open source.

How YOU can contribute

1st option: You might prefer to start learning something at Crowducate by just clicking on a specific course. Whenever you think, “there’s a grammatical mistake” or “answer x from the multiple-choice question of lecture y is too vague” or whatever it is, you can click  to send a change request to the teacher. Cool huh? Through this feedback process the courses become better and better.

2nd option: You copy an existing course by clicking , use it as your base and develop it the way you want.

3rd option: (1) Sign-up/Log-in, click (2) TEACH, (3) CREATE COURSE and now you can start creating a course from scratch.


That’s it for now. Get in touch however you prefer (here, email, twitter feedback/support forum. etc.)



Thanks for sharing your post Amir, and “crowducate” - what a terrific name! Your comparison to Wikipedia really caught my attention and I’m interested to hear if you’re aware of the Wikiversity project and if so, how Crowducate differs from the set up of Wikiversity in your view?  


Happy to hear that you're interested and thx for the compliment!

The main differences to Wikiversity are the following:

1.     Collaboration system: At Crowducate the collaboration system is much more modeled after open source software (OSS) and communities (such as GitHub). This means courses belong to admins/profiles and these admins decide which changes requests / ideas are accepted and which ones are dismissed. However, if you like the course but are unhappy about the admins’ decisions, you can copy the course (called FORK in OSS) and develop the course in a direction you prefer. Another reason for copying a course is to translate it into your mother tongue, for example.

2.     Interactivity: After each course there’s a little quiz (currently only multiple choice) to consolidate your knowledge.

3.     Gamification: You receive a point after every quiz you answer correctly. As a instructor you receive a point after every quiz anyone answers correctly.  The idea is motivate people to learn and stop procrastinating ;). This is also the reason why each lecture is modeled as “bit-sized chunks”. So you don’t feel overburdened. More gamification mechanisms to come.

4.     Reputation: Generally speaking, Crowducate is not anonymous. Similar to Github or Stack Overflow, your points, activities etc. represent a kind of reputation.

In other words Wikiversity is a lovely start to fill Crowducate with material and then to spice it up with interactivity and slice the knowledge into bite-sized chunks.

I would love to hear your opinion about Crowducate – what you like and dislike. I’d appreciate, if you signup for (so your points are recorded ;)), have a look at the intro course and play around with creating a course (either from scratch or copying one) and the “change request” feature.  :)




Thanks for a very informative answer, Amir.

I agree that interactivity is a lacking feature of Wikiversity, at least to the level needed for good quality collaborative education. This is where I see the main difference between collaborating on building an encyclopiedia (Wikipedia) and collaborating on crowdsourcing education, as you point out in your answer. 

I've had a go at the Crowducate introductory course and quite enjoyed it! As a networked pedagogue, I'm curious to know about the choice of "lectures" over, say, "sessions" or "resources"? I associate "lectures" with a broadcasting-type model of education, similar to the familiar xMOOC- model, and it surprised me to find it in this context where  the teacher-student boundary is so obviously, and brilliantly, blurred. 

My last question, do you have any plans to incorporate open badges into Crowducate? 

And finally, I want to thank you for contributing to Open Education with Crowducate :)



Thanks for a very informative answer, Amir.

I agree that interactivity is a lacking feature of Wikiversity, at least to the level needed for good quality collaborative education. This is where I see the main difference between collaborating on building an encyclopiedia (Wikipedia) and collaborating on crowdsourcing education, as you point out in your answer. 

I've had a go at the Crowducate introductory course and quite enjoyed it! As a networked pedagogue, I'm curious to know about the choice of "lectures" over, say, "sessions" or "resources"? I associate "lectures" with a broadcasting-type model of education, similar to the familiar xMOOC- model, and it surprised me to find it in this context where  the teacher-student boundary is so obviously, and brilliantly, blurred. 

My last question, do you have any plans to incorporate open badges into Crowducate? 

And finally, I want to thank you for contributing to Open Education with Crowducate :)



Thx for testing Crowducate. Great news that you tried it out and liked it. I would love to see your course at Crowducate. One or two sections are enough with 3,4 lectures per section. Then we could see how many people send you change requests or copy the course. You’d go down in history as the first content creator outside the Crowducate team ;)

Regarding your questions:

  1. Lectures vs. Resources/Sessions: We used the conventional terms because most people are acquainted to them in real life. Besides, lectures – at least for now – at Crowducate have a “broadcasting” function. The crucial difference is that the crowd broadcasts. However, if more people prefer other terms, then we can just change it. No problem at all.
  2. Open badges is definitely a great idea and we thought about it. We would love to see that! I guess we have to wait until the crowd creates the first longer course (maybe 7 or 8 sections with roughly 10 lectures?) so see that happen?  However, totally open for ideas how to integrate open badges with Crowducate. I’m daydreaming again! :D




And why I posted that comment twice, I really don't know. :)



Really interesting conversation!  (And, Sara, it double posts when you grow impatient--as well you should--with our molasses loading and click again, or so I'm told, when it is uploading:  we're working on the new Drupal 7 site now and hope performance and HCI are vastly improved on the new one).   One thing I want to underscore that I learned from teaching a MOOC is that the community of learners who use the MOOC to reach out and find one another is pretty amazing.   The top-down video aspect becomes quickly irrelevant and it is the conversation by the participants that is the thing.  The Coursera platform, though clunky, allowed for that kind of reach so the mechanic in Bangkok and the teacher in Taiwan and the autistic teenager in Miami really could talk about participation in a way that was pretty amazing.


That said, I still have MOOC reservations:


Thanks for this conversation!


I liked this part of your article a lot:

“Will the stirring, rich debates in ‘The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education’ continue? If the participants in the MOOC have their say, the answer is yes. They may live in different countries, thousands of miles apart, but they share a zeal that could become a movement.”

Exactly! Actually, this was how the idea came into being. During the next day or two I will elaborate how the idea came into being with a blog post. But generally speaking, it’s based on some of the experiences you mentioned in your article.




If this might be of interest: Finally done and I wrote about it here on hastac.


Yes, this is an interesting conversation, and I'm starting to investigate Crowducate, & Wikiversity for a chapter I'm contributing on digital authoring & learning for a forthcoming book from Purdue Univ. Press. I'm also looking closely at Peeragogy < >, for the same project. Cathy, your MOOC reservations seem well-reasoned to me. In case you missed it, I added some thoughts in my recent post "Can MOOCs Learn From MMOGs?" < >. Thanks to all for the conversation.


And I mean it. Especially these parts:

“Yes, a MOOC may now be a virtual sage on a digital stage, but in terms of underlying learning-model dynamics, the parameters of that physical-to-virtual shift remain essentially trivial, not transformative.”

“Perhaps we will eventually see the development of something like a MOOC / MMOG hybrid, in a framework that blends modalities of the star professor's sage persona reframed within the more engaging interactivity of an online learning game with its players guided on the side. At the very least, I hope someone tries.”

Yes, we are trying to do this. Actually, open source software is like this. You have some super contributors but the others, the “partially” active crowd, still contributes a lot - a bit as the "players guided on the side". Granted, we can’t develop a (serious) game as in a MMOG, but at least some gamification aspects might help to foster the user engagement and persistence.

Please let us know here how your experience "Crowducate, MOOCs, & Peeragogy" is going as your feedback helps to plan the next features and get rid of some bad design and bugs :)




Yes, I agree, Amir. I don't see a need for a fully implemented MMOG - level game to move the MOOC beyond its current impasse. What you aptly term "gamification" aspects could hold real promise for Crowducate, in my opinion.

It is interesting that you are a graduate of  Carol von Ossietzky Universitat Oldenburg. In 2005, I was hired as a consultant there by Dr. Christine Glaser to help draw up plans for implementing a Learning Commons at their library, and also to give a talk for the technology futures panel of the German Library Congress (Deutscher Bibliothekartag). Christine has since moved on to HAW Hamburg (University of Applied Sciences), but we are still very frequently in contact.

best regards,



Wow, that's great to hear. I'd appreciate if you mentioned Crowducate to her - only if the current prototype passes your tests, of course. Amazing, how small this world is.

Hope to hear from you sonn and best regards from Düsseldorf (in the West of Germany),


I just ran across HASTAC after having a number of discussions on the College of the Future relative to the Theory of Disruptive Innovation for higher education.  Some of these past discussions have focused on crowdsourcing, but the issue of sustainability has arisen a number of times.  Wikipedia works because the components are small and easily added.  However, building quality academic offerrings involve both time and deep knowledge of the field of instruction and pedogogy.  The free academic material I have seen is far from reaching critical mass and is poorly organized, another challenge of crowdsourcing based on a economic model without a balanced exchange of value.

This raises a question of why cost to the user has to be driven to free versus finding a lower price point that will provide some return on time and knowledge while leveraging technology's productivity and the scale of the internet.  Even if there is no cost to the user, there is often some background exchange based on data generated that can then be leveraged like Google does with search.  I keep coming back to the need for a sharing model where value is recognized for the initial contribution and then quality control and updating as needed by a changing field of knowledge.


You are absolutely right: The main difference to crowdsourced wiki is that wiki-components appear much smaller.

I thought a lot about what to do about it and I have some suggestions. Waybe we have to re-think a little how to produce open education content and look at open source software (OSS) and GitHub for inspiration. In other words:

  • Start small. In OSS often new projects start very small and just do a tiny thing really well. As a Sara mentioned in the above comments, I did a mistake by using the term "lecture".  Sound huge. It's better to talk about a "unit" (which currently consists of a lesson and a quiz). So for starters, why not just publishing one section with three units? This might just take an hour. After that, you can invite people to finish your "mini-course" and see where it goes? Better to have a few units of good quality than many of poor quality.
    I just added forums for easier collaboration on courses. I suggest opening a thread for every created course - no matter how small the course is.  Here's the new link:
  • OSS often builds on other OSS. Some open education is really not that bad. I just wrote a post about where to find some good content (1), add them to crowducate (2) and then add some interactivity via quizzes (3). Funny, I just finished a blog post how to do that:
  • In OSS reputation is built on contribution. Maybe we can do the same in open education? Currenlty, Crowducate doesn't show who initially created the course (although this will be shown soon). Besides, we integrated a little gamification aspect for teachers, too: A point for every learner who answers a question of yours correctly. We also just integrated Crowducate with OpenBadges from Mozilla. More ideas are welcome.

What could serve as good ideas to mitigate these issues (workload, recognizing value, etc.)? I'm very open to new ideas and suggestions. So feel free to contact me or reply here. 



After thinking about crowdsourcing some more, I have come to the conclusion that the limitation is not on the LMS platform, but how content is organized in a meaningful way.  This shifts the question from technology to knowledge of the field and understanding competency-specific job specifications.  This is where faculty add value beyond course development and delivery.  I have started a discussion to develop this concept further -



I think the mechanism how an LSM platform organizes content might play a key role here.

Crowducate's fundamental difference to all other LMS platforms (Udemy, Moodle, SkilledUp etc.) is that all courses as such are open. Courses are not only open as "everyone can put a course online". It's open that many people can contribute to a  SINGLE course and even copy (software term: forking) the course to develop it into a different direction (other language, other industry, other age group etc.). The reason why I think this mechanism of generating content is so important can also be found on a Hastac post of mine (How convential Moocs forme the idea for Crowducate).

So for e.g. the idea is that 3,4, instructors are mein contributors to a course. Then, we might have 8,9 other instructors who use the material in their own courses and contribute on behalf of their students. Other online-students (let's say 100 to 1000 depending on the topic) contribute here and there while CONSUMING the course (correcting grammar/ spelling mistake, clarifying quizzes, etc.)

So, the queston is, if that is welcomed by knowledge creators or not.

Have a great day,



When considering how to approach a crowdsourced curriculum I see three challenges. 

(1) First is sufficient breadth of quality content.  Many courses have already been developed on the new public LMS platforms, but often by instructors who lack the academic and professional expertise that is needed.  While I can recognize the deficiency in quality, my fear is that too many students will lack that ability and will take courses that are backed more by opinion and limited mastery than the academic quality expected of post-secondary education.  There are also large gaps where critical learning modules have not yet been developed.  In both cases, I believe this problem will sort itself out both through attracting more people to the effort and purposeful work to identify curriculum gaps and approach qualified instructors to develop the appropriate courses that are needed. 

(2) Content curation currently seems to be the greatest challenge for collective action, reaching out to a critical mass of faculty who have an interest in working together to develop a comprehensive curriculum.  The idea is new and faculty have a traditional work environment of individual effort with limited collaboration on academic projects outside of research and faculty governance.  This, I believe, is a networking challenge that requires involving many people along the power curve to reach the few who will carry most of the weight while allowing lurkers to jump in when the right opportunity arises for them.

(3) A third problem currently exists in the taxonomy in use on the public LMS platforms I have reviewed.  In this case, I believe the primary problem is lack of knowledge in this area by those developing the technology which is where their expertise lies.  A limited taxonomy is sufficient where there are only a few courses within each category.  However, with growth will come (has come in at least one instance) a big mess that will be difficult for students to navigate with search alone.  While search is a great tool it also requires some knowledge of what is needed.  This is collective knowledge among faculty building program curriculum and individual courses delivering against the required learning objectives.  The challenge is that a small group is unlikely to possess all the knowledge required to craft the full curriculum.  For example, I can do an adequate job outline the learning objectives for the business core and good depth within management.  However, others have much greater knowledge than I do to fully develop curriculum where I have good familiarity, but lack expertise to do the full job in the level of detail needed.  Even within management where I hold a doctorate degree, there are many areas of specialization where I defer to others.  What is needed is the knowledge of the crowd itself to dynamically build the taxonomy as the weight of individual categories gets too large.  This effort will also require some messiness in categorization when courses might need to be cross-listed to adequately inform students of what they need to know when approaching from different directions.  In this case, the challenge will not be in crowdsourcing the taxonomy, but the process by which standards around the taxonomy are developed and enforced.  Further, an optional element would be student advising, but that could also be crowdsourced among both instructors and students.


Hey Ross,

Took me more than 2,5 months to answer. Sorry about that. I was busy with publishing the PhD and finally adding upvoting and name display to Crowducate. Here's the anwer: Better late than never :)

1: I agree. However, there’s great open course ware (OCW) out there (s. my previous link) and we could use that as a starting point. In most cases you can change the content as you’re pleased and thus can just take the parts of a specific course that you appear as good quality. 

2: This is def. a huge task as I can see from my experience with Crowducate. How can we make the “plunge” to contribute more appealing? 

3: I was thinking of using classic categories AND keywords (tags). A similar approach can been seen at Quora. Categories and tags are editable by the crowd. 

What do you think?