How Universities Use Crowdsourcing to Solve Complex Problems

The staid corridors of university administrations benefit from student infiltration with an age-old strategy: divide and conquer. A central tenant of all things crowdsourcing, this strategy makes the impossible possible. The mass collaboration of crowdsourcing gives universities the power to tap into the bright minds of students to solve complex problems with innovation, cost savings and benefits to universities and students.

Universities save money, generate positive PR and receive quality solutions while students benefit from real-world learning, skill building and connecting within their communities. Both benefit from the fostering of the sense of community.

Receiving quality solutions

When universities ditch the traditional to let students solve problems, they get results that better address the needs of
the university. With solutions straight from the community a university serves, problems are solved faster and more effectively. Even identifying the problems is better tackled by the community, as Cal State Fullerton showed with its crowdsourced strategic planning.

Generating positive PR

Nothing builds a university’s reputation faster than churning out students with practical problem-solving skills. These skills help shape the places graduates work and the future communities they serve. Crowdsourcing fosters skills that build a positive image for universities.

Saving money

Traditional outsourcing often carries a hefty price tag, but tapping into the student body produces major cost savings. Need proof? Indiana University at Bloomington crowdsourced its help desk for major cost savings and encourages other schools to follow suit. With pre-crowdsourcing costs for 150,000 yearly inquiries at $9.39/email and $11.41/phone call, the school’s solution makes it hard to argue that having students solve tech issues wasn’t a brilliant move.

Real-world learning and skill building

Students benefit from the same real-world learning that boosts the reputation of universities. Students apply what they learn in the classroom to real issues and get a taste for their future career paths—giving them hard-to-beat experience is impossible to teach from the pages of a book. Plus, developing practical problem-solving skills is a great resume builder.

Connecting within community

Both schools and students benefit from the community building inherent in crowdsourcing. School pride, feelings of investment and encouraged involvement are all fostered in students. Universities benefit by having graduates who take that lasting connection with them as proof of the school’s merit. Those same graduates are also more likely to give back to the university they feel connected with, whether it’s in the form of financial contributions, knowledge sharing or something else.

Downsides: None.

Shaking up the halls of universities with innovation is just one of the ways crowdsourcing changes the world by bucking the status quo. In what ways can other institutions, organizations and enterprises realize the same benefits with a similar approach?