2015 Seed Grant for Promoting Pedagogical Innovation

Crowd-Learning: Research Agenda and Supporting Evidence Collection


Over the past few decades, the concerns for equity and student privacy protection have led modern educational systems towards offering students individual-focused learning experiences by inhibiting or prohibiting public performance comparisons between peers, both in K-12 and higher education settings. Unfortunately, while properly addressing the education justice concerns, the current practices tend to undermine such strong motivational drivers in learning as human competitive spirit and the sense of unity and synergy in achieving common goals.

This project explores crowd-learning – a teaching/learning paradigm aimed at bringing the benefits of “learning together” back into today’s physical and virtual classrooms, without compromising justice aspects.

Crowd-learning employs the research and technological advances in education, systems engineering and other scientific disciplines to create smart cooperative learning environments and practices. The proposed educational innovations will enable anonymous knowledge/opinion exchange between learners, and provide real-time aggregate feedback to teachers and students about the learning progress, while both ensuring privacy protection and preserving the sense of togetherness in the classroom.

This project supports the on-going research of a crowd-learning application focusing on STEM education. The project (1) develops the prototype website crowdlearning.eng.buffalo.edu: makes it more user-friendly, enables it to effectively and efficiently collect data for online statistical processing, and incorporates the new features for efficient instructor-student communication, and (2) uses the website in Engineering courses (undergraduate and graduate) to produce the supporting evidence for securing external funding for the development and wide dissemination of crowd-learning.


  • Alexander Nikolaev, PI
    Assistant Professor
    Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, University at Buffalo
  • Suzanne Miller, co-PI
    Department of Learning and Instruction, University at Buffalo