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Collective intelligence

Research Leads

Simon Buckingham Shum, Anna De Liddo, Michelle Bachler
(Knowledge Media Institute, Open U.)


This research strand investigates the concept of Collective Intelligence (CI) for OER research and practice.  In particular this strand aims at designing and developing a CI infrastructure which exploits social knowledge and collective thinking in order to build a network of organisatons, resources, claims and evidence which can scale as the OER community adds to it.

Research questions

  • How can we help researchers and practitioners in the OER field to contribute to the evidence of OER effectivenss and to investigate the evidence collaboratively?
  • What does CI for OER research and practice mean and what community issues can it help to address?
  • How can we design a CI infrastructure to enhance the ways in which researchers and practitioners contribute to the evidence of OER effectiveness?  How do we design this infrastructure to help investigate the evidence collaboratively?
  • What are the main issues related to the design and implementation of a CI infrastructure for the OER community?


  • The starting point for the project was the Cohere tool, which enables social-semantic web annotation and knowledge mapping. Cohere started development with Hewlett Foundation funding during the OpenLearn project which preceded OLnet, and provides the foundation platform for our CI research. Successive versions have been released, it was among the winners of the Mozilla Labs/MacArthur Foundation Jetpack4Learning Challenge, and in the process it served as a tool for analysing OER phenomena including:
  • A significant activity was the project's analysis of Hewlett Foundation grantee reports, as a source of insight into what has been learned, and what challenges remain. Specific information structure designed and implemented to import OER grantee project reports analysis
  • The Evidence Hub for Open Education evolved the user experience from Cohere (a generic and powerful knowledge mapping tool, but not tuned specifically for OER). This was informed by the results of the Hewlett Grantees OLnet workshop which took place in March 2011 in San Francisco.

    The Hub provides OER scholars, researchers and practitioners with an environment where they can literally put themselves on the map (as a project or organisation) and put their ideas on the map:

    • Challenges and Issues can be posted, explored and discussed
    • Proposed Solutions can be added, or relevant Claims from research
    • These are backed up by supporting and challenging Evidence and grounded in more detailed documents
    • People, Projects and Organizations can be added to map the OER movement geographically

Towards the end of OLnet, the Evidence Hub was presented to the OER community at the main conference:

  • De Liddo, Anna; Buckingham Shum, Simon; McAndrew, Patrick and Farrow, Robert (2012). The Open Education Evidence Hub: A Collective Intelligence Tool for Evidence based Policy. Presented at: Cambridge 2012: Joint OER12 and OpenCourseWare Consortium Global 2012 Conference, 16-18 April 2012, Cambridge, UK. Eprint:

This work has also placed OLnet at the forefront of the wider CI research field:

  • The concept of Contested CI was co-authored by OLnet researchers and one of the OLnet Fellows, Ágnes Sándor, in the primary journal in human-centred collaboration technologies:
    De Liddo, A., Sándor, Á. and Buckingham Shum, S. (2012, in press). Contested Collective Intelligence: Rationale, Technologies, and a Human-Machine Annotation Study. Computer Supported Cooperative Work. Eprint:
  • The team also chaired a very successful CI workshop at the ACM CSCW2012 conference.

Next Steps...

The Open Education Evidence Hub will of course continue to run, and we welcome contact from follow-on projects who see ways in which to build on it. The broader Evidence Hub concept is now exciting interest in other communities seeking a dynamic website to pool evidence and ideas from researchers, practitioners and policymakers. Examples of other Hubs will come on stream shortly, and an open source release is cheduled for June 2012, enabling anybody to set up their own customizable Hub.