DOVS A/Profs awarded for crowdsourcing platform innovation CrowdCARE 

This year for the University of Melbourne Excellence Awards, Associate Professors Michael Pianta and Laura Downie, from the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences, have been recognised for their work developing CrowdCARE (Crowdsourcing Critical Appraisal of Research Evidence). The CrowdCARE team was awarded the Norman Curry Award for Innovation and Excellence in Educational Programs for developing the online platform. CrowdCARE aims to  teach users research critical appraisal skills and improve their enquiry based learning and practice.

Members of the CrowdCARE team including Associate Professors Laura Downie and Michael Pianta

Created by a team of professionals who in addition to the academic team leads, include Mr Gordon Yau, Mr David Vasjuta and Mr Gavin Leys from Learning Environments, CrowdCARE is believed to be the first platform of its kind worldwide. It involves trained, crowdsourced users including students, academic experts and health practitioners contributing to an evolving appraised evidence database; this contrasts with other discipline-specific evidence databases that instead rely on paid experts to perform this task.

"The platform we've developed uses crowdsourcing to teach research critical appraisal. This is a key skill for students and clinicians who are aiming to apply evidenced based practice to health care decisions," explains Associate Professor Downie.

"To our knowledge, it's the first platform globally that uses crowdsourcing for this purpose".

Currently, CrowdCARE has over 1,460 users across more than 20 countries, and is quickly gaining a reputation worldwide as an easy to navigate and impactful teaching and learning resource. Free to make an account online, the platform has been designed for accessibility with a simple display and gamification through leader boards and badges. After completing an introductory training tutorial online, users are ready to begin their practical learning through active participation and peer interaction.

"Collaborators have commented that it's really easy to use and they like the aesthetics of the platform," says A/Prof Downie.

"We can give credit to the Learning Environment's team for their graphic design and the way they've put the concept together with us".

In MDHS, CrowdCARE has been keenly taken up by the Departments of Optometry and Vision Sciences and Medicine, and is continuing to attract interest within and beyond the University. A/Prof Pianta highly encourages students and educators to engage with the platform and has urged the wider health community to get on board and utilise its opportunities for learning new skills and efficiently obtaining appraised research evidence.

"We want the system to grow. It has the potential to be used by a wide variety of people, including those making public health policy, publishers, journalists, clinicians and educators," says A/Prof Pianta.

"Clinicians and educators are the core focus, but it has the potential to go beyond - even to the general public eventually".Plush bear mascot for online platform CrowdCARE, brown bear wearing blue company shirt and a party hat

CrowdCARE began its journey in 2016 after winning a University of Melbourne Learning and Teaching Initiative Grant, and the platform officially launched in 2017.

"I had the first seed of the idea when I was working on an Evidence Based Practice in Optometry project," describes Associate Professor Pianta.

"I threw around the idea of crowdsourcing at that point and it just got slammed, because people thought there was no way that the general public could do critical appraisal properly. Laura saw the potential and breathed new life into it."

"We're really fortunate, Mike and I. We have great debates about ideas and concepts, and I think that's part of the strength of our team," concludes A/Prof Downie.

"We're coming at things from different ways, and hopefully we end up with a solution that's the best solution."

CrowdCARE is a free to access online platform teaching users research critical appraisal skills. To make your free account and find about more, follow this link.

To learn more about research regarding CrowdCARE in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, follow this link.