Using Crowdlearning for Leadership Development in Rural Communities
A recent review suggests that in some Nebraska counties, one out of six adults is required to serve in some sort of leadership role, yet many rural leaders do not typically have access to the leadership development opportunities available in more densely populated areas. Limited populations coupled with a high need for leaders in rural government, business, and volunteer organizations results in a high demand for rural leaders. We addressed this need by designing and implementing a virtual case-based leadership development program for rural Nebraska civic and business leaders (called Crowdlearning). Case-based development programs use realistic and engaging scenarios; the cases we developed reflected critical leadership challenges that are consistently faced across rural Nebraska to help individuals build skills in leadership, creative thinking, and problem-solving.
The Crowdlearning platform we developed used open source technology (Google Hangouts and Blackboard) to facilitate learning and collaboration between geographically distant leaders. This platform encouraged effective communication and discussion of the cases, allowing participants to share expertise, build a shared understanding for leadership, and foster leader identity development. Our goal was to develop both the creative thinking skills and the interactional skills necessary for successful problem solving by leaders.
The project members involved an interdisciplinary team from the University of Nebraska as well as an advisory council of rural civic and business leaders who helped us identify critical development needs and determine the focus and content of the case studies.