Crowdsourcing for University Community Engagement COVID-19 Safety Strategies | Public Health | JN Learning | AMA Ed Hub [Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]

Assessment of a Crowdsourcing Open Call for Approaches to University Community Engagement and Strategic Planning During COVID-19

Educational Objective
To identify the key insights or developments described in this article
1 Credit CME
Key Points

Question  Is a crowdsourcing open call a feasible approach to engaging the university community in COVID-19 safety strategies?

Findings  This qualitative study evaluated 82 submissions to a university open call for creative solutions from students, faculty, and staff to inform safety in the fall 2020 semester. Solutions were shared with university leadership, and several are being further developed.

Meaning  The results of this study suggest that open calls are a promising approach to understanding university community members’ concerns and identifying stakeholder-driven, innovative solutions for safe university activity during the pandemic.

Abstract

Importance  Reimagining university life during COVID-19 requires substantial innovation and meaningful community input. One method for obtaining community input is crowdsourcing, which involves having a group of individuals work to solve a problem and then publicly share solutions.

Objective  To evaluate a crowdsourcing open call as an approach to COVID-19 university community engagement and strategic planning.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This qualitative study assessed a crowdsourcing open call offered from June 16 to July 16, 2020, that sought ideas to inform safety in the fall 2020 semester at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). Digital methods (email and social media) were used for promotion, and submissions were collected online for 4 weeks. Participation was open to UNC students, staff, faculty, and others.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Submissions were evaluated for innovation, feasibility, inclusivity, and potential to improve safety and well-being. Demographic data were collected from submitting individuals, and submissions were qualitatively analyzed for emergent themes on challenges with and solutions for addressing safety and well-being in the fall semester. Data were shared with UNC leadership to inform decision-making.

Results  The open call received 82 submissions from 110 participants, including current UNC students (56 submissions [68%]), people younger than 30 years (67 [82%]), women (55 [67%]), and individuals identifying as a racial/ethnic minority or as multiracial/ethnic (49 [60%]). Seven submissions were identified as finalists and received cash prizes with the encouragement to use these funds toward idea development and implementation. Seventeen runner-up teams were linked to university resources for further development. Thematic analysis of submissions regarding challenges with the fall semester revealed not only physical health concerns and the limitations of remote learning but also challenges that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, such as a lack of mental health support, structural racism and inequality, and insufficient public transportation. Solutions included novel ideas to support mental health among specific populations (eg, graduate students and racial/ethnic minorities), improve health equity, and increase transit access. All 24 finalists and runners-up indicated interest in implementation after being notified of the open call results.

Conclusions and Relevance  This study suggests that open calls are a feasible strategy for university community engagement on COVID-19, providing a stakeholder-driven approach to identifying promising ideas for enhancing safety and well-being. Open calls could be formally incorporated into university planning processes to develop COVID-19 safety strategies that are responsive to diverse community members’ concerns.

Sign in to take quiz and track your certificates

Buy This Activity

JN Learning™ is the home for CME and MOC from the JAMA Network. Search by specialty or US state and earn AMA PRA Category 1 CME Credit™ from articles, audio, Clinical Challenges and more. Learn more about CME/MOC

Article Information

Accepted for Publication: March 22, 2021.

Published: May 14, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.10090

Open Access: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the CC-BY License. © 2021 Day S et al. JAMA Network Open.

Corresponding Author: Suzanne Day, PhD, Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 130 Mason Farm Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27514 (suzanne.day@med.unc.edu).

Author Contributions: Dr Day had full access to all the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Concept and design: Day, Li, Hlatshwako, Abu-Hijleh, Han, Deitelzweig, Ramaswamy, Tang, Tucker.

Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: Day, Li, Hlatshwako, Abu-Hijleh, Deitelzweig, Bayus, Tucker.

Drafting of the manuscript: Day, Li, Hlatshwako, Abu-Hijleh, Deitelzweig, Tucker.

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: Day, Li, Hlatshwako, Han, Deitelzweig, Bayus, Ramaswamy, Tang.

Statistical analysis: Day, Abu-Hijleh, Tang.

Obtained funding: Day, Tucker.

Administrative, technical, or material support: Day, Hlatshwako, Abu-Hijleh, Han, Tang, Tucker.

Supervision: Day, Tucker.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

Funding/Support: This work received support from the Carolina Fund, administered by the Development Office of the University of North Carolina.

Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The funding source had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Additional Contributions: We gratefully acknowledge all participants of the open call and the volunteers who made this project possible as members of our organizing committee, steering committee, and judging team. Organizing committee members were Fouad Abu-Hijleh, BA, Department of Health Policy and Management, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Claire Amon, Lineberger Cancer Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Sarah Asuquo, MBBCH, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Vanya Bhat, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Elizabeth Chen, PhD, MPH, Department of Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Fairchild Davis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Suzanne Day, PhD, MA, Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Chelsea Deitelzweig, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Elizabeth DuBose, MPH, Department of Ophthalmology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Larry Han, MPhil, Department of Biostatistics, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Lisa Hightow-Weidman, MD, MPH, Department of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Takhona Grace Hlatshwako, Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases and the Department of Department of Global Health, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Chunyan Li, MSc, Department of Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Hailey Mason, BA, Department of Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Sarah Payne, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Audrey Pettifor, PhD, Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Rohit Ramaswamy, PhD, Public Health Leadership Program, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Weiming Tang, MD, PHD, Social Entrepreneurship to Spur Health (SESH), Guangzhou, China; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Project—China, Guangzhou, China; Dermatology Hospital, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China; Joseph D. Tucker, MD, PhD, Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Social Entrepreneurship to Spur Health (SESH), Guangzhou, China; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Project—China, Guangzhou, China; Department of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; Kathryn Wagner, MM, BM, Arts Everywhere, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Steering Committee members: Ada Adimora, MD, MPH, Division of Infectious Diseases and Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Mimi Chapman, PhD, MSSW, School of Social Work, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Giselle Corbie-Smith, MD, MSc, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Center for Health Equity Research, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; lizabeth Manekin, MA, BA, Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Reeves Moseley, Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Dee Poon, BA, Esquel Group; Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH, MPH, Gillings School of Global Public Health. None of these people were compensated for their work. We also thank Innovate Carolina for their enthusiasm and support of open call finalists and runners-up.

References
1.
Crawford  J , Butler-Henderson  K , Rudolph  J ,  et al.  COVID-19: 20 countries’ higher education intra-period digital pedagogy responses.   Journal of Applied Learning and Teaching. 2020;3(1):1-20.Google Scholar
2.
Wood  G. There’s no simple way to reopen universities. 2020. Accessed November 11, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/04/colleges-are-weighing-costs-reopening-fall/610759/
3.
Fedorowicz  M , Arena  O , Burrowes  K.   Community Engagement during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond: A Guide for Community-Based Organizations. The Urban Institute; 2020.
4.
Waugh  WL  Jr .  Issues in university governance: more “professional” and less academic.   Ann Am Acad Pol Soc Sci. 2003;585(1):84-96. doi:10.1177/0002716202238568 Google ScholarCrossref
5.
Tucker  JD , Day  S , Tang  W , Bayus  B .  Crowdsourcing in medical research: concepts and applications.   PeerJ. 2019;7:e6762. doi:10.7717/peerj.6762 PubMedGoogle Scholar
6.
Parvanta  C , Roth  Y , Keller  H .  Crowdsourcing 101: a few basics to make you the leader of the pack.   Health Promot Pract. 2013;14(2):163-167. doi:10.1177/1524839912470654 PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
7.
The National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine. The impact of social networking and crowdsourcing on research, the enterprise, and the workforce: a workshop. 2011. Accessed April 28, 2020. https://www.nationalacademies.org/our-work/the-impact-of-social-networking-and-crowdsourcing-on-research-the-enterprise-and-the-workforce-a-workshop
8.
Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research. Scientific priorities for behavioral and social sciences research at NIH. 2020. Accessed April 28, 2020. https://obssr.ideascale.com/
9.
Wang  C , Han  L , Stein  G ,  et al.  Crowdsourcing in health and medical research: a systematic review.   Infect Dis Poverty. 2020;9(1):8. doi:10.1186/s40249-020-0622-9 PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
10.
Mathews  A , Farley  S , Blumberg  M ,  et al.  HIV cure research community engagement in North Carolina: a mixed-methods evaluation of a crowdsourcing contest.   J Virus Erad. 2017;3(4):223-228. doi:10.1016/S2055-6640(20)30318-6 PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
11.
Day  S , Mathews  A , Blumberg  M , Vu  T , Rennie  S , Tucker  JD .  Broadening community engagement in clinical research: designing and assessing a pilot crowdsourcing project to obtain community feedback on an HIV clinical trial.   Clin Trials. 2020;17(3):306-313. doi:10.1177/1740774520902741 PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
12.
Mathews  A , Farley  S , Hightow-Weidman  L , Muessig  K , Rennie  S , Tucker  JD .  Crowdsourcing and community engagement: a qualitative analysis of the 2BeatHIV contest.   J Virus Erad. 2018;4(1):30-36. doi:10.1016/S2055-6640(20)30239-9 PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
13.
Day  S , Mathews  A , Blumberg  M ,  et al.  Expanding community engagement in HIV clinical trials: a pilot study using crowdsourcing.   AIDS. 2020;34(8):1195-1204. doi:10.1097/QAD.0000000000002534 PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
14.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT’s COVID-19 Info Center: Town Halls. 2020. Accessed September 20, 2020. https://covid19.mit.edu/town-halls
15.
Young  JR . How MIT Is Crowdsourcing Its Reopening Plans for the Fall. 2020. Accessed September 20, 2020. https://www.edsurge.com/news/2020-06-19-how-mit-is-crowdsourcing-its-reopening-plans-for-the-fall
16.
Severence  J. Multidisciplinary UConn team provided evidence-based recommendations for fall reopening. UConn Today. August 17, 2020. Accessed April 13, 2021. https://today.uconn.edu/2020/08/multidisciplinary-uconn-team-provided-evidence-based-recommendations-fall-reopening
17.
University of Michigan. COVID-19 Campus Challenge. 2020. Accessed November 1, 2020. https://covidcampuschallenge.engin.umich.edu/
18.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Carolina Together: The Roadmap for Fall 2020. 2020. Accessed September 27, 2020. https://carolinatogether.unc.edu/
19.
World Health Organization, Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, Social Innovation in Health Initiative.  Crowdsourcing in Health and Health Research: A Practical Guide. World Health Organization; 2018.
20.
O’Brien  BC , Harris  IB , Beckman  TJ , Reed  DA , Cook  DA .  Standards for reporting qualitative research: a synthesis of recommendations.   Acad Med. 2014;89(9):1245-1251. doi:10.1097/ACM.0000000000000388 PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
21.
Carolina Collective. Carolina Collective. 2020. Accessed April 13, 2021. https://carolinacollective.web.unc.edu/
22.
The Carolina Collective. @carolinacollective2020 (Facebook profile). 2020. Accessed November 12, 2020. https://www.facebook.com/carolinacollective2020
23.
The Carolina Collective. @unc_collective (Twitter profile). 2020. Accessed November 12, 2020. https://twitter.com/unc_collective
24.
The Carolina Collective. @carolinacollective2020 (Instagram profile). 2020. Accessed November 12, 2020. https://www.instagram.com/carolinacollective2020/
25.
Strauss  A , and Corbin  J.   Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory. 2nd ed. Sage; 1998.
26.
Golden  SD , Earp  JAL .  Social ecological approaches to individuals and their contexts: twenty years of health education & behavior health promotion interventions.   Health Educ Behav. 2012;39(3):364-372. doi:10.1177/1090198111418634 PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
27.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Innovate Carolina. 2020. Accessed November 12, 2020. https://innovate.unc.edu/
28.
Gegenhuber  T. Countering coronavirus with open social innovation: Germany’s first government-hosted crisis hackathon offers seven lessons on how to make the most of a messy-but-promising way to kick-start social innovation. 2020. Accessed November 5, 2020. https://ssir.org/articles/entry/countering_coronavirus_with_open_social_innovation
29.
Tai  DBG , Shah  A , Doubeni  CA , Sia  IG , Wieland  ML .  The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minorities in the United States.   Clin Infect Dis. 2021;72(4):703-706. doi:10.1093/cid/ciaa815 PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
30.
Picone  M , Inoue  S , DeFelice  C ,  et al.  Social listening as a rapid approach to collecting and analyzing COVID-19 symptoms and disease natural histories reported by large numbers of individuals.   Popul Health Manag. 2020;23(5):350-360. doi:10.1089/pop.2020.0189 PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
31.
Pathanasethpong  A , Soomlek  C , Morley  K ,  et al.  Tackling regional public health issues using mobile health technology: event report of an mHealth hackathon in Thailand.   JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2017;5(10):e155. doi:10.2196/mhealth.8259 PubMedGoogle Scholar
32.
Wang  JK , Roy  SK , Barry  M , Chang  RT , Bhatt  AS .  Institutionalizing healthcare hackathons to promote diversity in collaboration in medicine.   BMC Med Educ. 2018;18(1):269. doi:10.1186/s12909-018-1385-x PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
33.
Fausset  R. Outbreaks drive U.N.C. Chapel Hill online after a week of classes. The New York Times. August 17, 2020. Accessed November 1, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/17/us/unc-chapel-hill-covid.html
If you are not a JN Learning subscriber, you can either:
Subscribe to JN Learning for one year
Buy this activity
jn-learning_Modal_Multimedia_LoginSubscribe_Purchase
Close
If you are not a JN Learning subscriber, you can either:
Subscribe to JN Learning for one year
Buy this activity
jn-learning_Modal_Multimedia_LoginSubscribe_Purchase
Close
With a personal account, you can:
  • Access free activities and track your credits
  • Personalize content alerts
  • Customize your interests
  • Fully personalize your learning experience
Education Center Collection Sign In Modal Right
Close

Name Your Search

Save Search
Close
With a personal account, you can:
  • Track your credits
  • Personalize content alerts
  • Customize your interests
  • Fully personalize your learning experience
jn-learning_Modal_SaveSearch_NoAccess_Purchase
Close

Lookup An Activity

or

Close

My Saved Searches

You currently have no searches saved.

Close
With a personal account, you can:
  • Access free activities and track your credits
  • Personalize content alerts
  • Customize your interests
  • Fully personalize your learning experience
Education Center Collection Sign In Modal Right
Close