I’m sure we’ve all been there. Maybe you’ve even been reading this article and are thinking to yourself, “Now there’s a problem I can solve.”
The concept behind a knowledge base is simple: create a place where people can come to learn something new. But while the idea is great, the execution can be challenging. After all, how can you ensure that you’re maintaining the quality of your content when anyone can post anything?
The answer is Quizlet. Quizlet is a free Google Chrome browser extension that puts a huge emphasis on speed. Instead of having to wait for a slow-loading page to load or spend hours going through a dense textbook to find that one particular piece of knowledge, you can quickly search for the answer and get back the result almost instantly. The best part is you’re not restricted to learning only in a classroom setting. With Quizlet, you can learn anything from the comfort of your home.
So what is the single problem with online communities like Quizlet? There are many issues, but here are some of the most significant ones.
No Consensus On Authority
Let’s start with the most obvious issue — there’s no clear handbook or agreement on which knowledge is considered acceptable and which is not. In a traditional classroom, you have a professor who has earned their authority through years of teaching experience. Maybe they’ve been fortunate enough to earn a doctorate, and now they have the power to dictate the terms of the discussion. Their knowledge is considered valuable, and they are the ones who decide what content is acceptable to include in the conversation.
This model doesn’t quite work in the digital space. Sure, there are some very knowledgeable people writing on blogs and answering questions on forums. But these are all individual opinions. There’s no overarching rule-settenver to help guide your decisions about what is valuable knowledge and what is not.
No Limits On Participation
Even in a traditional classroom, there are limits to the amount of participation students are allowed. You can only have so many questions, and you need to set a time limit so that the teacher isn’t overwhelmed by endless queries. Quizlet doesn’t have these restrictions. Anyone can ask any question, and there are no time limits on when to pose a question.
This is a problem because it leads to a potentially infinite cycle of questioning and answering that never ends. Sure, you can try to limit this by setting a time limit on each individual activity. But the real solution is to figure out a way to end the cycle. You can’t have an open-ended conversation with no clear direction. It leads to nothing but confusion and eventually to a dead end.
No Way To Keep Track Of The Conversation
If you’re in the middle of an open-ended conversation, there’s no clear way to keep track of what was said during that conversation. You can’t look up a discussion you had years ago and know what was said in the first place. It’s a real pain, because you’ll inevitably want to reference something you said in the past but can’t remember what it was exactly. You can’t even be sure what are the relevant discussions in the first place. This is why it’s best to have a clear direction, and why setting a time limit is important because it gives you a direction to go back to.
Posting Is Autonomous
Even in a traditional classroom, students don’t post all of the material. They have to prove themselves capable of mastering the knowledge ahead of time. Quizlet doesn’t have this filter. Anyone can post anything, and there’s no way to ensure that the content is good or valuable. The best course of action when faced with this problem is to simply avoid it. Instead of trying to educate people who are just looking for an excuse to post, you can find a more suitable forum.
Difficulty Level Is Subjective
You can’t always control how difficult the material you’re teaching is going to be. Some students will find it easy, and some will find it extremely challenging. Even in a traditional classroom, there are some students who breeze through the material and others who have to work really hard just to keep up. Quizlet is built on the idea that every individual is capable of understanding any subject, which means there’s no way to objectively determine how much knowledge a user has gained just by using the application.
This is why it’s best to avoid this issue by being mindful of how much knowledge you expect your users to have. If you don’t want to simply end up with an endless stream of questions or just want something that’s going to be easy for your users to understand then look for a more suitable forum.
Low Level Of Expertise
Even in a traditional classroom, there are some pretty knowledgeable people who aren’t exactly teachers. For example, there are often medical professionals who teach classes on how to take care of your body. In many cases, they have more experience than the average professor because they’ve had to master their specialized knowledge through years of education and practice. For the most part, doctors don’t post on social media or answer questions on forums because they consider it bad practice to speak poorly of a specialist they may need to consult for in the future.
This kind of specialist doesn’t fit the profile of someone you’d normally want to let loose in the classroom, and it’s best to avoid them. Even if they’re posting about the subject you’re teaching, there’s still a good chance they don’t actually know much about it and are just seeking a way to appear more knowledgeable than they really are.
Irrelevance Of The Content
Just because you have a conversation doesn’t mean that the content is somehow relevant to the discussion. Sometimes you’ll get into a conversation about sports, and you’ll find yourself asking questions about a play you saw a few weeks ago that had no bearing on the discussion at hand. You can’t always rely on context clues to understand what’s being said. This is why it’s important to have some way of knowing what content is relevant to what you’re trying to discuss.
Overwhelming Amount Of Info
It’s amazing what people will ask about when trying to learn something new. For instance, maybe you’re teaching your users how to write a business plan for a new product they’re coming up with. You’ll get a flood of questions about how to format the plan, what type of content should be included, and so on. Now you have two issues to deal with: the overwhelming amount of information that comes with each individual query and the inability to keep track of all of that info due to the sheer volume. The best solution is to simply avoid this problem by avoiding overly complex topics.
No Way To Find Connections
You can’t always rely on the connections your teachers make in the real world to help you with your studies. Sometimes it happens that a connection leads you down a fruitful path of learning, but more often than not the knowledge you gain doesn’t exactly match up with what you learned in class. Even in a traditional classroom, you can’t always be sure that what you learned in previous classes will help you in future classes. You can’t make such assumptions when it comes to information posted on the web.
This is why it’s best to establish relationships with people who have knowledge that you don’t have access to. Maybe they’ve gained expertise in a specific field you’re interested in pursuing, or they know someone who can provide information about an industry you’re hoping to enter. Having a connection that can steer you towards further study of a particular topic can be a real boon, but you have to be careful who you trust. There are lots of scammers out there who would love to take your money and run. You can avoid this by being picky about who you collaborate with.
One Person’s Knowledge Is Not Superior To Another’s
Even in a traditional classroom, there are people who know a lot and others who don’t. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that someone could know so much and not share it with the world. It means there’s a lot more information out there that they haven’t tapped into yet. The best solution is to simply avoid this problem by being mindful of how much knowledge you have access to. Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to choose between sharing your knowledge or having enough food to eat.
So what is the solution to this conundrum? There’s no simple answer because it depends on your situation. But here are some ideas to get you started: