Hello from Toronto/P2PU

Hello from Toronto/P2PU

by Stian Håklev -
Number of replies: 0

Picture of meHi all. I am very excited about this course, since it dovetails very nicely with both my own PhD studies, and my involvement/research interest in P2PU.

I'm a Norwegian international student, but I've already been in Toronto for six years, at the University of Toronto. I did my MA in Higher Education, on Open Educational Resources in China, which brings together two of my interests, languages and international collaboration/understanding, and OER/open learning (thesis). I am currently in the first year of my PhD in Curriculum, Teaching and Learning focusing on learning in open courses.

P2PU logoThe thing that takes up most of my time, is P2PU, or the Peer2Peer University. It's an online platform for collaborative open learning groups around open educational resources. Basically, the idea is that there is now so much resources available - whether MIT OpenCourseWare, Open Access journal articles, scanned public domain books, Wikipedia articles, blogs, newspapers etc - but self-learners who wish to use these materials still face a number of challenges.

1. Where to start, what materials are appropriate at my level, what is a good progression through the materials?

2. The need for a "co-hort" to learn with, both for the knowledge-sharting aspect, and the social aspect. Also mentors and others who can provide feedback on the learning.

3. Some form of assessment or feedback, and for some, formal accreditation or recognition of the learning.

So what P2PU provides is:

1. Volunteers put together course outlines which only link to material freely and legally available on the net (MIT OCW has free course outlines, but they ask you to buy this book, get this article that's only available through a university library). Courses are usually 6 weeks, but can be longer.

2. We then "run" these courses, with groups of around 20 students - very similar to this course, except there are often also Skype or video meetings.

3. We are doing research on peer-evaluations, social metrics, badges and karma points, digital portfolios, capstone projects, and many other ways of doing assessment and accreditation.

Here's a very brief, kind of "in your face" elevator pitch for P2PU:

from P2P University on Vimeo.


Since we started a year and a half ago, we've grown very quickly - we now offer courses in English, Spanish and Portuguese (hopefully Chinese and other languages soon). We are launching our next semester in a week or two, offering more than 60 courses, everything from webdesign, via Spanish for Portuguese-speakers, to copyright for educators. We are also collaborating with other organizations, such as the School of Webcraft, with the Mozilla Foundation, and the School of Social Innovation, with the Ashoka foundation.

So there's a ton of really interesting challenges that we are continuing to face in building up this organization, for example

  • communication tools for courses
  • student motivation and retention
  • knowledge building discourse and peer-learning
  • assessment and accreditation of courses

etc. These are also my main research interests, and will form the focus of my PhD research (although I still need to narrow it down).

I am very interested in ways to analyze the learning that is happening in P2PU courses, how we can improve retention, interaction, etc. I have a bunch of ideas, but lack much of the theoretical foundations, which this course (and the conference) will hopefully be great for. I just hope I won't be too stymied by my lack of great math skills (if I am, I guess I'll have to go visit Khan Academy :))

A few questions I have for this course:
  • what kind of data should P2PU be gathering about its learners?
  • privacy issues - we'd love to make these kinds of data available to lot's of researchers... what are the ethics constraints (especially when almost everything is available publicly already), how can we anonymize the data enough, etc.
  • gathering data when students are using outside platforms - we want to give course organizers a lot of flexibility, but it's a lot easier when all the interactions happen on the P2PU platform
  • how can you analyze the learning that happens in a course where people come in with very different levels of existing knowledge, and have different learning goals. how can this analysis help us improve our platform, our course design, our course organizer orientation, etc.
  • interaction between learning analytics and assessment / accreditation

Looking forward to learning with you all!

PS: I blog regularly at Random Stuff that Matters, and tweet at @houshuang. For this course, I'll probably mostly be posting on my blog.