May 23, 2011

P2PU: Learning for Everyone, by Everyone, about almost Anything

Category: Educational Practice
group of people casually having a meeting with beer pizza and swing

Meet Philipp Schmidt, co-founder and executive director of Peer to Peer University, an emerging, Web-based global learning community. At P2PU, study groups form and gather online to learn a particular topic. They do group work together and provide constructive feedback for one another. All courses are free and open. Schmidt started P2PU after he and a few friends wanted to learn more about psychology together. After that initial experience, they created a wiki offering seven more courses to see if people would be interested, and P2PU was born. Entrepreneurial and committed to open learning culture, Schmidt recently visited the University of California’s statewide Humanities Research Institute at UC Irvine to talk about the digital age phenomenon that is P2PU. After giving a talk to a group of students and faculty at UC Irvine, he was gracious enough to sit down for a brief video Q&A (below). An abstract from the interview:

Imagine a world where you can learn anything you’re curious about.

My two favorite courses were both courses that ran in the first round. One was “Introduction to Cyberpunk Literature,” which actually was a bad Peer 2 Peer University course, because the source material is all closed. So, if you want to read William Gibson, there’s no Creative Commons license. The course actually remixes the curriculum to include Cory Doctorow because his books are CC licensed. So, they said, well, we have to read the classics like Snow Crash and Neuromancer. But then we’re also going to read this other stuff because it’s open, and also, Cory Doctorow was becoming a new voice in that space. So, the cyberpunk one, just because it was such an awesome community of people and they produced a comic strip. It’s just a lovely group. And then the other one just because it shocked people so much is “Playing Poker and Strategic Thinking.” That was often use as an example of why Peer 2 Peer University is not a serious learning experience, and that course was actually taken from Harvard Law School. So I loved that situation where people said, “Yeah, I looked at your website. You’re teaching poker,” and we’d be able to say, “Yeah, that’s the one we took from Harvard Law School,” which is a pretty experimental little institution in Cambridge, but still.

Some of the teachers are absolute experts and some of them are teachers at universities. Some of them are Ph.D students. Some of them are completely self-taught. But the expertise is in the group. That’s the message, that everyone can bring something to the conversation. If you have someone who can facilitate that conversation, it’s probably more important than having someone answering all the questions.

DML Research Hub student assistants Marc Bacarro and Connie Lee contributed to this post.

Banner image credit: rr0cketqueen