Interview about Peer2Peer University at P2P Foundation

January 18, 2009, [MD]

I while back, Chris Watkins asked me if he could interview me about the ideas behind the Peer2Peer University, and I was happy to agree. He asked me some thoughtful questions, and it was an interesting opportunity to be able to reflect on some of the choices that we had made. The interview has now been posted on the P2PFoundation Blog. I've included his first question below, head to the whole interview to read the rest:

What inspired you to start this project? What’s unique about your project?

There is a huge amount of Open Educational Resources “out there”, with MIT OCW and the other OCWs, Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative, Open University UK, WikiEducator, Wikiversity, Connexions etc. However, it is very difficult for a self-learner to just sit down and learn from these resources in a sustained fashion.

When I met Philipp and Neeru at iCommons ‘07 we discussed what the “value added” from a university was, and we came up with things like a learning trajectory, deadlines, a peer group, feedback/evaluation, perhaps accreditation at the end (important for some, not for others). That fall, I also participated in David Wiley’s online course Intro to Open Education), which turned out embody many of the ideas we had discussed, and was a very powerful learning experience for me.

The concept was very simple - a wiki where people sign up, no pre-requisites, but you have to work hard. 150 pages of (open access) readings a week, and a few reflection questions. The first week, we read a bunch of long UN reports, and the question was “Should universal education be a universal human right? And if so, is it enough that it is a right, or should it be an obligation as well?”. We then all blogged about this (and you can still read my contribution at OpenEd Week 1), read each others blogs, commented, etc. A very simple format, but because I was highly motivated to see it through (I often spent an entire Sunday on this course, even though I was very busy with courses in my last year of undergrad, and didn’t get any formal credit for it), I learnt a lot.

After the course was over, a few others picked up on the idea (I’ve posted on them at Is Your Course Schedule Full Yet?), building on the model and adding some minor variations to improve it. Finally, Leigh Blackall came up with the term “Wiley wikis” to describe this kind of courses.

I personally had an interest in doing more research on this form of courses to see how they could be further improved, what were the factors in their success or failure, how good were individual learning outcomes, and what factors influenced this, etc. In addition, we wanted to provide a platform where many more such courses could be launched (and about other topics - incidentally, almost all the early courses seemed to be about education and technology itself). So far, the courses had been launched by a few individuals who were all tech-savvy and very hooked in to the open education movement, and perhaps even had more leeway within their institutes because of they were studying open education, etc. We wanted to “mainstream” the model, so that many more professors (and others) could step up and teach courses, and to have a platform where we could experiment with forms of peer-learning, and eventually perhaps ways of obtaining accreditation, etc.


Stian Håklev January 18, 2009 Toronto, Canada
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