P2PU and homeschoolers?

May 1, 2010, [MD]

One of the fun things about P2PU is that we really didn't design it for one particular narrow demographic – it could be useful to anyone, whether it's high school students who want more challenging classes (and in the future, maybe earn some AP credits and skip a year of university), retired people who want to pursue their interests, workers who need to keep up to date with their subject area, laid-off workers who need to retrain, etc.

This means that we are constantly trying to think through how P2PU can be useful to different groups of people, and how to engage with those communities to collaborate and learn from each other. I've had wonderful conversations with people working with disadvantaged youth, doing teacher training in developing countries, wanting to improve the efficiency of NGOs, or make university classes more international and interesting.

As we are evaluating different communications/community platforms for P2PU, John Britton shared a link to OSQA, an open source platform for "Q&A" – asking questions, getting answers, rating the best answers, gaining community credit (they have a neat system of badges, which plays into another aspect P2PU is investigating right now). While looking at their example sites, I came across a very active forum for homeschoolers.

This made me realize that homeschoolers represent one community that I had least had not thought about as a potential user of P2PU. It makes a lot of sense though, here are people who are very critical to the existing system (for a host of different reasons), who have thought and reflect a lot about the kind of education their kids should receive, and who are also eager to make formal systems – college or grad school admissions, and hiring processes – more open to non-traditional ways of gaining knowledge and skills.

So I posted a question on the site, asking "How could Peer2Peer University be of help to homeschoolers?" I also outlined a few possibilities that I see, but I really hope people will respond, because I would love to hear from these thoughtful and reflective individuals how we could be a positive resource to them.

Let me know if you think of other groups out there that could benefit from P2PU – or whom P2PU is not serving well right now, and what kinds of changes and additions we would have to make, to serve that group better?

Here is the text of the question that I posted:

How could Peer2Peer University be of help to homeschoolers?

Hi all, this seems like an amazingly helpful forum, and I hope this question is appropriate. I'm involved with a project called Peer2Peer University. We are a number of people who come from the Open Educational Resources movement - where MIT, Open University, Yale, but also individuals and organizations, made large amounts of educational resources available for free, and with open licenses.

We thought this was wonderful, but for self-learners, it was very difficult to find proper materials, and they lack the community to provide motivation, feedback, etc. That's why we created P2PU. It's kind of a platform for conducting online learning groups. Our course organizers (who don't have to be experts) submit proposals for 6-week courses, where all the curriculum resources have to be freely available (we link to them). We are building up resources for course organizers to improve their course design/facilitation skills, and we pair them up with mentors that have already led classes before. Then the curriculum goes out for community review.

When a course is running, you apply to take part (not based on previous education, but just that you show that you are enthusiastic/committed to complete the course). The students do their readings, watch videos, go through exercises etc in the curriculum, and use forums, live chat, Skype and videochat, collaborative text editing, blogs etc to communicate with each other. Everything is open, so you can "audit" or peek into any class, even if you are not registered.

We are also looking into ways in which the learning that happens can later be recognized, formally or informally. For the formal route, we are researching link ups with people like Kaplan or AP exams, competency based curricula like Western Governors' University, challenge exams, recognition of prior learning etc, and for informal recognition, we are looking at assembling electronic portfolios, measuring community reputation, etc. (You can see a brief summary of our project here).

So my question is, how could we serve the homeschooling community? And what would we need to modify/add to be more useful to your needs? I think we could learn a lot from each other, because we have the same belief that education doesn't have to come pre-packaged in a mass-produced fashion, and the same desire to open the system up to recognizing different pathways students might choose, to reach the same goals.

Here are some ideas I have, please pitch in!

Anyway, I know I am an outside to this community, but please don't perceive this as spam, I'm genuinely interested in engaging with you, and learning from your experiences, and perhaps seeing if we can work together in some way.


Stian Håklev May 1, 2010 Toronto, Canada
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