P2PU was started two years ago by five people and has grown into a community of about 1,000 students and teachers, teaching or participating in a variety of six-week long and continuously running online classes. The goal of P2PU is to make learning and knowledge available to everyone through the use of online technology and resources. Much of the project is run by volunteers, but P2PU has also received support from the Hewlett Foundation, the Shuttleworth Foundation, and the University of Irvine.
After registering on the site, you can follow or participate in any listed course. Participants in a course are allowed to post messages and comments on the “course wall” and participate in the class activities and tasks.
P2PU also includes three ongoing schools – School of Social Innovation, School of the Mathematical Future and School of Webcraft, the last of which is a project developed in partnership with the Mozilla Foundation to teach the skills of web development and standards. Courses can also be created for these particular schools.
Create A Course
Most of the current P2PU courses are technical or skills-oriented, but the original pilot of P2PU is to allow for courses and study groups on any subject of interest, e.g., cyberpunk literature, philosophy, movie criticism, personal finance literacy, a foreign language and music theory.
To start a course, first update your membership profile and then select Dashboard > Create New Topic, under your Profile. You can create a new course from scratch, clone an existing study or import a course from the old P2PU site.
As you might expect, you will need a name and brief description of your course, and the type of class it will be, e.g. study group, seminar, workshop, or working group. In your profile you will want to state your own background and expertise for teaching the course.
Next, you will need to outline your course content, which mainly consists of a series of tasks for participants. Tasks can include an overview of the course, posted readings or links to documents, activity assignments, planned online presentations and discussions, multimedia presentations and the like. Additional information on creating a course can be learned from this video tutorial.
Finally, you will probably need to promote your course or study group on social networking sites, as well as blogging sites related to your topic. You could for example write a press release announcing the course and send it out to related media sites and bloggers. P2PU also promotes all courses on its homepage and blog.
A few P2PU courses are geared toward instructors and methods for teaching, such as the P2PU Handbook course, Collaborative Lesson Planning, and Introduction to Contributing to Lernanta, which is the open source platform that P2PU runs on.
P2PU doesn’t offer official credentials for teaching and successful completion of a course, but instructors and organizers of a course can provide certificates and other forms of acknowledgements for participation and completion of assignments.
While P2PU is still in the experimental stage, the project is the type of innovation that demonstrates how the Internet can be used to broaden educational opportunities, based on the foundations of openness, community, and peer learning.
Let us know what you think of P2PU. Have you ever participated in an online course? Share your experiences!
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