Peer 2 Peer University

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= an online community of open study groups for short university-level courses


"Our goal is to create a free and open university where all course materials are accessible, courses are scheduled and have deadlines, and we develop some alternate form of a "hacked" accreditation." [1]



"The Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) is an online community of open study groups for short university-level courses. Think of it as online book clubs for open educational resources. The P2PU helps you navigate the wealth of open education materials that are out there, creates small groups of motivated learners, and supports the design and facilitation of courses. Students and tutors get recognition for their work, and we are building pathways to formal credit as well."

2. Via Franz Nahrada:

  1. Currently P2PU is in a pilot phase. At the beginning P2PU will offer scheduled "courses" that run for 6 weeks and cover university-level topics. Each course package, organized by a course volunteer, contains the syllabus, study materials, and a schedule. Learning will take place in small groups of 8-14 students. It could be considered a collection of online book clubs for open educational resources, navigating the wealth of open education materials that are out there, creating small groups of motivated learners, and supporting the design and facilitation of courses.
  2. P2PU is designed to blur the boundaries between students and teachers. Volunteers step forward to create course outlines and facilitate the course work. In some cases they may be experts in the field, and in others, they may rely on input and advice from others who have expert knowledge.
  3. During the current test phase the project aims to experiment with different styles of course structure, communication, and organization. As the project grows the goal is to become more of a platform so anyone can use P2PU to organize, design, and offer courses. Students and tutors get recognition for their work, and we are building pathways to formal credit as well.
  4. Like open source software communities, the participants in a learning group provide feedback to each other, reviewing and improving each others' work. Peers in the course will assess each others work, and P2PU online certificates will be offered to signal that you've completed a course.


"let’s engage imagine there was a vibrant web community of learners at something called Peer-To-Peer University ( P2PU would not be a real university, but rather, a group of self-learners and tutors who work together to emulate some of the functions an academic institution would carry out, in a peer-to-peer fashion. P2PU would define “degrees” by assembling OER materials from different repositories that, together, would suffice as a degree in that subject. For example, P2PU might specify 15 physics course across the various OER project sites that one would have to complete in order to get a P2PU physics degree. Students might take Physics 101 from MIT OCW, and Physics 202 from Tufts OCW. P2PU would make sure all learning resources would be available online. Providing degree tracks helps self-learners navigate the vast terrain of OER resources in a goal-oriented way. This may remove some of the inertia from being faced with too many choices, or not being able to access readings.

Beyond specifying degrees, P2PU would then organize scheduled “courses” where groups of learners would come together and learn the material for a course. For example, Physics 101 would be held at P2PU starting on January 30th 2008, through May 15th 2008. Self-learners would then sign up for the course to take alongside a cohort of other self-learners throughout the world. The group will start on a certain date, end on a certain date, and have regular scheduled meetings on IM, Skype, and discussion threads to have a “class discussion” to go over the material followed on a syllabus. Providing a structured time, and process to take a course will help learners commit, rather than just putting it off until tomorrow. Providing a group to take a course with provides community, support, and accountability for taking the course. P2PU will also experiment with a variety of methods in instruction. In some cases video resources, or highly interactive web-learning tools may be available to self-learners that they could use in a group setting. In the absence of these materials being available, members of the group take turns presenting class lectures to each other. One group member would study the material for that “class” in depth, present the materials to the group members, and discuss. Or, a member can find supplementary applications on the web that would help illustrate the concept. When possible, an educator or well-versed students could sign up to be “class tutors,” to guide the group. The class tutor would lead the class in learning the materials, facilitating discussions, answering questions, and providing feedback. You could imagine there might be many experts in physics who would consider it an act of goodwill, or a volunteer effort to guide a class on P2PU. As a reward, they will have special “tutor” profile pages showing the classes they have taught. Tutors can collect ratings, so that they become popular and people want to take courses led by them. It may be that for very good tutors, there could be some kind of financial reward built into the system. Participants can also have profile pages, which detail their interests, occupations, and also show which courses they have completed. The group can also decide how to test the material either through a multiple choice open book written exam, or an oral exam within the group. At the end, if they wished, they could compete against each other and have their scores compiled on a public ranking list. Competition is often a good learning motivator. And though these efforts may not replace the value of accreditation, it could serve some purpose in giving learners some measure of social credit for finishing their course, that is somewhere between accreditation, and nothing. Posting the names of students and the OER courses somewhere on the site will provide an additional incentive for having students complete classes at P2PU. It may be that one day an employer would recognize a degree from P2PU. Inherent in the system, P2PU students would be self-starters, group learners, and resourceful. A degree from P2PU would be a “Net Degree” and soon begin to take on its own meaning of accreditation. Though there many kinks to work out in P2PU, such as incentives, group motivation, and testing, the potential seems clear – the Internet can be used to connect students with each other in an organized fashion to leverage OER resources. P2PU creates community for learners, deadlines, and incentives to learn OER materials. In the absence of these incentives, and access to an academic institution, P2PU leverages OER and the Internet to make learning interactive, free, and worthwhile." (


Philipp Schmidt, co-founder and executive director of Peer to Peer University:

"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." (

Video interview at [2]


George Siemens’ appreciation of the Peer 2 Peer University project:

“What do I disagree with? I disagree with the notion of “sense makers”. We make sense personally. No one makes sense for us. I’m also somewhat unsure of the formality of this approach. It bears within it too much of the existing university model. Why centralize things? The only thing we really need to centralize is the accreditation (i.e. open accreditation). Who really cares where or how people “got their learning”? Use existing networks of learning opportunities. This is P2P University administered through centralized models (which, then means, it’s not really P2P). I love the concept. I like the vision. I don’t like the execution. It’s foreplay when we need consummation.” (

More Information

  1. Video: Philipp Schmidt on Learning with the Peer to Peer University