Walk into any college classroom and you’re likely to see 95 percent of the students tapping away on a laptop, gazing up only to pretend they’re listening to their professor gabbing away in the front of the class. The traditional lecture’s become severely flawed, which is why there’s Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU), a place where learning “isn’t transmitted, broadcast or transferred,” but rather involves people working together, giving each other feedback and actually, well, paying attention.
“Peer instruction” isn’t new. The phrase was coined by Harvard physics professor Eric Mazur, who started forcing his 100 or so students to sit in small groups, discussing classroom content and interacting with each other. P2PU just took the idea and brought it online, allowing anyone to learn anything from their peers.
Thirty-thousand people are registered on P2PU. To the team, that means there are 30,000 different learning styles, which they admit is how they like it. Ever want to learn accounting jargon? How about how to write for the web? P2PU offers a variety of classes through their different schools: social innovation, mathematical future, webcraft, education, open and data. Learners can then post comments to every course, message each other and live chat.
As P2PU has grown, they’ve developed “badges” to recognize skills and projects, having published papers on the subject of an open badge ecosystem for lifelong learning in collaboration with the Mozilla Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation. Although P2PU has developed three types of badges for their platform — skill, stealth and community — they’re next goal is to integrate assessment, which appears to be the one piece missing for credibility’s sake.