Thursday, June 21, 2012

Update on Peer-to-Peer University

Back in 2009, I wondered about Peer-to-Peer University's business plan, which kept prices low by using volunteer faculty:
"While it has yet to get accreditation, the not-for-profit [Peer2Peer University] plans to offer bachelor's degrees in business and computer science using open courseware and volunteer faculty; fees would add up to about $4,000 for a full four-year degree." Uh-huh. "Volunteer faculty." What's not to love about working for free?
This update on P2PU at The Chronicle confirms that, yes indeedy, there were a few glitches in getting faculty with mortgages and lives to work for free:
When plans for P2PU were announced, in 2008, the idea was to have well-known professors moderating the discussions, with graduate students serving as tutors and grading papers. But finding volunteers to keep the courses going has been a challenge, the organizers admit, and the push recently has been toward transforming courses into "challenges" that require little or no mediation by outside experts.
P2PU has developed a modified alternative, though--sort of a MOOC lite, with badges and students teaching each other. It seems to depend on social networking to put like-minded learners together to complete "challenges." That's intriguing, because the gamification of learning is something that's being much touted these days, and completing challenges sounds like an interesting way to approach some topics.
But as Jonathan Rees of More or Less Bunk points out, expertise (Ph.D.-holding professors) ought to count for something: peer-to-peer may work for a book club, but what about getting at the hard questions or unpopular topics that sometimes are necessary for really understanding a subject?

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