Peer to Peer Education: Can Students Teach One Another?

One of society’s major “information institutions” is, of course, the university (and colleges, too). In these institutions information is generated, classified, evaluated, sanctioned, organized, and systematically disseminated.

There are lots of interesting experiments going on in and around the university connected with its various fundamental information functions (e.g.,, wikibooks, OpenCourseWare, and, of course, all manner of distance learning). Each of these experiments plays with changing how we think about one piece of the education equation.

I’ve just come across one that takes the university itself out of the picture: The Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU). P2PU is structured as an online community of open study groups whose members engage one another in short university-level courses. Their model is to connect open educational resources and small groups of motivated learners. P2PU supports the endeavor with a course infrastructure that facilitates course design by an “organizer,” interaction among participants, access to materials, and methods for recognition of students’ and tutors’ work. Initially focused on more technical skills, the organization seems very committed to making sure that P2PU is an ongoing, distributed research project on the topic of new ways to organize learning.

The video below is a bit amateurish on the production side, but gives some idea of the why and the how behind P2PU. The project also maintains a wiki that gives you a sense of how they do what they do.

Peer 2 Peer University 2010 from P2P University on Vimeo.

Author: Dan Ryan

I've been an Academic Program Director at, a professor at University of Toronto, University of Southern California, and Mills College teaching things like human centered design, computational thinking, modeling for policy sciences, and social theory. My current mission is to figure out how to reorganize higher education and exploit technology so that we can teach twice as many twice as well twice as easily.

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