Monday, June 25, 2012

P2PU & A Badge or P2P & A Degree?

Peer 2 Peer University (a.k.a P2PU) is a learning location where people work together online to learn a particular topic by completing tasks, assessing individual and group work, and providing constructive feedback to each other. It is FREE and open to everyone who has an Internet connection. P2PU's website states that "P2PU creates a model for lifelong learning alongside traditional formal higher education." Lifelong learning is something that higher education has been promoting for years and it would appear that P2PU themselves are not trying to replace traditional education practices, but add to them. However, within an article in the Chronicle for Higher Education they question if the education system even needs instructors.

P2PU also has listed on their website the statement: "Leveraging the internet and educational materials openly available online, P2PU enables high-quality low-cost education opportunities."
P2PU clearly states on their About page that "Peers in a course review and critique each others' work and P2PU digital badges will be offered to signal that you've completed a course. We want learners to get recognition for their achievements, but we don't issue any kind of accredited or official certificates ourselves." To me this means P2PU is measuring quality of courses based on user feedback. Higher education has been collecting user feed back with end of course surveys for years and continues to do so. However, higher education goes one step further to validate quality by going through a formal accreditation process. Yes, I know that a school can be accreditation and still have poor quality instructors, just as P2PU could have poor quality group/course leaders.

Instead of the traditional degree or certificate that are earned in traditional higher education institutions, P2PU offers learners digital badges. The Chronicle of Higher Education author Kevin Carey quotes the MacArthur foundation as saying that a badge was "a validated indicator of accomplishment, skill, quality or interest" Carey provides a very simple image of a digital badge by relating it to the items that Scouts were on their uniforms and earn for completing selected task. P2PU states that they have"pioneered the use of badges to recognize skills and projects. We’ve published papers on the subject. Scaled the badge model for a pilot of 500 learners. Won grants for our implementation." Bb helped hundreds earn a FREE digital badge through their first MOOC with Dr. Bonk on Coursesites, so even a traditional higher education company is employing badges and other companies are using them for staff professional development. The three questions that I have is: (1) What is stopping people from making their own badges, who is the governing body for digital badges?, (2)Are we just going from degree/diploma mills to badge mills?, and (3) what does P2PU have to offer course/group leaders that Bb Coursesites does not?

With Blackboard or another LMS, a good instructor can create the same peer 2 peer communication, support, and learning through journals, blogs, team assignments, groups, webinars, and peer review tools. While as the world and technology are always changing, education must change also. But currently, I believe employers are still looking for degrees/diplomas and work experience on resumes. I think P2PU is a great resource or help to struggling students, but not a replacement for traditional education. As Julie Kelleher posted today on Blackboard's blog, how does someone put a value on college.

Thoughts for everyone to ponder: For years when other organizations called themselves "universities" and did not have the ".edu" top-level domain name, they were considered a fake..what makes P2PU different? While employers here in the U.S. may start accepting digital badges, but what about the rest of the world?

Conversations like this are common place at BbWorld. Won't you join us July 10-12 in New Orleans, Louisiana. You can still register, by clicking here.

Additional Resources:
EducationWeek - June 13, 2012
Edutopica - Sept 21, 2011
LearningTimes - Jan. 2, 2012

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