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P2PU: How it All Started

P2PU is Social Wrapper CartoonCC-BY-SA Alison Jean Cole

A few years ago, I had an idea: I wanted to travel around the world and meet interesting people who I could learn from in exchange for sharing my skills. I remember having the idea very vividly. I was on an airplane, as I often was back in those days, and I was scribbling as fast as I could in my notebook. There was going to be an online component to a mostly offline experience. People would be able to lend resources such as classrooms, domain knowledge, books, supplies, and equipment. I was convinced something like this should already exist, so I did what you'd expect, I scoured the net high and low. As I searched I came across a number of different communities and resources but couldn't find exactly what I was looking for.

Sure there was CouchSurfing, but that was mainly focused on the travel community with a very minor attempt at a skill sharing system. I also found things like MIT's Open Course Ware, but there was something lacking, the community, the people. In my searching I came across a new term, Open Education. I had long known of FLOSS, so the concept of open education was pretty natural to me. Further down the road I heard about the annual Open Education Conference, so in 2008, I attended. My trip was kindly funded by the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation based on my intent to share the idea. As it turned out, I wasn't alone in my thinking and I met Philipp, Stian, and Joel.

At this point, tons of ideas were brewing for all of us. There were a million directions that we could go. Different people had different ideas and we took a slow growth route in order to solidify what it was we were trying to accomplish.

Fast forward two years and you've got Peer 2 Peer University, a thriving community of individuals passionate about learning. Our core values are clear. We're an open community for peer learning. We're here to facilitate learning groups and give participants the recognition they deserve. P2PU encourages experimentation, and I love experiments.

As of now we've run more than twenty courses in two cycles. In the most recent cycle, I organized my first course, Mashing Up the Open Web. Mashing up The Open Web is the first course in a series of Open Web courses that we're working on in conjunction with Mozilla as part of the Drumbeat initiative. I'll save the details for a later post, but I will say that the course was an amazing success and that I absolutely enjoyed every minute of it. I've always had the idea of becoming a teacher in the back of my mind, P2PU has helped me prove that idea is a good one.