Peer 2 Peer University (we mostly say P2PU) is a grassroots organization whose mission is to create alternatives to formal education that are both practical and liberating. Our primary project is called learning circles, which are groups of people who meet in person to learn something together, using free online courses or other learning resources.
We are a small team, but learning circles have reached six continents (one day, Antarctica, one day…) because we are an open source and grassroots project. This means that anybody can freely adapt learning circles to their context and also contribute to our work. One way you can contribute is letting us know what you think about this course when you’re finished with it!
Underlying our work is the conviction that learning is a social activity. We believe that every person develops expertise through their own life experiences, that people learn when they share and connect with others, and that feedback is necessary in order to improve.
So by convening a group of people who are interested in a similar topic in a learning circle, you’ve got the basis for an open, collaborative learning environment. Learning circles can create a rich learning environment in which everyone simultaneously teaches and learns, acts and observes, speaks and listens. This exposes people to new perspectives, provides an opportunity to develop useful social skills, and allows individuals to achieve something greater than they could have on their own.
Most simply, a learning circle is a group of people who meet to work together on a common topic. Every learning circle has a facilitator, whose job is to help keep things on track. This person is not, however, expected to be a content expert. Rather, they should feel comfortable with the learning circle model, serving a role that is closer to a party host than a university lecturer.
Learning circles usually meet for 90 minutes/week for 6-8 week, but this is flexible depending on the course and your goals. Generally, we find that learning circles shorter than 4 weeks don’t have enough time to form a group culture, and learning circles longer than 8 weeks can be alienating due to the time commitment.
Learning circles work best with between 4-15 participants, though this is also flexible. We find that if you have less than four people or more than 15 people, it’s difficult to create a strong peer learning environment, which adds more burden on the role of the facilitator.
Here are some slides for you to click through that explain a bit more about P2PU and learning circles, introducing the four key components of every learning circle meeting: check in, coursework, group activity, and plus/delta.
Curious about where P2PU gets its name? Look at the pictures below of two different types of computing networks. One of them is a client/server network, and the other is a peer-to-peer network. Can you guess which is which?
A client/server network consists of individual nodes (clients), who request services and resources from a centralized server, whereas a peer-to-peer network consists of interconnected nodes (peers), which share resources amongst each other without the use of a centralised administrative system.
If we take away the computers, we can imagine how these concepts relate to learning and education. In the first instance, all information is mediated through a central repository; there is no way for people to communicate directly with one another (sort of like a lecture). In the second instance, knowledge is distributed among each person, allowing for unlimited sharing within and between communities.
Want to understand more about P2PU before you go forward? Read about the history of learning circles, meet some existing facilitators, and familiarize yourself with the P2PU website by visiting the Orientation Section of the P2PU facilitate page.