Contributors: We Made You A Present

Contributors and translators: we ❤ you. So much, we put together a little number for you to express our thanks:

Track / Artist / P2PUer Selection

1. “Divine” / Sebastien Tellier / Philipp

2. “Standing in the Way of Control” / Gossip / Vanessa

3. “Hang With Me” / Robyn / Vanessa

4. “Danke Shoen” / Sandy Kastel / Philipp

5. “Revolutionary Generation” / Public Enemy / Bekka

6. “Kind & Generous” / Natalie Merchant / Peter R.

7. “Thank You” / Dido / Erika

8. “Killing All The Flies” / Mogwai / Dirk

9. “Thank You” / Alanis Morissette / Vanessa

10. “Seven Nation Army” / The White Stripes / Chris

11. “Thank You for the Music” / ABBA / Bekka

12. “Thank You for Being a Friend” (Golden Girls Soundtrack) / Andrew Gold / Paul



Step Into Our Lab: What Have Our Researchers Found?

We’ve launched several experiments in the future of learning–several iterations of Badges, scalable experiences like the Mechanical MOOC, and itself.

On the flipside of these exciting initiatives, we’ve been working with researchers to unearth trends and successes amongst these projects. As we consider our policy to release our data to researchers, we wanted to share the findings of a few of the folks we’ve been working with.

Project 1: “The Dynamics of Open, Peer-to-Peer Learning: What Factors Influence Participation in the P2P University?”

Juhn Ahn at the University of Maryland followed 7 School of Ed courses in September 2011, and in combing through the pageviews, comments and facilitator posts, has surfaced some resonant realizations:

  • First-time learners and returning learners have different needs and different behaviors. First-time learners respond well to frequent discussion prompts and activity.  Returning learners respond well to interaction from an organizer or facilitator.

  • Clear calls-to-action on a course landing page help guide new learners in a profound way.

The full paper can be found here.

Implications for P2PU

Course splash page. Our recent UX release now features an “About” page for organizers to explain and market their courses. This research suggests that organizers should use this to its fullest for new learners, will clear directions and calls to action.

Course organizers can use this space to explain the course and invite new learners to participate in the first module.

Course organizers can use this space to explain the course and invite new learners to participate in the first module.

Course interaction design. Instead of thinking about content modules up, course designers would do well to think about the activities (or “learning performances”) they want learners to complete. Clear prompts to interact will result in more participation and activity.

Project 2: “Self Directed Learning and Guidance in Non-formal Open Courses”

Marisa Ponti at the University of Gothenburg recently had her paper accepted in the journal Learning, Media and Technology. Her interviews highlight the challenges that newbies face when using OER. At the same time, the research suggests that more fluent users of OER can blur the boundary between “facilitator” and “learner” because everyone is contributing resources and learning together.

Implications for P2PU

Design for your audience. If learners are new to OER, spend some time finding resources together and asking them how they might be used. With learners who are more familiar with OER, prompt folks to create modules together, and participate via building out the course as a way to prompt enagement.

Future of Research at P2PU

Both these folks have future projects in the hopper about P2PU, and we couldn’t be happier.

We also have a tasty project coming down the pike that’s a collaboration between Creative Common’s School of Open and the OER Research Hub that focuses on learner’s understanding and use of open content. Stay tuned for the results of that survey.

It is our vision to support researchers in this space and to produce actionable results to bolster the field of peer learning. Our official data policy will be along soon, but should you want to conduct research about P2PU, please do contact your happy Learning Lead, Vanessa Gennarelli at


Ahn, J., Weng, C., & Butler, B. S. (2013). The dynamics of open, peer-to-peer learning: What factors influence participation in the P2P University? Proceedings of the 46th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (Learning Analytics and Networked Learning track).

Ponti, Marisa (Forthcoming, 2013). “Self-directed learning and guidance in non-formal open courses.” accepted in Learning, Media and Technology.

Happy Release Day! We are OBI Compliant, Folks.

Maybe you saw this outside your window this morning:

That was our release on 🙂

Big stuff for P2PU this week, including the much-anticipated very-exciting stellar and celebratory news… 

You can now push Badges to the Mozilla Open Badges Backpack.

If you’ve earned a Badge on, log into your account and view “My Badges.” You’ll see the spiffy button to push it to the OBI (Open Badges Infrastructure).

P2PU Badges   Dashboard

After an easy-peasy ten seconds of utterly painless authentication, your Badges will appear like so:

Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 3.31.00 PM

Other gems in this week’s release:

  • Rich text editor for feedback: Make it bold. Embed links. Give feedback richly.
  • Style updates for Projects: We want your Project to look clean and fresh.
  • Learner’s profile pages got a little design and discoverability love.

What’s on deck for next sprint:

  • Improved Badge creation flow
  • Integration with

Spotlight on Erika Pogorelc for her wizardry and fortitude.

At the Cockpit: How the Data Explorer Mission Works

We provide multiple pathways to learning here at P2PU–if visual is your thing, here’s the walkthrough of Data Explorer Missions on our Community Call (start around minute 19:00):

Last year Peer 2 Peer University and the Open Knowledge Foundation launched an initiative to to meet the global demand for data-wrangling skills–enter the School of Data. Over the course of the past few months, Lucy Chambers, Neil Ashton and I designed a pilot “Data Explorer Mission” that we just launched on April 15th. We’re in the third week of that project now, and here’s a window into how it works.


Data Explorer Mission

Fast Facts

  • Four-week long course, running from April 15 to mid-May

  • 130 signups for our initial pilot

  • Our Mechanical MOOC email grouping mechanism formed 13 groups by time zone

  • The course features 5 Badges on our new platform ( and it’s our first time implementing Badges for a Mechanical MOOC project

Learning Design

  • Mechanical MOOC put together 13 groups of 10 learners (or team of “Data Agents”) based on time zone.

  • Each week Data Agents receive 2 emails from “Mission Control”–one email with a project and resources on Tuesday, and one email with directions for their Google Hangout on Friday.

  • The learning project asks Agents to examine a CO2 dataset, ask a question, and then clean, refine, visualize and tell a story about their exploration.

  • We designed Badges that directly correspond to those learning goals.

  • During the weekly hangout, Agents share their projects, help each other, and reflect on their projects. Data agents take notes on etherpad.
  • Facilitation duties change from week-to-week, with folks opting-in to facilitate.

Who is “Mission Control”?

  • Mission Control is our persona for the School of Data Mechanical MOOC–think a mix of 007/Bond’s “M” and “Charlie” from “Charlie’s Angels.”
  • We’ve been giving a lot of thought to the affective dimension of learning, or how positive feelings in learning situations increase a sense of curiosity or play. Mission Control comes out of recent research on affective learning and engagement through Universal Design for Learning.
  • Behind the curtain it’s me, Vanessa, Lucy Chambers with Open Knowledge Foundation and our rockstar data wranger Neil Ashton.

Preliminary Results

  • We’ve been using Mailgun to track opens, clicks and replies to the emails we send from

Email Engagement for Past 7 Days

  • We’ve sent 4 emails so far, so we’re about halfway into the course. 
  • 131 participants have sent approximately 50 emails to their small groups per day since the start of the course, or 675 emails total.
  • Almost every group has had at least one synchronous Google Hangout.

Lessons Learned (Already!)

  • Find a clearer way to represent that Data Agents are already in a small group by the time they are contacted. Learners seem unclear about how their small group functions. We need to a.) visualize to the teams who is in their group and b.) give them a sense of “people in the room.”
  • We should consider moving Data Agents whose teams don’t take off–maybe these folks form their own team?
  • We haven’t mastered Mailgun analytics yet, so Dirk and Vanessa need to thrash around with it a bit longer before we are truly confident in the reliability of the data.

Next Steps

  • We’re designing a post-course survey for our pilot teams of Data Agents.
  • In another 2 weeks we’ll present summative data, including: number of messages per group, number of click throughs, number of Badges applied for, and number of reviews per application.
  • We’re experimenting with the timeline for the course–our next iteration will be only two weeks long–watch out!

How We Make the Glue (Without Getting Sticky)

Last Week…

I came back from yoga to my Brooklyn apartment, and our Tech Lead, Dirk Uys, was asleep. On my couch. He was in town from Durban, South Africa en route to Boston for a hackathon. I fixed coffee, poked that dormant mound of jetlagged developer, and we called Erika, our front-end wizard in Slovenia. For an hour we made decisions on product improvements from my kitchen table. (Full disclosure: I was in yoga pants the whole time).

This example isn’t rare–it’s actually the norm for P2PU. We visit each other, travel with each other, include P2PUers amongst our closest friends. What is it about P2PU that makes us love being around each other so damn much that we just want to devour each other’s minds?  We’re a team of 6 on 3 continents that rarely sees each other–it can’t be magic. I was inspired by Kyle Bragger’s recent post which encouraged folks in the technology sector to lead fuller, grind-free lives. Alex Godin wrote a follow-up post prompting people to listen to each other versus network. I agree with Kyle and Alex, but I wanted to take it further–for P2PU, we don’t think in terms of “hustling” or even about work/life “balance”–it’s about depth, about a more open kind of mindset.

People Before Transactions

“Instead, I propose that it’s better to carve out an opportunity to build some relationships BEFORE the transaction has an opportunity to take place. The interactions that come as a part of forming early stages of a relationship with another human being are far more valuable if and when the time for transaction occurs.” –Alex Hillman “Take Interest, Don’t Feign Interest

First and foremost, at P2PU we see each other as people–before the “transaction” of work–and we admire the person, not the “role.” We’re individuals with very complex lives and interests. We’ve gone through trans-continental moves, breakups, illness, graduate school, and other huge transitional life phases together. That vulnerability and sharing forms the trust that allows us to stay in each other’s homes, introduce P2PUers into our social circles, and include each other in the wider fabric of our lives.

I believe Alex Hillman’s conviction–connecting with each other as friends before transactions–has made our projects more kickass. Paul Osman and I hatched a plan for a P2PU-MIT-SoundCloud interdisciplinary Hackathon over beers in Tempelhof Park. That event sparked a P2PU Audio project led by Chris Ewald that was recently funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation.

When we connect around our mutual interests, passions, and have reserves of trust in the bank, we make projects that are fulfilling. It’s work, in the “effort” sort of sense, but not labor. You don’t punch a clock when it comes to people you downright dig.

You Do You

“We’re about to start the broadcast, so if any of you have further objectionable things to say about pants, get it out of your systems now.” –Bekka Kahn, Community Manager, P2PU, before last week’s Community Call

P2PU started as a group of edupunks who wanted to change the way we learn. By its very nature, we are a group of “questioners,” perhaps even rebels. How does a culture of “informed irreverence” translate to the day-to-day? For me, at my job, I’m never held back from Waving my Freak Flag.

What does that mean? In a nutshell, working at P2PU allows me to be myself, all the time. I don’t have to shelve aspects of my personality that I might have to, say, in a corporate setting. I’m not afraid to show my fellow P2PUers who I really am–I am utterly comfortable. And this comfort is useful.  In educational theory, we often refer to the “affective dimension” of learning–or, how you feel when you’re learning influences how far you’ll take a project or how easily you’ll overcome frustration (see Picard, et. al. for more detail). If you approach a project in a comfortable or curious mindset (versus fear or anxiety) you are more likely to accomplish excellent stuff.

Which leads me to believe that compartmentalizing your professional persona from your actual self might be toxic. Or, at the very least, will inhibit awesomeness from fully occurring. Don’t be afraid to Wave that Flag.

Love Your Passport

“According to the researchers, the experience of another culture endows us with a valuable open-mindedness, making it easier to realise that a single thing can have multiple meanings….Such cultural contrasts mean that seasoned travellers are alive to ambiguity, more willing to realise that there are different (and equally valid) ways of interpreting the world. This in turn allows them to expand the circumference of their “cognitive inputs”, as they refuse to settle for their first answers and initial guesses.” -Jonah Lehrer, “Why We Travel

There’s no keeping track of the global itineraries of P2PU staff, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. I report from Berlin, Philipp from Boston, Dirk from Durban, Bekka in London, Erika from Ljubljana and Chris, well…we never really know where Chris is. We’re always on the move, we stretch our cultural and analytical frameworks, stumble across new methods and ideas, and we bring that wealth of experiences back to P2PU.

I believe that our traveling band of P2PUers makes us more analytically flexible. This “thought diversity” enriches the team, and encourages us to think about “talent” in a different way. Talent is the ability the be open-minded and engage many different types of people with your skill set.

I’m curious about whether this kind of culture leads to gender diversity as well. P2PU is an even 50/50 split between men and women, even on the tech side. That hypothesis would be hard to prove, but my gut says that diversity is not just an internal policy. It’s also external, it’s encouraging your team to go out and have diverse experiences, so that they can connect with folks of all stripes. 

We’re On a Mission

True story: I was hired from the P2PU Community. I had run 3 courses on P2PU, was attending graduate school to improve my understanding of learning, and basically I had P2PU on the brain. But I’m not alone–everyone who works on P2PU is alight with passion, most of all our totally badass community members. We’re on a mission as an organization, and we try make  everything we do opt-in and interest-driven. So, how do we design for passion in our community?

It’s actually pretty simple: we’re all in this together, and we approach our community with this philosophy. Last summer we invited 20 community members to Berlin over the course of a month to work on projects of their choosing. Alex Kehayias built a mentorship platform. Jessy Kate Schingler set up our blog. Jane Park, Piet Kleymeer and Molly Kleinman organized P2PU’s School of Open. Recognizing and nurturing passion is also reflected on our People page–if you’re contributing to P2PU, whether you’re staff or a community member, you’re welcome to be up there.

Last week Ari Bader-Natal stopped me in mid-sentence–I had said the term “user” and he called me out on it. His line of thought is totally spot-on, because P2PU folks are not just users of software–we are “members,” which is an important distinction. Even in the language we use, we should be moving away from hierarchy and towards participation. I won’t forget it, Ari :)

Putting the Pieces Together

I should say that working on a non-profit, specifically non-profit tech, is not all hearts and rainbows. We encounter hiccups, disappointments and frustrations like all humans do (e.g. I’m sure Dirk *loves* resolving my spirited bug reports. Every. Last. One.). But my point is that seeing each other in three-dimensions helps to ease those tensions. Admittedly, we enjoy a unique position–as a non-profit, we are immune to many of the pressures of the business world. But seeing each other as humans first has widespread appeal and applications–these are ideas you can use.

And all of them basically trace back to our core value of “openness”–put another way, these are concrete examples of the freedoms openness affords. Not only are these guidelines signs of our core values–put people before transactions, support individuality, live globally and design for passion–but these are the elements that lead to real community. Not brand loyalty. Not conversion. Not really anything that could be captured by even the most sophisticated analytics. Rather, we have deep bonds between open-minded people who push each other to be more curious–that’s the glue. That’s our culture.


OKFN & P2PU Partner for a Featured Expedition: “Data Explorer Missions”

8364602336_facaa10cdf_oImage CC-By-SA J Brew on Flickr


Your Mission: Tell Stories with Data

Learn how to tinker with, refine and tell a story with data in this 4-week course. Each week you’ll be commissioned to work with others on a project that will hone your data-wrangling skills. Lessons will be pulled from Open Knowledge Foundation and Tactical Tech with help from Peer 2 Peer University. At the end of the course, you will have finessed, wrangled, cleaned and visualized a data set and shared it with the world.

What to Expect

The course will run April 15 to May 3, and each week your team will receive weekly “Missions” from Mission Control over email. You’ll work together on those projects, including a 30-minute Google Hangout each week. Each “Mission” will lead up to your final project. For each skill you master in the course, you can earn a Badge to show your mastery and to get feedback to further your talents.

The Topic

The topic of this first mission is Carbon Emissions. Don’t worry if you don’t know anything about them at the moment, you don’t need to be a topic expert and the data skills you will learn will be very transferrable to other areas!

The Level

This mission will cater for beginners to spreadsheets and working with data. If you’re more advanced, you are also welcome to join us to hone your skills, and the only limit on what you can learn is your imagination – so if you’re prepared to push yourselves on the project front the data-skills-bucket is your oyster!

About the Mechanical MOOC

A massive open online course (MOOC), and an experiment in how people can learn online.
Rather than trying to create a platform that structures the end-to-end learning experience, as recent MOOCs have done, we’re taking the best OKFN and Tactical Tech have to offer, and open content from the web, and joining them with a robot sherpa to coordinate learner activity and engagement and make sure you make it to the end.

Instead of a professor or university organizing the class, our e-mail scheduler and your small groups will do so–that’s why it’s called “mechanical”.

Sign up by completing the form below!

Get Feedback on a Project You Love: P2PU Launches a New Version of Badges

As Grantees of the Digital Media and Learning Competition, Peer 2 Peer University has created a platform for anyone who wants to make and issue Badges. We launched at the DML Conference in Chicago last week to an amazing response. Folks were very receptive to our project-based and feedback-driven approach. Here’s a bit of a walkthrough on what that means, and how you can use it.

How it Works.

Everyone is an Expert in something. Maybe you know how to make the perfect costume for your pet. Or you bring objects to life via 3D-drafting and printing. The point is that we’re a curious crew that’s down to learn how to make the next thing–whether it be digital, analog or abstract. Sound about right?

At P2PU, Badges are a way to recognize and support your expertise as you evolve. If you see a Badge on that’s in line with a Project you’re working on, you can submit it for feedback from an Expert.


When you submit your Project, we’ll ask you to step out what you did, and reflect a bit on what you’d do differently. This might seem obvious to you as the creator of your masterpiece, but it’ll help you get more targeted feedback (we promise).


We’ll notify an Expert that your Project is ready. An Expert is someone who either a.) made the darn Badge in the first place, or b.) submitted a Project which demonstrated their wizardry. They’ll come to your Project in short order, and deliver some robust suggestions for your individual needs. You’ll see that the feedback comes as Kudos, Questions and Concerns:


From here you’ll either be awarded the Badge, or prompted to take a look at the feedback and improve your project. You can resubmit your Project as many times as you like–the feedback will travel with the Project, and we’ll try to get the same Expert to continue to help you out.

If and when you do acquire the Badge, it will appear on your profile page, and you’ll be an Expert yourself. Celebration!

Creating a Badge.

If feedback is a conversation, then creating a Badge sparks a whole community around something you love. If you are a P2PU course facilitator, an organizer of a conference, or if a certain subject matter floats your boat, consider making a Badge for it:



From there, you’ll have a chance to preview and publish your Badge. If you just want to save it and come back later, the Badge will appear in your profile under “Badges in the Garden Shed.”


How long will my Badge take to be published and ready for action?  
Immediately. You’ll get to preview it before you publish, and then you’ll get a confirmation that the Badge is live.

How do I add a Badge to my P2PU course?
We’re working on a very light Badges/P2PU course integration in the next 4 weeks. In the meantime, each Badge has a unique URL. Create a new content module (i.e. “Submit Project for a Badge”) and copy and paste the Badge URL into that content field. Here’s an example:



I’m not in a P2PU course, but I have an event or a project I’d like to create a badge for. Can I? 
Yeah buddy–go for it. You can create a Badge for any kind of Project or event. Just direct folks towards your Badge’s particular URL so they can apply for it.

I’m an Expert and possess the Badge. How will I know when Projects are submitted? 
We’ll notify you with a snappy message in your Inbox.

Do your Badges integrate with the Open Badges Infrastructure? 
They will by May 1, 2013. Stay tuned for updates.

How Do I Edit My Badge After It’s Published?
Since Badges are live immediately, and anyone can apply for them, we chose to maintain the fidelity of each Badge. So if you applied for Podcast Description and Title and the criteria are “Upload your podcast and give it a name” that Badge should *always* have those criteria for everyone who applies for it. If the criteria or description need to be changed, then it’s a different Badge.

So, in this light, we made two design decisions:

  • We supply extensive warning copy in the Badge creation flow, and created the functionality to save your draft and return to it later. The draft Badge will appear in your profile as a “Badge in the Garden Shed.” 

5Preview your masteripiece

  • We made the Badge creation process really easy, simple and immediate–so if you want to create a better, spiffier version of the Badge, you can make another one easily.

What’s Coming Down the Pike.

Here’s a little window into the features we are furiously working on here at P2PU. These items are on deck for our next sprint:

  • Integration of Badges into courses
  • Spiffy landing page gallery sort/search/filter
  • Ability to evaluate the usefulness of feedback
  • Badge creation gallery of shapes and colors
  • Open Badges Infrastructure Integration


Find Out More.

In all seriousness, the skills we need evolve fast and furiously. At P2PU, we believe learning is guided by passion, projects and people. We’ve created a space to connect those arenas and help learners grow. So, Badges represent learning online that you can feel good about. If you’re curious about Badges or P2PU and would like to find out more, here’s some info: