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.


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:

We Met on Etsy: a Story of Serendipity and Learning

It started with the kind of problem that hatches romantic comedies: I lost a ring.

And not just any ring–one my girl Elena had bought me during a recent BFF-a-thon in Stockholm. Not only was I super bummed, but I felt like I’d let a solid piece of karma escape through my fingers.

So I started to hunt for a substitute on Etsy, perusing galleries of resin rings whenever I found myself in front of a TV. And then I came across Colin Butgereit’s store and his angular, mod, 3-D printed objects were *perfect*–I ordered two and considered the obstacle vanquished.

About an hour later, I got the sweetest email from the artist. Colin was stoked about the order, and would I be so kind as to leave feedback if I liked the rings?

A quick search unearthed that Colin actually works for MakerBot, the company that fashions hip 3-D printers, and his work had been featured on esteemed electronics hobbyist site Adafruit.  He also is an artist with a studio here in Brooklyn, just miles from where I sat.

So my response anted it up a level: I asked if I could swing by his studio & he could teach me something. It turned out that he was teaching an intro class on MakerBot that weekend at the Madagascar Institute and he generously welcomed me there.

I found Colin in the shop this past Saturday morning, sitting at a bay of purring electronics. The MakerBot, a machine like a pedestal from some steampunk gallery, efficiently spun its cocoon of plastic into the coordinates offered by the program.


We were making a wee Christmas tree topper, and Colin warmly walked me through the variables involved in preparing a drafted object for production. First we  selected an appropriate resolution in order to balance the needs of quality and speed. You can also determine the density of the object by selecting an internal “infill pattern”–like the honeycomb of a beehive.

Soon we generated the code to tell the MakerBot what to do, and all of the individual coordinates of the design whizzed by on the screen. This code establishes a “toolpath” for the machine–what it should make first, second and third.

Watching this festive token take shape, line by line, totally blew my mind. All of a sudden I found myself looking around the studio, seeing all of the objects around me as a series of engineered layers. Trippy.

Second major observation was the fascinating sound of the machine–the gentle soundlings of nurturing an object into being. I mentioned this to Colin and he laughed–a friend of his had actually captured this harmony with a MIDI pickup, and used it as the background soundtrack to a video of Colin putting together a Thing-O-Matic:

As we waited for my ornament to print, we started talking about how we think about project-based learning at P2PU.

Colin said: “When I was explaining P2PU to someone else here at Madagascar, I said ‘It’s kind like our How Hard Can It Be? sessions.’ If one of us wants to learn something, like say, bronze casting, we’ll get some people together to figure it out. We don’t exactly know what we’re doing, but…how hard can it be?”

I thought that was apt.

At P2PU, we facilitate an online community in order to prompt this kind of serendipity–connecting people who are passionate and want to learn.  As this kind of discovery can happen both online and face-to-face, we’re interested in how those ways can connect.
In 2013, we hope to explore more learning experiences between makerspaces and P2PU.

I leave you with my very humble prototype.


Merry Christmas.