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Interpretation of the word "university"

Hello All!

While I am getting familiar with this new platform, I am writing some initial comments on what the word “university” can mean in P2PU compared to a “traditional” university. Because P2PU is an almost entirely virtual organization (as far as I know of, at least), while traditional universities also offer face-to-face classroom education, I think it is a good idea to restrict my comments on comparing the virtual environment at P2PU to the virtual environments most prevalent at traditional universities. The two environments are underpinned by very different assumptions, which give us some idea on what “university” can mean in the two cases.

1)      The virtual environment at P2PU is open and decentralized. This means that people are allowed taking, embedding, remixing and distributing content. In fact, P2PU provides only a bare minimum of tools that people need to work individually and together with others, then people can use a lot of off-site tools to do their job. This is what happened in the course Open Governance and Learning, organized by Joe and I. The P2PU virtual environment is something that people can construct for themselves, by selecting the tools they want to use, the communities they want to join, the resources they want to assemble, and the things they want to write. In this respect, it can support a demand-pull model (Seely-Brown & Adler, 2008), which offers learners access to resources and people. This models privileges connectedness over amassing of information, which is the goal of the supply-push model, which aims at building a repository of knowledge in learners’ heads. According to Seely-Brown and Adler, the demand-pull model supports “passion-based learning, motivated by the student either wanting to become a member of a particular community of practice or just wanting to learn about, make, or perform something”. I think that this passion-based learning is what P2PU is mostly based on.

2)      The virtual environments most prevalent at traditional universities is the learning management system (LMS) embedding the traditional classroom model, in which the teachers is the “authority” who selects resources, structures activities, and then “transfers” information and knowledge to students. The supply-push model prevail here. While the P2PU environment taps into the plentiful open educational resources and on a culture of sharing, a LMS is based on the idea that resources and expertise are scarce, the good one are even scarcer and require a filter to be selected and separated from the bad ones. Passion-based learning may not necessarily be the reason why people enroll university courses. frown


Task Discussion

  • Jessica Ledbetter   April 17, 2011, 10:18 a.m.

    "Passion based learning" -- You know, I like that very much. I took classes at university that I didn't want to at all. But here, I can learn more about what I'm passionate or even curious about. 

  • Marisa Ponti   April 17, 2011, 1:27 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jessica Ledbetter   April 17, 2011, 10:18 a.m.

    In relation to passion-based learning: one of the participants in the course Open Governance and Learning argued that P2PU operates as what Jim Gee calls a 'affinity space' or more recently a 'passion space'. This is a spce where people with very similar interests come come together and share their passions regardless of age, race, class, nationality, political affiliation, gender or sexuality.  The concept of affinity space seems to be very relevant in relation to P2PU


    Situated language and learning: a critique of traditional schooling

    James Paul Gee

  • Joe Corneli   April 18, 2011, 2:42 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Marisa Ponti   April 17, 2011, 1:27 p.m.

    Hi Marisa: I've used a quote from what you wrote above in my draft of one of the sections for the new paragogy paper.

    In summary, my thought is: scarcity still exists in a place like P2PU.  We should look at how we manage both scarce and plentiful resources.


  • Joe Corneli   April 17, 2011, 3:54 a.m.

    Insofar as P2PU allows/facilitates learning "about almost anything", then it connects to the idea of universitas, "the whole, total; the universe, the world".  But interestingly, this global vision has never been solely about content, but about people.  According to Wikipedia, the term universitas magistrorum et scholarium applies to the collection of all teachers and scholars.  A less grand way of saying the same thing might be "general school".

    The sometimes bizarre history is described in overview here.