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Getting Started Orientation (Sept. 20-27) - BEGIN HERE

  Getting Started / Orientation

Welcome to Student Engagement on P2PU!  Before jumping into the course content, please take a few minutes to review the information on this page which will help get you off to a great start.

New to Online Learning?

If you are new to online learning, take a moment to read over these helpful links:

Tips for Online Success, Illinois Online Network
This is a list of ten important tips to ensure your success when taking an online course. 

Self-Evaluation for Potential Online Students, Illinois Online Network
This short, twelve-question tutorial helps you determine how ready you are for an online course.


New to P2PU?

Reading over the following information will help you get acquainted with P2PU and this course.

  About P2PU

The Peer 2 Peer University is a grassroots open education project that organizes learning outside of institutional walls and gives learners recognition for their achievements. P2PU creates a model for lifelong learning alongside traditional formal higher education. Leveraging the internet and educational materials openly available online, P2PU enables high-quality low-cost education opportunities. P2PU - learning for everyone, by everyone about almost anything!

The following values and principles are the foundation of P2PU: openness, community, peer learning. We are articulating these values in order to guide our actions, but P2P has always been about doing, and our actions will in turn help us probe and refine these values.

P2PU is open: Open sharing and collaboration enable participation, innovation, and accountability. Our community is open so that everyone can participate. Our content is open so that everyone can use it. Our model and technology are open to enable experimentation and ongoing improvement. And our processes are open so that we are accountable to our community.

P2PU is a community: P2PU is a community-centric project and our governance model reflects that. P2PU is driven by volunteers, who are involved in all aspects of the project. As members of this community, we speak and act with civility, tolerance, and respect for other opinions, people, and perspectives. We strive for quality as a community driven process of review, feedback and revision.

P2PU is passionate about peer learning: P2PU is teaching and learning by peers for peers. Everyone has something to contribute and everyone has something to learn. We are all teachers and we are all learners. We take responsibility for our own and each others learning.

[This information was adapted from "About P2PU" and from Valerie Weagle at P2PU Differentiating Instruction.]

  Navigating the Course

P2PU courses are organized via a list of "Tasks."  On the homepage of a course, you will see all of the Tasks for a course when you scroll down on the left.  You will also see the first Tasks on the list in the center of the page, and can click to view all of the tasks there as well.  Within these tasks is where the bulk of the learning will take place in this course.

The Tasks for this course have been divided into weeks and some of the weeks have sub tasks named "Week 1A, Week 1B, etc. This enables us to use the comment feature beneath each task to have discussions.  Each week's "tasks" will include the following:

  • Readings--brief articles/blogs designed to give you some background information and ideas on the topic of the week.

  • Activities--short web-based activities designed to further engage you with the week's subject matter (these may include watching videos, exploring resources, adding your thinking to a graphic organizer, etc.)

  • Discussions--each week a question or questions are posed to the group for consideration and course participants are expected to actively engage in conversation around the given topic. Discussions will take place by using the comments and reply feature available within each task.  

  • Try It Out--some weeks will include a try-it out assignment where you are to try out some aspect of our learning in your instructional environment and then return to share and discuss your experience with the rest of the group.

A video of how to navigate around P2PU is available here:


Resources we will use that are NOT on P2PU

You Tube Videos- Throughout the course there will be YouTube videos embedded into activities.  You can also embed Youtube videos into the comments section if you wish to share something related (or you want to tape yourself and put it into the discussion (rather than typing). If you wish to embed a video use the following button in the comments editing toolbar:

Blogging- I highly recommend participants journal or blog as they work on this course. Journals or blogs allow you to more fully examine your ideas and record as they change. If you do choose to blog, don't forget to share the link to your blog with us! I will be doing some blogging as I expect my interaction with each of you will change and evolve my understandings about engagement.  You may follow my blog here: Bonita's Blog.

I recommend the following prompts to guide and inspire your journals and blogs:

  • What do I know about student engagement and/or engagement with learning?
  • How have my ideas about engagement changed, evolved, been challenged?


  Updating Your Profile

Not surprisingly, one of the main goals of P2PU and of this course is fostering peer-to-peer collaboration.  As such, it is important for you to engage directly with the P2PU community and one way in which to do that is update your profile to include a picture and relevent information about you.  This can be purely professional or include personal hobbies and goals.  The level at which you share is entirely up to you.

To update your profile complete the following steps:

  • On the top right of the screen, open the dropdown menu under the "My P2PU" tab and choose "Edit Profile"
  • Click on the descriptors on the left to update various parts of your profile.  You need not fill out everything, but should minimally include an image (either of you or something you want to represent you), your location, and something in the "About Me" section.

A video taking you through how to update your profile is available here:<


  Making Goals for Yourself

You are here because you have expressed an interest in this content and in learning with and from your peers.  While the course itself has structure and expectations, there is also a lot of flexibility built-in to make this a personalized learning experience.  You will get out of this course only as much as you put into it so take some time now to consider the following:

  • What are my goals for participating in this course?
  • How will I hold myself accountable to these goals?
  • What do I need to make this learning experience a success for me?


  While there will be no formal grades assigned in this course, learning communities work best when everyone contributes to the community so by signing up for this course you are commiting to taking an active role in this learning community.


Your First Assignments!

1.  Please familiarize yourself with the information on this page and on the Syllabus.

2.  Please introduce yourself by using the comments feature in this task area. Tell us about your educational background and your educational environment and what brought you to this course. Please respond to the introductions of others so that we can begin to build learning relationships. We will not have much time in this course to directly examine the correlation between relationships and engagement (vast subject), but there is no doubt there is a correlation.  Strive to make learning relationships here and you will find more success in the course.

3. Please read over the agreements page in Orientation 2 so that we all can arrive at a set of norms that will keep our community actively learning and positive.

4.  You have a final culminating Project that is essentially a lesson plan using some of the ideas gleaned from this course.  See the links below:


  • Your culminating project is a lesson plan that uses this template to design a lesson with student engagement in mind.  This is the rubric we will use to discuss and think about each project.  

  • Any participant who has a different project in mind, may propose it to me at  I am happy to hear other ideas that may work better for your given circumstances.

5.  Get started with our course by completing the short activity on task Orientation 2- The Need to Agree page and then move on to Week 1 Tasks!

Icons by Axialis Team

Task Discussion

  • Jessica Powell   Sept. 26, 2011, 8:31 p.m.

    Hello everyone!


    My name is Jessica Powell, and like most of us here, I am an educator interested in learning how to better service my students. I live in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, but have had the opportunity to travel to different parts of the U.S., Mexico, China, Japan, and South Korea. In Korea I had the opportunity to see some of their schools as my brother-in-law was a teacher there for some time. It is intriguing how different cultures, not just environments, effect student learning. My brother-in-law taught in South Korea for five years and currently teaches in Thailand (though I haven’t had the chance to visit Thailand). Hearing the different stories that he has, as well as the stories from friends who live in China and Japan, it has really opened my mind to what is out there for students. I have wanted to be a teacher ever since I was little mostly due to my love of learning. I want to find ways to instill an interest in learning for my students.


    After graduating from West Chester University in Pennsylvania, I was a building substitute for two and a half years at a school that allowed me to watch students bloom in various ways, including how their levels of interest changed (and thus level of engagement) from my subject area (Social Studies) by also getting the chance to teach a variety of subjects including the specials. I currently teach Social Studies at an online school, Bridgewater Academy. Teaching online can be disengaging for many students if there is little face-to-face interaction – not to mention if students refuse to answer calls or attend online sessions! Student engagement is vital to learning as students learn best when they understand how the things they learn apply to them. By taking this course, I want to learn how to better engage my students in their lessons by showing them how what they are learning applies to their every day life.

  • Ryna   Sept. 26, 2011, 3:16 p.m.

    Hi all

    My name is Ryna and I have been involved in education since I stepped out of university. I did a Fine arts undergrad, followed by a Post grad in Education, a diploma in Decorating and a Masters in Fine arts. Next year I am embarking on a Masters in Education. So one could say that I am addicted to studying!

    I find that being in education is a perfect match, because one teaches but LEARN ALL THE TIME!!! And as one goes on it becomes even more glaringly obvious how little one actually knows.

     I love teaching but know that it will be a lifelong task to become a truly good teacher. I hope this course will help me along the way.


  • Tasha Martin   Sept. 25, 2011, 1:26 p.m.

    Hi everyone!  My name is Tasha Martin and I reside in North Dakota.  I have been teaching mathematics online for two institutions for the last three years, Bridewater Academy and Bismarck State College.  I have enjoyed the online environment and am learning more each year I teach in this environment.  The two institutions I teach for are two completely different platforms as one is college level and one is grades 7-12.  In both platforms I am eager to find more ways to engage students so that they may have a successful learning experience.

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 24, 2011, 9:28 a.m.


    In thinking about engagement and online learning, I have been considering this idea of relationship and interaction.  One of the joys of online learning for me is the interaction, especially the interaction with people from EVERYWHERE and people with DIFFERENT experiences and people who CHALLENGE my thinking.  I am a highly engaged learner and I find that applies to online learning as well.  One  of the ways that I formally learn online is courses, webinars, specific chats (like edchat on twitter).  Another way that I INFORMALLY learn is by interacting with people in casual ways that often start casual (twitter joke)  and sometimes lead to great conversations. In a F2F format that happens as we walk out of class and head for coffee, or call each other for a quick update on an assignment and embark instead on a conversation about our pets, or kids, or hobbies.  Then I have this friend and we naturally lean on each other to talk and learn beyond the class content.
    I would like to encourage and foster that INFORMAL as well as formal learning environment in this course, too.  Ideas on how we might do that? 
  • Tracy Q   Sept. 21, 2011, 10:57 a.m.

    Tracy L Quarnstrom.

    I have been a director for a hybrid online charter school in Minnesota for the past 10 years.  My charter school is a small (200 student) school with an optional lab/hybrid classes component on Tuesday and Thursday each week.  I have enjoyed working in online learning for quite a long time as a teacher and administrator.

    I am very excited to join this great group of people in this course!

  • Tracy Q   Sept. 21, 2011, 11 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Tracy Q   Sept. 21, 2011, 10:57 a.m.

    A little more about my school can be found at  we are referred to as Wolf Creek Online High School and we serve students in grades 9-12.


  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 24, 2011, 12:06 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Tracy Q   Sept. 21, 2011, 10:57 a.m.

    Welcome, Tracy.  We have at least one other person here who is involved with an online school.  Perhaps you will both find opportunities to enlighten the rest of us as we discuss engagement and what that might look like online.  What are the grades in your school?  What are your goals for this course?



  • Tracy Q   Sept. 24, 2011, 6:31 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 24, 2011, 12:06 a.m.

    We serve students in grades 9-12 but do tend to attract older learners who are say 18-19-20 years old in our program.


    My goals for the course as an admin are to help my teachers think in a meaningful way about student interaction and engagement in the onine enviroment.  Many of my teachers find engaging students to be different in our setting and I want to be able to learn and contemplate in order to get our group at Wolf Creek thinking about this topic more often.

  • karen   Sept. 25, 2011, 5:32 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 24, 2011, 12:06 a.m.

    Greetings, everyone. Regarding engagement in online courses, there is another P2PU School of Ed course on online and blended learning, and we are exploring engagement there too (among other topics :). If any of you would like to drop by there and chime in, we'd love to have you visit and/or participate!

  • Noah Koch   Sept. 20, 2011, 11:18 a.m.

    Hi I'm Noah! I'm really excited for this course, I'm currently a full-time student and part-time swimming instructor. I'm really interested in Psychology and how we learn including education reform. <- My Blog. Education is a field I plan on majoring in within the next year or so. I'm also big on technology, so education technologies is a big field of interest for me.

    As for my Educational Background, I'm a Junior in High School, Taking courses including Television Production, Pre-Calc, Chinese, and Psychology. On my own I study about world education systems, specifically in the Americas and Scandinavia. I also am proficient in HTML and CSS, and am currently studying for PHP certification. My main reason for enrolling in this course was to share what I have observed as a student in the 21st century with Facebook and MacBooks given to us. And relating that to how little the schools have changed to meet the standards of the internet. As a student, I'm awful, My math class I'm nearly failing, but in psychology I do well because I'm engaged. I wanted to share my ideas and see other people's ideas as to what needs to happen to get students more engaged, and teachers more engaging.

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 21, 2011, 12:03 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Noah Koch   Sept. 20, 2011, 11:18 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing your blog, Noah.  I will make a point of stopping in to see what you are thinking.  You can also share that link whenever you make a comment so we all know you are writing more of your thoughts to share. 

    Welcome to our group!  Can't wait to get started at the end of the week.


  • Tom   Sept. 19, 2011, 11:18 p.m.


    Hello P2PU collaborators! My name is Tom and at present I'm  working in Riverside CA as a literacy and Academic English Learner coach. The middle school that I work at has recently transformed itself into a 1-1 school for laptop/netbook integration. Recent years have been challenging and (as one might say regarding Google) in constant beta! In addition to working closely with teachers and curriculum development, I advise our administration and create professional development for the many new programs that we use. I continue to work with students in my capacity as a reading specialist  and English Learner co-ordinator. One area that I am most interested in is the use of Thinking Maps (which we have adopted schoolwide) as a means of leveraging student thinking and helping students reach higher level's of Bloom's.

    On a personal level, I've taught in a variety of schools during the past 25+ years. Had the wonderful opportunity to help found a Waldorf school that 20 years later is thriving. Have taught in France and Sweden and enjoy reading most all of the Booker prize nominees each year. 

    Thanks again for making this course available. I've already benefited from looking at some of the future assignments and have copied links for the great videos.

    Finally, I support the agreements that have been put forth for participating in this course. They seem to be a good model for this type of classroom.

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 21, 2011, 12:06 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Tom   Sept. 19, 2011, 11:18 p.m.

    Welcome, Tom.  I live very near and have a friend that teaches in a Pasadena Waldorf School.  I hope you will share some of the Waldorf methods for engaging students as we go though this course together!

    I also look forward to your sharing regarding Thinking Maps.  I think that will certainly add to our dialogue about ways to engage learners in higher level thinking.

    Thanks for jumping in!


  • Amanda   Sept. 19, 2011, 5:32 p.m.

    Hi everyone!  My name is Amanda, and I'm currently teaching 7th grade ELA in Asheville, NC. I've been teaching for the last nine years mostly at the middle school level.  One of the main reasons I became a teacher is because I love to learn so much.  Not a day goes by in which my students don't teach me something.  

    Over the past few years, I've become much more involved in leading professional development workshops.  This coming year, I'm heading a team to conduct training on the new Common Core State Standards.  Learning more about student engagement for adults as well as children will add so much to these upcoming PD days.  

    When I'm not in the classroom, I enjoy the standard mountain activities-hiking, camping, etc.  Live music is also a passion!  I'm hoping one day in the future to teach at an International School so that I can see more of the world as well.  

    Thank you so much for hosting this course!  I'm really excited about deepening my thinking in this area!

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 19, 2011, 9:39 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Amanda   Sept. 19, 2011, 5:32 p.m.

    Welcome Amanda!

    Are you seeing a theme in participants?  I am.  I see people engaged with learning who want to take this course.  I wonder why that is?  What are your thoughts on this?  Is it like how avid readers aren't quite sure how to teach reading because it came so easily to them?  I wonder.

    I am happy to have engaged people on board.  We probably understand better than anyone the benefits of feeling engaged with learning.  Together we can figure out how best to make that happen for even the most resistant learner.

    Glad you are here!  Glad you got started on the orientation.  Let me know if anything needs more explanation.


  • Amanda   Sept. 24, 2011, 7:24 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 19, 2011, 9:39 p.m.

    Thanks for the welcome, Bonita!

    I think you're absolutely right with your comparison of people who love to read struggling to teach reading.  Personally, I push myself to be an active participant in numerous venues and am very internally motivated to do so.  This issue arises when I need to encourage others.  Many times it is easy, depending on the content, but learning how to engage and motivate students when the content is not their number one choice is something I'm very interested in learning more about!

  • Deya Castilleja   Sept. 19, 2011, 4:44 p.m.


    My name is Deyanira Castilleja, I'm a mexican preschool teacher currently working for the Non-Profit, Teachers Without Borders as Mexico Country Coordinator. I have been a teacher for 13 years now, but more recently have been engaged in teacher training in the ICT / Professional Development area and I'm loving it.

    In the search for OER's online, I found P2PU and the project just sounded AMAZING! It combines so many of our values as an organization and my personal interests as a teacher. I'm not new to communities of practice and online learning/teaching, so I thought I should try to do something for my own professional development in a different community, so here I am.

    All the topics offered in this pilot project sounded really interesting, but the one of student engagement got my attention because I really want to “hear“ the points of view of my colleagues when they are the students, we analyze our pupils engagement and motivation very often, but so often too we are the students and struggle to be motivated by certain activities or dynamics... I work with teachers most of the time, and I face the same challenges a k-12 teacher would face when it comes to motivate and engage their students.

    I know by reading your blog posts and the material provided, I will find new ways to motivate my teacher/students and do a better job every day. Thanks for the opportunity!

  • Bonita DeAmicis, Ed. D.   Sept. 19, 2011, 9:34 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Deya Castilleja   Sept. 19, 2011, 4:44 p.m.

    Welcome Deya,

    Can you imagine the conversations that will take place with Grant, an online educator in Iowa, and you, a preschool teacher in Mexico with Teachers Without Borders?  What an exciting start to our online learning. Just knowing there is such a wealth and variety of experiences gets me excited! I hope it does that for you as well.

    I look forward to hearing/learning more about Tachers Without Borders.  I hope you find a way to tell us a bit about the organization as we proceed through this course.

    Glad to have you on board, and thanks for jumping into the orientation right away.



  • Grant   Sept. 19, 2011, 9:44 a.m.

    My name is Grant Sunne.  I am a 6-12 Math teacher at Alpha Omega Academy in Iowa.  We are an online school.  This is my first year teaching at AOA and I had previously taught at a public school in South Dakota.  I am still adjusting to the my environment here at AOA but it is something I am enjoying.  We chat with students online and answer phone calls all through out the week and once a week we teach a lesson through WebEx.  I am still getting used to the fact I don't see my kids but I am still able to reach them through a different medium. smiley


    My principal introduced us to the website and thought it would be a good idea for us to participate in some of these different courses.  I was happy to get involved with student engagement and look forward to learning more about it. smiley

  • bdeamicis (student)   Sept. 19, 2011, 10:40 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Grant   Sept. 19, 2011, 9:44 a.m.

    Welcome, Grant!  I look forward to hearing you apply online reasoning to the topic of engagement.  It would also be good to reflect on the engagement level you feel or others in the course feel as we proceed (we are a sort of online engagement experiment, I think).

    I will be interested to hear you talk about the differences between online and face to face instruction and the challenges of engagement with each.

    I have never been to Iowa. What is the weather like there?

    Thanks for jumping into the orientation!


  • Grant   Sept. 20, 2011, 9:13 a.m.
    In Reply To:   bdeamicis (student)   Sept. 19, 2011, 10:40 a.m.

    Thanks for the welcome!

    The weather in Iowa is hot and humid in the short summer and cold and snowy in the long winter.cheeky.

    I like the slower pace of this part of the country though.  No traffic. haha.