Peer 2 Peer University (or simply P2PU) is a non-profit organization that facilitates equitable learning beyond institutional walls. Founded in 2008 we have grown into a distributed community of educators, librarians, activists, policy-makers, and technologists. We train librarians and community leaders to facilitate learning in their neighborhoods, develop and curate open educational resources and software, and champion related causes including open education, digital equity, and public libraries.
As an organization, we are fed up with the narrative that the internet alone will make education universally accessible and democratic. Equitable and empowering education is not just about accessing content -- we must break down digital barriers, help individuals formulate and question their own goals, and ensure that educational content and media is working for the people, not the other way around. Furthermore, we must remember that for many people, learning has been, and will always be, a social act.
To address these issues, we are developing a new model for online and offline learning called learning circles: lightly-facilitated study groups for people who want to take online courses, together, in-person. Meeting once a week for 6-8 weeks, participants work together through an online course together in subjects ranging from resume writing to web design to public speaking. The groups all have a facilitator, however this person is not expected to be a content expert - their role is to be proficient in online courseware and skilled in facilitating peer learning groups.
Learning circles began in collaboration with Chicago Public Library, and together we demonstrated that face-to-face study groups can increase online course completion rates and reach new audiences of learners. Furthermore, learning circles provided a strong social bond for citizens from diverse backgrounds to come together and work towards a common goal.
Learning circles quickly grew to dozens of other library systems and community centers in the U.S., France, and East Africa, and P2PU now supports a vibrant online community of facilitators from around the world. In Detroit, two women who participated in a learning circle later became facilitators themselves. In Nakuru, Kenya, learners who finished an HMTL/CSS course helped each other find jobs. As the project grew, we had the honor of being featured as the only adult education program in the U.S. Department of Education’s 2016 National Education Technology Plan, and being awarded a 2017 Digital Inclusion Leadership Award from Google Fiber and Next Century Cities.
P2PU is an open source project; our resources and our community are here for you. Our learning circle toolkit is comprised of software tools, facilitation guides, weekly activity cards, a list of curated online courses, and promotional templates that make it easy for people to organize learning circles in their library, home, or school. Beyond our toolkit, we provide a number of services to help you start a learning circle program in your neighborhood.