Eight weeks after enrolling in a course at Peer2Peer University, I turned in my final assignment today and paused to reflect. For a first pass, I felt the organization of the Copyright for Educators course was very good. The content was interesting and to the point. Participants were organized into groups based on their location, something that makes sense when dealing with regional differences in copyright. And although I was placed in a group with North American colleagues, I was still exposed to enough international copyright concepts.
The structure of the CE course was fairly straightforward. Activities were spread out over six weeks, with readings and a case study for each week. Groups were responsible for self-organizing and responding to the case study each week, as well as grading and commenting on the work of the other groups. The final week consisted of creating a case study of our own, along with an answer to that case study. I subsequently found out that these will be adapted and used in future sections of the CE course. A very clever, sustainable course design, I must say!
Work was meant to be done in groups, and each group was given a wiki page to work out the case study and a blog to post their final answers. A course chat was also provided, but organizing a weekly chat didn’t work well for my group so we abandoned it after the first week. Instead we used long email threads to push ideas back and forth. (I think the course administrators expected to harvest some ideas and feedback from the chat logs, so I got permission from my group and sent them our email threads.) The number of emails seemed to annoy one of our group members, who quickly dropped out. Perhaps an asynchronous discussion board would be more useful in future courses, given the busy schedules most people keep and some people’s apparent aversion to receiving lots of email. I get about a hundred a day… I helps me feel loved 🙂
While there wasn’t much interaction with the admins, I don’t really think that was the point. After all, I assume it was called Peer2Peer for a reason. The admins did a nice job of setting things in motion, clarifying topics, adjusting groups and deadlines, etc. Their response times varied, but generally I think they were on top of things. I assume they have just as many outside activities going on as the course participants — if not more.
One thing that took everyone by surprise was the attrition within groups. By the third week our 6-person group was down to three, and soon that became two. But two is enough to provide for interaction, and I worked with an excellent partner. I suppose 50% or higher attrition shouldn’t come as a surprise when you are dealing with busy professionals who are learning for the sake of learning. Reality tends to interfere with such pure motives. Well, almost pure. I was able to arrange independent study credit as part of my PhD program of study, so I had some additional motivation to keep going. Had I ended up alone in my group the experience would have been totally different, but with at least one person to consult the experience was quite satisfying.