P2PU & Media Lab = Everybody Learns

I am super excited to announce that P2PU is building a stronger relationship with the MIT Media Lab. We will spend the next year prototyping, tinkering, and experimenting with new ideas in the field of online learning.

The Backstory

Joi Ito, who has been a friend and mentor for many years, ran a Digital Journalism course with P2PU in 2010. The course was offered to students at KEIO university and also anyone who wanted to join through P2PU. Some of the online students who were not receiving academic credits turned out to be exceptionally motivated and creative. When Joi took over at the Media Lab last year, we began to discuss how online learning could “open” up access to the magic that happens on the MIT campus.

Around the same time, I’d met with Mitch Resnick, who runs the wonderful (and wonderfully named) Lifelong Kindergarten Group also at the Media Lab. Resnick’s group has spawned projects like Scratch which has a big fan base in the P2PU community. His work has been an inspiration for much of what we do. As we discussed some of our ideas for online learning at the Media Lab we grew more excited about the opportunity to move from plotting to building.


We plan to build online learning opportunities that combine aspects of playfulness, curiosity and project-based collaboration. Working with the Media Lab is an awesome opportunity to test some of our most ambitious ideas. The Media Lab is part of an accredited university, but it has always pushed the boundaries of what learning and research within an institution of higher education could look like. I am excited to see what we come up with by adding P2PU’s approach of openness, peer-learning and community. In addition to driving new projects I will contribute to strategic conversations about online learning at the Media Lab.

Working with the Media Lab fits perfectly with the transition that P2PU has gone through over the past year. We made a decision to support experiments and nurture a “lab” environment – to try out new types of online courses, and move beyond the course model altogether. For example, we recently launched the Mechanical Mooc (half-machine, half-genius that orchestrates online study groups at a massive scale) and we are experimenting with ways to support mentorship relationships.

From Cape Town to Cambridge

To take the next step I’ll be moving to Boston. I will be based out of the Media Lab and at the same time continue in my role as Executive Director of P2PU. P2PU has always been an extremely virtual organization and instead of dialing into the community call from Cape Town, I will be dialing in from Cambridge. And I get to spend more time working face-to-face with Vanessa Gennarelli, who leads the learning & assessment work at P2PU and is based out of Cambridge already. With the two of us in the area, we plan to make Boston a bit of a hub for P2PU projects (in fact we already started by organizing a SoundCloud/P2PU hackathon). I will be splitting my life between Boston and Cape Town for a year and then decide on next steps.

Come visit!

I am very excited to get started and we will track progress and share what we learn with the P2PU community and the world. If you are in the Boston area and interested in P2PU, please do drop me a line at philipp@p2pu.org or @schmidtphi on twitter

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