Step Into Our Lab: What Have Our Researchers Found?

We’ve launched several experiments in the future of learning–several iterations of Badges, scalable experiences like the Mechanical MOOC, and itself.

On the flipside of these exciting initiatives, we’ve been working with researchers to unearth trends and successes amongst these projects. As we consider our policy to release our data to researchers, we wanted to share the findings of a few of the folks we’ve been working with.

Project 1: “The Dynamics of Open, Peer-to-Peer Learning: What Factors Influence Participation in the P2P University?”

Juhn Ahn at the University of Maryland followed 7 School of Ed courses in September 2011, and in combing through the pageviews, comments and facilitator posts, has surfaced some resonant realizations:

  • First-time learners and returning learners have different needs and different behaviors. First-time learners respond well to frequent discussion prompts and activity.  Returning learners respond well to interaction from an organizer or facilitator.

  • Clear calls-to-action on a course landing page help guide new learners in a profound way.

The full paper can be found here.

Implications for P2PU

Course splash page. Our recent UX release now features an “About” page for organizers to explain and market their courses. This research suggests that organizers should use this to its fullest for new learners, will clear directions and calls to action.

Course organizers can use this space to explain the course and invite new learners to participate in the first module.

Course organizers can use this space to explain the course and invite new learners to participate in the first module.

Course interaction design. Instead of thinking about content modules up, course designers would do well to think about the activities (or “learning performances”) they want learners to complete. Clear prompts to interact will result in more participation and activity.

Project 2: “Self Directed Learning and Guidance in Non-formal Open Courses”

Marisa Ponti at the University of Gothenburg recently had her paper accepted in the journal Learning, Media and Technology. Her interviews highlight the challenges that newbies face when using OER. At the same time, the research suggests that more fluent users of OER can blur the boundary between “facilitator” and “learner” because everyone is contributing resources and learning together.

Implications for P2PU

Design for your audience. If learners are new to OER, spend some time finding resources together and asking them how they might be used. With learners who are more familiar with OER, prompt folks to create modules together, and participate via building out the course as a way to prompt enagement.

Future of Research at P2PU

Both these folks have future projects in the hopper about P2PU, and we couldn’t be happier.

We also have a tasty project coming down the pike that’s a collaboration between Creative Common’s School of Open and the OER Research Hub that focuses on learner’s understanding and use of open content. Stay tuned for the results of that survey.

It is our vision to support researchers in this space and to produce actionable results to bolster the field of peer learning. Our official data policy will be along soon, but should you want to conduct research about P2PU, please do contact your happy Learning Lead, Vanessa Gennarelli at


Ahn, J., Weng, C., & Butler, B. S. (2013). The dynamics of open, peer-to-peer learning: What factors influence participation in the P2P University? Proceedings of the 46th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (Learning Analytics and Networked Learning track).

Ponti, Marisa (Forthcoming, 2013). “Self-directed learning and guidance in non-formal open courses.” accepted in Learning, Media and Technology.

Back to Blog home