What courses are missing from learning circles?

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog post about the state of online learning and how P2PU could take a stronger position in ensuring that there were high quality, open-access courses for the learning circles. We are thrilled that this idea is now a reality, thanks to Kansas City Public Library and the Institute of Museum and Library Service’s Accelerating Promising Practices for Small Libraries initiative. We’ll be working with this group over the next two years to help small libraries remix and develop open access learning resources that can serve as the basis for new learning circles on topics related to digital literacy.

Pre-learning circles, P2PU had a long history being involved in course development, and as we re-approach this in the context of learning circles, we’ve reflected on what we want to do and, as a small team, what we don’t want to do / can’t do. Speaking with a variety of library partners and subject expert partners (e.g. universities, MOOC providers, non-profit organizations) we’ve landed on the following:

What P2PU offers:

  • A bridge between the open education movement, learning designers, and often-underserved non-formal learning communities.
  • The technical knowhow to both spin up open access courses and engender critical digital literacies that leverage open source.
  • Five years of learning how online learning resources can lead to engaging, face-to-face learning experience.
  • A coalition of organizations who are strategically working together to decrease reliance on proprietary content vendors.

What we won’t offer:

  • Subject matter expertise (except for subjects where we are the experts, like our course about learning circles!)
  • Building interactive course assets (we’d rather invest in group activities than build out interactive quizzes)
  • Creating courses that aren’t suited for our partner libraries (there must be a clear context for implementation)
  • Building a learning management system (we aren’t trying to re-invent the centralized model of MOOC providers)

So, where does this list leave us now?

Firstly, we went through past learning circles and survey results to identify the most used and the most requested course topics. From here, we are now seeking feedback from our community help prioritize this list, identify existing course materials to suit these topics, and add topics that we’ve missed. We’ll take this list to various subject experts, MOOC providers, and universities and advocate for better open access resources in each of these topics.

Secondly, we’re going to invest more in supporting a community of course developers, in the same way that we support a community of learning circle facilitators. Our open source course development tool (Course in a Box) has been forked more than 250 times, and yet we’ve never brought those people into the world of learning circles. As part of our work with Kansas City and IMLS, we’ll be improving Course in a Box documentation to provide a clearer pathway for learning designers, subject experts, and developers to create resources that suit learning circles and the communities with whom we work.

And finally, we’ll advocate for adding a course remix/development components to most of our upcoming projects. In addition to running training workshops and supporting learning circle pilot projects, we’d love to see more P2PU contract work culminate with a new learning resource that can be used by other learning circle communities around the world.

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