Understanding Challenges

Lately I’ve been following along with P2PU by the mailing list as I haven’t been able to commit to Thursday’s  calls.  This has allowed for some deeper reflection slightly external to the core community.

I’ve been chewing over the idea of the P2PU Challenge model for the past weeks, trying to work out how it fits in amongst people, online facilitation and social peer-education.  Challenges was once just a School of Webcraft experiment, but gradually they are expanding in popularity as an approach to be used more broadly across P2PU.

Chloe‘s going to be constructing another great post about challenges, but I wanted to write about my understanding of P2Pu Challenges from a community member’s perspective.


The way I see Challenges is that they provide a focus for what is being learnt, i.e. the instructional materials / course design side of a P2PU learning experience, and bring content creation to the fore. You come to P2PU to learn by completing a challenge in the company of others (in a course or more openly and casually). You might also come to create Challenges or support other people’s learning by facilitating Challenges (your own or others’).

The Challenge acts as the focus or framing of a learning experience in which the objectives, activities and output / assessment components are included.   Challenges go beyond defining goals, objectives and milestones and consider learning design in a specific P2PU context:

  • they highlight the need for online peer-interaction
  • reinforce formative, peer-supported assessment
  • recognise that Challenges can make use of existing learning materials whether they be YouTube tutorials or complete OER courses.
Orange Hopscotch - (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Some rights reserved by mkw87
Orange Hopscotch by mkw87 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Challenges also make the act of designing a P2PU learning experience more public and open, and a specific activity that can then be expanded upon socially and with focus within the context of a course.  Until now the course design process has never been a particularly collaborative or public activity, but has been obscured behind the “Start Your Own” course button.  The site interface and Course Designers’ Handbook have previously tried to encourage course creators to include and consider these design principles, but not so prominently.

Challenges share many similar elements with instructional and learning design, but the Challenge “model” is a much more consumable and far less boring entry point for people who wouldn’t otherwise consider the ADDIE model or similar when designing a course.

In fact, Challenges act as a very specific entry point and invitation into the P2PU learning space and community. By making the creation of a high-quality Challenge a goal in itself, it is easier to engage people in discussing and working towards developing high quality online peer-learning materials.

By clarifying that Challenges are about learning materials (specific to  peer learning online) I’ve been able to move past a stumbling block, a hesitation that I’ve felt about Challenges and where they fit in with P2PU.  That has to do with the act of content creation and the previous reluctance of P2Pu to identify itself as a site for the production of educational resources.

Previously, I don’t feel that the idea of useful and quality content was seen as a distinct priority or outcome of involvement in P2PU. Sure, P2PU’s user content was placed under a default CC-BY-SA license, but content that arose as a by-product of peer-learning, eg. comments from course participants or slightly remixed OER materials.

Challenges mean that P2PU is now encouraging educational content creation as a specific goal and activity for users. It’s important that this is seen and publicly identified as a new, distinct and potentially valuable process within P2Pu – open collaborative learning material development (making context specific OER, not just “learning with others”).

In general, after some initial scepticism, I’m finding this very exciting. Of course it raises some further questions:

  • If some challenges end up being very good, how might they be used outside of P2PU?
  • How could materials be exported (Worksheets, Course activity books)?
  • Is this an opportunity for income generation – receive printed versions of “authenticated” challenges (Kickstarter?)??
  • Could individual Challenge creators use P2PU as a marketplace for their content?
  • Will the existing license be appropriate for Challenges as they evolve?
  • Challenges highlight that learning design for collaborative online learning is a specific context – What is the process for upgrading and remixing existing, formal OER from a traditional delivery to a P2PU style?
  • How could a collaborative Challenge design process be facilitated?
  • If Challenges make  content for peer-learning online, is there a similar process or thing which helps build a good, cohesive cohort of learners?  What would that look like?

I’d love to hear about your understanding of Challenges and ideas of where they might be headed. Please leave a comment.

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