Drumbeat idea: open web skills @ p2pu

December 17, 2009 § 11 Comments

Another Drumbeat bootstrap idea that’s getting traction is open web skills courses delivered via the Peer 2 Peer University. It’s a simple concept: people combine self organized, collaborative learning with open curriculum materials to improve their skills in areas like HTML, CSS and Javascript. Over time, a peer to peer certification system could emerge as well, with participants rating each others skill level.

At the moment, there are a number of us writing this up, looking for learning materials and trying to find people to help mentor and run courses. Here’s the intro from the write up in the Drumbeat wiki:

Open Web Career Track: a collection of P2PU courses for people who want to learn open web skills

The challenge: Most tech career development courses focus on certification around a single technology (e.g. MCSE or Cisco Academy). The result: students go into their careers knowing one or two tools rather than knowing how to learn and adapt tools on the fly. Also, there is a sense that permission and certification are the keys to tech career success — but the reality is that creative, entrepreneurial problem solving is much more important.

The Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) is planning to offer an alternative to this kind of career development. P2PU helps small groups of motivated learners to compile packages of open learning materials and design and facilitate their own courses. Students and tutors get recognition for their work, and an open credits pilot is in the works in order to hack the formal closed accreditation system. Open web technology is the perfect pilot discipline.

The plan: Open Web Career Track is a series of P2PU courses where students collaboratively learn — and rate each other on — open web skills. The courses focus both on specific, standards-based technologies (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc.) and learn-as-you-go problem solving and hacking (the real skill you need to succeed). Individual courses are organized by learners using the P2PU model. The overall program is organized as a Drumbeat project involving both employers (TopCoder?) and online career web sites (LinkedIn?).

In addition to facilitating social learning processes, P2PU is coordinating a group of individuals and organisations interested in building an open credits infrastructure (think of it as an open knowledge currency that makes sense in the knowledge economy). It will make it easy for Open Web Career professionals to showcase their skills and expertise to potential employers on personal profile pages. The open credits incubator will be held in mid-2010 and we plan to use open web career for our pilot.

The Open Web Career Track program is particularly focused on regions with high growth technology sectors and a strong bent towards certification. Likely places include: India, East Asia and Brasil. We want peer learning and accreditation to emerge as serious open web career path alternatives in these regions.

The reaction to this idea was good when I focus grouped it at #nsc1 in Singapore. Lots of questions, for sure. But people saw value in providing a grassroots (and hopefully very scaleable) alternative to mainstream tech courses and certification. This is one of our main goals. A few of the people I talked to also suggested getting small companies who need more tech talent involved as mentors and co-organizers. Recruiting people directly out of these courses could be a win for everyone.

We’re hoping to try a couple of these courses early next year, with at least some of them based in Asia. If you want to help organize a course — or if you know of good open web curriculum — please get in touch. You can comment below or jump onto the Drumbeat community mailing list.

§ 11 Responses to Drumbeat idea: open web skills @ p2pu

  • johnjbarton says:

    A suggestion: open-source ‘certification’ focused on observable demonstrations of practical skill. The student places a item on their resume that links to a specific contribution. For example, see http://code.google.com/p/fbug/issues/detail?id=2560, where a couple of CMU undergrads contributed to Firebug. So rather than a certificate of open technology mastery, students strive to master open technology skills to accomplish a concrete contribution. This helps create the learn-to-accomplish life skill.

  • John Britton says:

    I’m really into this idea, and would love to help out where I can. I’d be particularly interested in leading some hands on workshops in the real world.

  • msurman says:

    John: great. Are there people doing FTF and hands on stuff w/ P2PU? Also, would you be willing to help find curriculum / scope some courses?

  • Atul says:

    I like John J. Barton’s idea. This is something that I find kind of funny about Mozilla’s hiring practices, actually: for engineers, we recruit in a way that I suspect is similar to other Valley companies, e.g. looking at their (potentially inaccurate) resume, quizzing them on technical things during interviews, etc. Yet for a lot of potential hires, there are plenty of examples of their contributions to open-source projects lying around in the public, including their communication with other team members–i.e., evidence of interpersonal skills and things more than just coding.

    Ideally we should be able to harvest this kind of information to get a picture of what an engineering candidate’s awesomeness factor is.

  • John Britton says:

    I’ve put together a preliminary course outline, check it out: https://wiki.mozilla.org/Mashing_Up_The_Open_Web

  • johnjbarton says:

    I’m uncertain if comments on John Britton post are appropriate, but here goes:

    I find “mashup” + “open” confusing: I think your proposal would be stronger by focusing on “open” and not mix in mashup as a top level issue.

    The proposal suffers from a deep problem of our CS educational system: it’s not at all realistic because we all work on other people’s code. I’ve seen some movement on this front, as I mention in my post above. I wonder if you could formulate this course in terms of additions/improvements to some existing open-source open-web project?

  • John Britton says:

    Participants could very well contribute to an existing project, however forcing that may be undesirable. The target audience for this course is power users that may not know very much about why open matters. The objective is to teach some fundamentals for using open resources and for developing and sharing publicly.

    Mashup comes into the picture as a value of open, without open data and standards crossing data into new views would be infeasible.

    re: other people’s code

    ‘Assignment: Contribute to another participant’s project in some way and get a contribution from at least one person. Reflect on the interaction (not to exceed 500 words).’

    This may not be perfect, but will get people thinking about using other peoples work. Since this is a non-credit course, we have to be careful to not overwhelm the participants and make the course fit their desires.

    Thanks for the comments johnjbarton.

  • John Britton says:

    @msurman re:Face-to-Face

    There has been one course that involved some face-to-face time in India, the land afforestation course from the first cycle.

  • msurman says:

    I agree that the idea of contributing to something existing and real would make this a ton better. Not just because ‘adding to something’ is more common than creating something from scratch, but also because it means the stake are higher because the thing you’re adding to is something people know about and rely on already. You’re not just building a ‘toy’.

  • msurman says:

    Ps to both the Johns: the Drumbeat newsgroup would be a great place to flesh out this discussion:


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