Crafting an open web qualification

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School of Web Craft

For working in the open web, people need to know more than one technology. They need to learn, hack, and be creative. Mozilla is driving a project to create a broad, university-style, comprehensive course of study: Mozilla's Drumbeat Open Web Developer degree. Currently, they're calling for tutors and mentors to join the discussion about what this might look like. I joined the conversation to help get Drupal on their competency map and to plug our Open Curriculum project and Drupal Dojo into theirs.

The main goal of the project is to become a "School of Web Craft" in the newly forming Peer 2 Peer University. It's in that context the collaborators and educators will negotiate what assessment and recognition means in this new peer-to-peer space, and possibly turn traditional education on its proverbial head.

P2PU: Traditional education, take notice

P2PU is a space for people to meet and learn together, or as the site says, it's "online book clubs for open educational resources."

There has been a rise in open educational materials, such as those coming from traditional institutions like MIT's Open Courseware, Open Learn from Open University, and those which are being built in an open source process, like the WaSP web standards curriculum.

These open materials can be used in traditional classrooms by teachers and trainers, but they can also be used for self-directed learning. However, self-directed learning can be, well, a little lonely. It's a natural extension of the social web to reach out and find like minds struggling with the same materials.

That's where P2PU comes in. It's a platform and environment to help connect learners around open educational resources. Philip Schmidt of P2PU posits that collaboration and problem solving are lacking in a traditional university education (see video). This new kind of university could offer more of that much-needed experience. Mentors do lead courses. For example, Joi Ito is leading a digital journalism course. But generally, it's a more group-driven approach than traditional education, as I see more conversation about process happening amongst the learners than in a more traditional, professor-led lecture.

An open learning environment

John Mott and David Wiley of Brigham and Young University think traditional institutions better step up and take notice. They highlight the failings of the standard CMS, also known as LMS (learning management systems):

  • No access to materials when the course is complete
  • Reinforcement of top-down approach to learning
  • Learners cannot self-organize around interests
  • Disconnects learning from the broader network and world

From: Open for Learning: The CMS and the Open Learning Network, by Jon Mott and David Wiley (PDF)

P2P effectively counteracts each of these problems. It connects people together in a networked, open space for set periods of time, and they still have access to the materials afterwards. (It's built on Drupal, incidentally.)

If formal and traditional education and training don't take note of these open social learning initiatives, they run the risk of becoming irrelevant. That is more apparent in the field of the web, where as we say in the Drupal community, "the drop is always moving." Traditional education can barely keep up as qualifications designed five years ago quickly become outdated, and students graduate disillusioned and ill-equipped, in some cases bearing the brunt of a very costly cultural habit: university education.

While P2PU is open, there is governance and structure forming. Wikipedia, for example, while open to edit for all, is a tightly controlled and organized system, and not the free-for-all some would expect. The effort will be organised and considered, yet will be able to more quickly respond to demand in a way that traditional processes may not be able to work.

For this reason, Mozilla's Drumbeat School of Web Craft on P2PU is potentially a big game changer in this sector.

Call for courses

There is an open call for course proposals through July 18.

This coming September we'll be launching our first cycle of six-week courses, including Introduction to HTML5 and Building Social with the Open Web.

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