By Katherine Mangan
A poet with a hankering to learn code recently teamed up with a Web developer who was curious about poetry as part of a new kind of teaching experience.
The lessons took place at Peer 2 Peer University, a three-year-old online institution where students learn together, at no charge, using materials found on the Web. The poet, Vanessa Gennarelli, and the programmer, John Britton, taught each other online, discovering unexpected bridges between their disciplines.
At a time when free online courses are enticing students with the opportunity to learn from star professors at prestigious colleges, P2PU, as it's known, is questioning whether instructors are needed at all.
The unusual institution, where anyone with a passion for a topic can set up a course, is experimenting with ways that students can navigate together through open courseware that's free on the Web.
In the process, the project is stimulating discussion in open-education circles about the evolving roles of peers and professors in the growing number of free online courses.