Peer 2 Peer University offers a MOOC that cost nothing to make

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Rebecca Kahn

May 26, 2013, 6:41:58 AM5/26/13

Python programming MOOC built completely out of free and open resources

CAMBRIDGE, MA, May 22, 2013 — Universities worldwide are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into each MOOC they offer through platforms like Udacity, Coursera and edX, and all without a business model in sight.  At the same time, Peer 2 Peer University—a non-profit that explores the cutting edge of peer supported online learning—is announcing an introduction to Python programming MOOC that literally cost nothing to build.  The course, called "A Gentle Introduction to Python," is slated to start June 17th, 2013, with enrollment at

The unique model, called a "Mechanical MOOC," leverages existing open and online learning sites, including MIT OpenCourseWare, OpenStudy and Codecademy, and coordinates student activities using a modified mailing list program dubbed by P2PU as the MOOC Maker. The MOOC Maker organizes communication both with all class participants and among small groups of learners, and recently received the OpenCourseWare Consortium's  2013 award for Technical Innovation. In an earlier offering of the course, P2PU's "A Gentle Introduction to Python"  enrolled more than 8,000 learners with retention and student success rates similar to those of MOOCs from the big name providers.

"There are so many great open educational resources already available on the web," said P2PU co-founder and Executive Director Philipp Schmidt, "it just makes sense to take advantage of these. Many of the resources used for the course can be downloaded and used offline, and some are translated into other languages. It’s not only inexpensive to offer, but probably the most flexible MOOC experience out there. "

The course combines content from MIT OpenCourseWare's 6.189 A Gentle Introduction to Python and 6.00SC Introduction to Computer Programming classes with a study group supported through OpenStudy and instant feedback and practice projects from Codecademy. The course also uses an open textbook, How to Think Like  a Computer Scientist. Learners earn badges demonstrating mastery through Codecademy and earn recognition of collaborative skills through OpenStudy's SmartScore.

Participants register for a mailing list that will coordinate their progress through the content and assessments and signal when discussions on particular topics will occur. The sequencing e-mails will run in multiple rounds, allowing learners who are struggling to fall back into the next round and repeat units and still have a cohort of learners, rather than being left completely behind.

"We want to do more than sign-up tens of thousands of students and have only a fraction succeed," commented OpenStudy co-founder Preetha Ram. "Our goal is to have everyone who participates succeed. We want to help learners remain engaged throughout the course and be supported by a community."

Already, these sites individually draw huge audiences: MIT OpenCourseWare attracts more than 1.3 million visitors a month, OpenStudy sees 250,000 students coming for help each month, including 16,000 in an introductory programming group, and Codecademy has seen several million users since August 2011. Each program has demonstrated the ability to deliver its particular service at scale, and this offering will seek to build on those successes by building synergies between the offerings.

About P2PU

The Peer 2 Peer University is a grassroots open education project that organizes learning outside of institutional walls and gives learners recognition for their achievements. P2PU creates a model for lifelong learning alongside traditional formal higher education. Leveraging the internet and educational materials openly available online, P2PU enables high-quality low-cost education opportunities. P2PU – learning for everyone, by everyone about almost anything.

About OpenStudy

OpenStudy is a social study network where students can ask questions, give help, collaborate and meet others. Founded by professors and students from Georgia Tech and Emory University, and funded by the National Science Foundation and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, OpenStudy believes that students can teach other students through collaborative learning. OpenStudy believes in making the world one large study group where students can work together in a single place regardless of their school, country or background.

About Codecademy

Codecademy is the easiest way to learn to code. Since its launch in August of 2011, Codecademy has been used by millions of users in more than 100 countries. Users learn to build websites, create web applications, and to understand the fundamentals of computer science through an innovative, interactive interface. Codecademy is funded by top tier investors like Union Square Ventures and Kleiner Perkins.

About MIT OpenCourseWare

MIT OpenCourseWare makes the materials used in the teaching of substantially all of MIT’s undergraduate and graduate courses—more than 2,100 in all—available on the Web, free of charge, to any user in the world. OCW receives an average of 1.75 million web site visits per month from more than 215 countries and territories worldwide. To date, more than 125 million individuals have accessed OCW materials.


Philipp Schmidt

Executive Director

Peer 2 Peer University

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