by Kevin McShane
This model has been adopted by another player in the open education field called Next Generation University. NGU has dubbed itself "the world's first free university" though this seems a debatable issue since University of the People and Peer 2 Peer University have been active for the past two years. Information on the site is still rather sparse but the list of collaborators and funders is certainly impressive. They plan to start by offering a limited range of courses, mostly in health sciences.
"NextGenU's learning model builds on educational best practices, including using high-quality online learning materials (e.g., text, videos, images), interactive peer activities (e.g online chat rooms, and creating and assessing peer-generated case studies, images, and multiple choice questions), and hands-on mentored experiences (e.g., seeing and discussing patients). This model mirrors and expands on the traditional university experience through interacting with peers and experts in the field of study, while learning basic knowledge on one's own via online learning materials. It does not have active faculty involvement (that's part of how we can offer the trainings for free), though course creators, advisory committee members, and other experts will participate some in chat rooms."
Students work their way through the open course material and discuss and interact online. Every student is urged to recruit a mentor qualified in the subject being studied either in the student's geographic vicinity or online. These mentors receive mentoring guidelines from NGU and are then expected to offer guidance and be part of the assessment process. This process is a mix of self-assessment, peer assessment, mentor assessment and tests. At the end of a course the student should be able to offer a portfolio of work to a nearby university for assessment and hopefully credentials. In this way NGU does not need to provide any credentials but must make sure the students' work can be validated by a "regular" university.
I've already written several times about the OER university initiative which certainly seems more robust and sustainable than this one but whether or not NGU manages to take off it is clear that we're only at the start of an innovation wave in higher education and further initiatives in this direction are in the pipeline.