Methods of managing projects, including learning projects, range from more formal and structured to casual and unstructured. As a facilitator, you’ll see your peeragogy community constantly adjust, as it seeks an equilibrium between order and chaos, ideally allowing everyone to be involved at their own pace without losing focus, and in such a manner that the collective can deliver.
For teachers reading this, and wondering how to use peeragogy to improve participation in their classrooms, it’s really quite simple: reframe the educational vision using peeragogical eyes. Recast the classroom as a community of people who learn together, the teacher as facilitator, and the curriculum as a starting point that can be used to organize and trigger community engagement. However, just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy! Whatever your day job may be, consider: how well do the various groups you participate in work together – even when the members ostensibly share a common purpose? Sometimes things tick along nicely, and, presumably, sometimes it’s excruciating. What’s your role in all of this? How do you participate?
- Accept that some people want to watch what is going on before jumping in. This doesn’t mean you have to keep them hanging around forever. After a while, you may un-enroll people who don’t add any value to the community. In our Peeragogy project, we’ve asked people to explicitly re-enroll several times. Most do renew; some leave.
- Accept that people may only contribute a little: if this contribution is good it will add value to the whole.
- Understand that you can not impose strict deadlines on volunteers; adjust targets accordingly.
- Let your work be “open” in the sense described in Wikipedia’s Neutral Point of View policy.
- Give roles to participants and define some “energy centers” who will take the lead on specific items in the project.
- Organize regular face-to-face or online meetings to talk about progress and what’s needed in upcoming days/weeks.
- Ask participants to be clear about when they will be ready to deliver their contributions.
- Have clear deadlines, but allow contributions that come in after the deadline – in general, be flexible.
- Add a newcomer section on your online platform to help new arrivals get started. Seasoned participants are often eager to serve as mentors.
When we think about project management in an organization, we often relate to well-established tools and processes. For example, we can use the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) as a standard. For the Project Management Institute (PMI) and many workers, these standards are seen as the key to project success. In classical project management, tasks and deadlines are clearly defined. We will, for example, use Program Evaluation and Review Technic (PERT) to analyze and represent tasks. We often represent the project schedule using a Gantt chart. Those are just two of the project management tools that illustrate how “mainstream” project management rests firmly on an engineering background. In these very structured projects, each actor is expected to work exactly as planned and to deliver his part of the work on time; every individual delay can potentially lead to a collective delay.
Peeragogy projects may be, naturally, a bit different from other settings, although we can potentially reuse both formal and informal methods of organization. For example, unlike a typical wiki – or classroom – peeragogy projects often expect to break the 90/9/1 rule. Keep in mind that some participants may not contribute all the time – but one really good idea can be a major contribution. See the anti-pattern “Misunderstanding Power” for some further reflections on these matters.
How are we doing? If we consider our basic population to be those in our Google+ community, then as of January 2014, over 4% have contributed to the handbook – pretty good. However, we have yet to reach a contribution profile like 70/20/10. It’s important to remember that – especially in a volunteer organization – no one can “make”’ other people participate, and that all the lists of things to do are for nought if no one steps in to do the work. For this reason, if anything is going to happen, what’s needed are realistic estimates of available work effort. Finally, in closing this section, we want to emphasize that measures of participation offer only a very rough proxy for measures of learning, although the two are clearly related.