P2P Learning

I think education needs to take a hint from the Internet. Peer-to-peer communication, using protocols like BitTorrent, forms a significant share of all of the traffic on the Internet. No longer is the Internet a simple client-server model — content can be shared from user to user.

How does that relate to education? Well, teaching has been client-server for a long time, with the “client” being your average student and the “server” being your average teacher. It’s a server-push system: the server pushes content to the client and hopes that it accepts and understands it correctly.

That’s kind of dumb.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) communication is more efficient in that it avoids the major bottleneck at the server end by distributing the teaching load among numerous nodes. This would be analogous to students teaching students (not students giving answers to students) what the teacher didn’t adequately explain.

Being one of the nodes in this P2P network, I see the benefits of it all the time. Students find it much easier to learn from their peers — when you have just learned the concept, you find it much easier to explain it to your peers. You still remember the thought process it took to get that concept to make sense.

But P2P learning, though I practice it regularly, is never truly encouraged. Students are supposed to go ask their teacher for help when they don’t understand — but why not encourage them to go ask that nerdy kid? It offloads the burden from the teacher and gives the school nerd some social skill practice. Teachers usually give their substitute teachers worksheets or videos to show — but why not encourage them to have the nerdy kid teach the lesson from the textbook while they’re gone?

It could work. It would certainly boost that nerdy kid’s ego.


  1. But don’t forget that teaching is something that requires a certain skill set, and that improves with experience. Not ALL the smart nerdy kids are good at transferring their knowledge to others.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *