"Peer Produced Peer Learning: A Mathematics Case Study"

Ph. D. thesis, The Open University, UK.
Supervisors: Dr Alexander Mikroyannidis and Professor Peter Scott

Examiner's Draft - Submitted July 29th, 2013
(PDF, 260 pp.)

Revised Draft - June, 2014
(PDF, 270 pp.)

(HTML, 19 slides)


This research project develops around a technological intervention intended to transform a peer produced reference resource into a peer produced learning environment. Through the work described in this thesis, PlanetMath.org, an early online community devoted to mathematics, has now become a mathematical practicum, and a laboratory for learning science.

A new theory that describes the nexus of peer production and peer learning is foundational for the research programme. The candidate theory was initially developed during a pilot study based on online field work at the Peer-2-Peer University. The new theory -- which is given the name “paragogy” -- has implications for designers, researchers, educators, and others whose work relies on peer learning and peer production. Further research and development work in the PlanetMath context helped to refine the theory, and applied it along with a range of mixed methods to develop an anthropologically-inspired study of modern mathematics.

A quantitative approach was employed to detect the factors of interaction that influence learning outcomes, using legacy data from PlanetMath. A qualitative, interview-based approach was employed, to understand the desiderata of potential users of a new system emphasizing peer learning. The new software system was implemented, informed by paragogy and these stakeholder perspectives, using Drupal and other open source components. Field work with PlanetMath users after the launch of the new system employed an emergent design process to elaborate the theory and develop a viable approach to ongoing development and codesign.

Figure 1: This is the sort of extension we'd like to develop

And: Screenshots from the realized system.

Old Working Outline here.