University of Maryland

Open Communities for Education and Learning (OCEL)

Over the past 20 (50, 100, 1000?) years there has been a persistent hope that technology would transform the environments that we create to support education and learning.    However, no matter what the scale, developing and maintaining thriving environments that support real, in-depth learning is non-trivial.

The goal of the Open Communities for Education and Learning group is to identify ways that the capabilities of online communities, social networking systems, and crowdsourcing, can be used to support education and learning on a variety of scales.

Current People


  • Kari Kraus (Alternate Reality Games) – University of Maryland
  • Derek Hansen (Alternate Reality Games) – Brigham Young University
  • Elizabeth Bonsignore (Alternate Reality Games) – University of Maryland
  • Anthony Pellicone (Alternate Reality Games, Open Badges) – University of Maryland

Past People

  • Alisha Alam – University of Maryland
  • Shashank Dewjee – University of Maryland
  • Cindy Weng – Northwestern University

Papers, Reports and Other Publications

  • Ahn, J., Weng, C., & Butler, B. S. (2013). The dynamics of open, peer-to-peer learning: What factors influence participation in the P2P University? Proceedings of the 46th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (Learning Analytics and Networked Learning track). [PDF] *Nominated for Best Paper*
  • Ahn, J., Butler, B. S., Alam, A., & Webster, S. A. (2013). Learner participation and engagement in open online courses: Insights from the Peer 2 Peer University. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching9(2), 160-171. [HTML]
  • Ahn, J., Butler, B. S., Weng, C., & Webster, S.A. (2013). Learning to be a better Q’er in social Q&A sites: Social norms and information artifacts. In Proceedings of the Association of Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) 76th Annual Meeting. [PDF]
  • Butler, B., & Ahn, J. (2013). Ecological perspectives on creating and sustaining open learning environments. Workshop on CSCW and Education. [PDF]
  • Webster, S., Alam, A. Ahn, J. and Butler, B. S. (2013) Understanding Participation and Persistence in Online Peer-to-Peer Learning. Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL 2013). 
  • Ahn, J., Pellicone, A., & Butler, B.S. (2014). Open badges for education: What are the implications at the intersection of open systems and badging? Research in Learning Technology, 22. [LINK/PDF]


  • Butler, B. S. (Fall 2012). The dynamics of open, peer-to-peer learning: What factors influence participation in the P2P University? University of Pittsburgh, School of Information Science.
  • Ahn, J. (December, 2013). Open education: New developments, needs, and opportunities for research. Canadian Institute of Distance Education Research.

Work In Progress

  • Ahn, J., Webster, S., & Butler, B.S. (under review). Open education in the wild: The dynamics of course production in the peer 2 peer university.

Funding and Grants

  • RAPID: Understanding and Designing Community Dynamics in a Massively Open Online Course Platform, the Peer 2 Peer University, National Science Foundation  2012-2015 ($178,000)
  • Collaborative Research: Advancing Informal STEM Learning Through Scientific Alternate Reality Games, National Science Foundation  2013-2016 ($1,520,832)

Research Resources (Datasets, Surveys, Interview Protocols etc.)