PEOI wants to be at the forefront of educational content development in every professional field. PEOI proposes to do that by structuring all its courses as open platforms that include all methods of learning. Open platform means that anyone can use the content (i.e. everything on PEOI is free and open), and that anyone can add or change any content, provided the contributor is registered, and the content is verified by at least an editor or coordinator. Methods of learning must include reading require text, reading of additional explanatory material, verifying memorized concepts, writing assignments, assembling empirical evidence, testing validity of concepts and hypotheses, comparing alternative theories and ideas, understanding limitations of currently popular strategies and policies, critical thinking, exchanging ideas (e.g. in class discussion), go through exercises and testing of knowledge on major concepts. This comprehensive package of learning is what makes PEOI unique among open education and knowledge websites.
Altough PEOI's goal is to disseminate free and open knowledge just as wikipedia, PEOI is different from wikipedia (and other wikis) because of the diversity of its learning methods. Whereas wikis offer open knowledge, PEOI offers methods of understanding, verifying, discussing, memorising and testing knowledge. Moreover, each page of content at PEOI is part of body of knowledge organized by course subject which is commonly taught in units of 15 weeks university semesters, and in turn, each course is part of a program of studies necessary for professional qualifications. (Mastery of professional qualifications normally leads to award of a university degree; although PEOI is now far from being ready to award any such degree, that is the aim). Because of the variety of content in each of PEOI's courses, there is a need for diverse skills in developing course content. Authors at PEOI do not all need to be good writers. Much of the content may already exist, can be imported if it is not copyright restricted, and placed on PEOI with proper attribution; thus, for some contributors above average computer skills are most important. Also, some of PEOI's course content such as summaries of concepts and test questions is developed using automated PEOI's procedures, and editing skills are more important then than just writing skills. Another difference with wikipedia is that PEOI's open platform does not deal with just one content page format, but numerous different data banks, and this makes navigation and work in PEOI's course development more difficult. Content contributors must take some time to learn how to navigate PEOI, and use PEOI's procedures.
PEOI's courses are also very different from online commercial courses (as well as online courses at most universities) because PEOI's students do not have to comply with scheduled deadlines, do not work with one instructor, and are not evaluated by one appointed faculty (not to mention, that they are not tied to the commitment resulting from having paid a tuition fee). Online commercial courses are primarily based 1) reading of a purchased textbook (plus occasional lecture notes or video) and 2) one or a couple graded big assignments. As shown in "Course content" below, PEOI courses contain a large quantity and diversity of materials. The reason for that is that free and open education such as the one at PEOI must give a self-learner everything that one needs: PEOI's students must not have to purchase any book or visit any library (which in many cases may not exist where students live), and knowledge assessment at PEOI must be automated so that a student does not have to rely on an instructor. The role of faculty at PEOI is to develop all the material that students may need and to respond to occasional student questions or correct an assignment. Because of the diversity of the material, most courses at PEOI must be developed in teams with each member contributing a portion. Because of the diversity of material and the complexity in automated testing, PEOI's courses can't be a series of pages, and most course management packages such as Moodle, Merlot, Caronline and aTutor are entirely inadequate for PEOI's courses. This is further explained in PEOI's 2005 Annual Report which is found in About us section.
At PEOI, all authors must be educators, and all instructors must be authors. Every faculty member in a discipline is invited to make his/her contribution to improve, update and expand the content of courses in his/her area of specialization. Each modification or addition (other than those pertaining strictly to grammar or style) is initially presented to other faculty members for their peer review before it is adopted. The procedures available in Authors corner are specifically designed to accomplish this as efficiently as possible.
It is our belief that faculty members who make the most significant contributions to course development will attract the largest number of students because number and volume of contributions are shown in Faculty list that students consult to choose their instructor. An author's contribution to PEOI's course content can be a stepping stone in his/her professional academic career in the same way other forms of publishing are. The difference is the ease and speed of having a contribution recognized in a PEOI's course. PEOI, thus, hopes to attract for each discipline a group of like-minded authors who seek to move fast to the front of their field.
As stated repeatedly on this web site, PEOI does not believe that online education is superior to traditional in-class education for most courses and for most students. It is second best for those who do not have access to a traditional university for any number possible barriers (such as money, location or family situation). Yet, it can be superior if a student can be assured to receive the most uptodate and comprehensive material that is essential to that student's professional objectives. This is what PEOI wants its competitive advantage to be. PEOI hopes to attract forward-looking academics and professionals who are willing to build with others the most authoritative, complete and cutting edge course content by making their individual contributions, and review those of others. Individuals who want to take part in PEOI's vision are urged to register with PEOI and start making their contribution.