Credit background image: (no attribution required). 
Creative Commons License:

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

It is a share and share alike. It is not for commercial purposes. You are not allowed to publish this work! 

Download the full literature review (PDF) at the bottom of this page.     



The literature review focuses on Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Collaboration and Peer Learning (PL) in Higher Education (HE). The exploration of the conceptualisation of these concepts starts with the identification of the differences of the semantic web 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. The review also touches on P2P collaboration, the disadvantages of P2P learning, peer-assisted learning (PAL) and peer learning (PL) in an HE context. Specific references are made to New Zealand Higher Education (NZHE) and the review could be used in a comparative study of tertiary education institutions.      


This literature review and research also lay some foundations for a philosophical approach to analyse peer-to-peer (P2P) collaboration and P2P learning technologies in Higher Education (HE). The theorists Popper, Soros, and Bergson are used to lay the foundation of the notion of openness in education. The work of two theorists Foucault and Habermas, though opposites are briefly discussed in the context of openness, P2P technologies, and neoliberalism (cf. biopower-Foucault) is.


Opinion articles and reviews present the author’s viewpoint on the interpretation, analysis, or methods used in a particular study. A philosophical and ideological approach is used in this review. It allows the author to comment on the strengths and weakness of a theory, hypothesis, or philosophy. Opinion articles are usually based on constructive criticism and are backed by research evidence (Majumder, 2015). Such articles promote discussion on current issues concerning education.


The literature review could also be used as a starting point within a neoliberalism discussion context. Neoliberalism[1] versus ‘the welfare state’:

The real value of openness “…open source, open access, and open development is that it enables people to work together to solve common problems” (Peters, Besley & Araya, 2014, p.284). Openness in HE inaugurates a new era of social development and production. ‘P2P technologies of openness’, within an HE context, promotes and enhances the development of “social labour”, “social media” and “social production” (Peters, Besley and Araya, 2014).  I have argued how Popper, laying the foundation for openness, on which Foucault and Habermas’ theories build in this paper, opposes the inevitable and deterministic pattern of history. According to Popper (1966), it is the democratic responsibility of everyone to make a free contribution to the evolutionary process of society, hence transparency and trust are the keys to this ‘ethos’. However, tensions exist when this objective runs contrary to the marketisation and commercialisation of the education system (neoliberalism); for example when HE political and economic agendas are seeking profit over altruism (Van Zyl, 2016).


Objective of the author by publishing this literature review

This literature review, as a resource to scholars, could be adapted and build upon within the context of Higher Education (Global perspective and NZ), P2P Collaboration, Peer Learning, and Open Education. The philosophical theories of Popper, Soros, and Bergson are introduced (openness) and consequently progresses to the theories of Foucault and Habermas. The theorists are discussed and researched within a P2P framework and include P2P collaboration and learning technologies (Web 1.0, Web 2.0, & Web 3.0).      

The context of this review

This review is part of a dissertation by the author: “Exploring Conceptualisations of Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Collaboration and Peer Learning in New Zealand Higher Education”.  The review could be used within a global context and scholars could adapt and modify the review to fit a specific comparative study on P2P Collaboration and Peer Learning in Higher Education (HE). The theoretical perspectives on openness (open education), and the other philosophers (Foucault & Habermas) could be useful in exploring theses conceptualisations.



  Peer-to-Peer Collaboration (P2P), Peer Learning (PL), Peer Assisted Learning (PAL), Openness,  Neoliberalism, Post-Neoliberalism, Higher Education (HE), New Zealand (NZ), Conceptualisation, Governmentality & Biopower (Foucault), Communicative Action (Habermas), Microblogging, Twitter, and P2P Technologies. 


[1]What is Neoliberalism?  (By Bob Hooker – Feb, 23, 2015). Source:

Neo-liberalism is a philosophical, political and economic system that emerged most aggressively in the 1970s and now it the primary philosophy of the global economy.  The liberal is old school liberal, as in new 18th Century liberal not new 20th Century Leftism.

Though in reality few nations ever elect to fully follow neo-liberalism to the letter, the philosophy stresses some key elements:

  • Free trade on a global scale
  • Limited role of government with central banks playing the largest economic role in a state not government stimulus.
  • Acceptance of the power of corporations over the state and a stress of private ownership of as much of a economy has possible.
  • Strong influence of individual freedoms.
  • Deregulation of markets, belief that market systems will correct imbalances.





This literature review lays the foundation for an ‘openness’ philosophical perspective in education which could include a personal opinion and personal critique of ‘open education’. For example, an ideological approach on neoliberalism in education (position paper). The review will allow for in-depth commentary on peer to peer networks, collaboration, peer learning, and P2P technologies. It also allows for critiquing the perspectives of Foucault and Habermas as theorists, in a P2P collaborative context.

Perspective reviews are scholarly reviews of fundamental concepts or prevalent ideas in a field. These are usually essays that present a personal point of view critiquing widespread notions pertaining to a field. For example, in this instance, peer assisted learning, peer learning and P2P collaboration are explored in an 'openness' context . This perspective review is a review of a few related concepts as mentioned. This review is considered as a secondary literature review and includes some basic concepts of openness and conglomerate ideas linked to educational philosophical views (Popper, Soros, Bergson, Foucault & Habermas).

APA referencing:

Van Zyl. W.N. (2016). Literature Review:Openness: Exploring Conceptualisations of Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Collaboration and Peer Learning in Higher Education. Published to (cf.Literature Review P2P) in August 2016.           

Full Literature Review: 





Book by Yochai Benkler: The Wealth of Networks (Free PDF)