Creating Effective Peer Learning Environments in Online Courses
College Of Business
Graduate Academy for
College Teaching at
University of Illinois.
• What is Peer Learning ?
• Is it effective?
• Why should you consider it for Online Courses?
• Peer Learning and Community of Inquiry Framework
• How would you do it?
• How do I do it?
• … students learn with and from each other without the
immediate intervention of a teacher. (Boud et al. 1999)
Boud, D., Cohen, R., & Sampson, J. (1999). Peer learning and assessment.
Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 24(4), 413–426.
Cooperative / Active Learning
• Cooperative Learning
• Students are in control, but Instructor specifies goals, tasks,
resources, rewards(Topping 2005)
• Peer Collaboration
• Active Learning
• Peer Tutoring
• One student takes on an explicit role of a tutor.
Topping, K. J. (2005). Trends in peer learning. Educational psychology, 25(6), 631–645.
Peer Learning is effective - Offline
• Offline Study Groups
• Peer Tutoring : Benefits for both tutor and tutees (Topping
and Ehly 1998)
• Gains in transferable social and communication skills
• Increased likelihood of favorable opinions towards course
Peer learning is effective - Online
• Students feel isolated online( and Offline)
• Asynchronous communication allows for deeper, more
• Peer Learning allows for scaling of online courses
• Persistent storage of ideas allows for discovery of multiple
How did I do it?
• Set the environment
• Model/Acknowledge/Train in appropriate behavior
• Self-presentation Social Presence
• Ice-Breaker Activity : Eight Nouns Forum
• Wiki Profile, Linkedin /Twitter account listing
• Technology orientation
• Discussion/wikis used for activities above.
• Include effective use of technology in rubrics
• Clear Directions and Rubrics
• Rubrics help in peer assessments(more later)
Model appropriate behavior
• High instructor visibility in initial weeks
• Recognize and highlight exemplar work in forums
• Give feedback as a peer in initial weeks
• Train users in peer feedback/critique
• Eg: Critical Friends approach
• Large Group (40-50) Social Presence
• Ice Breakers
• Discussion on relevance of course to careers
• Can generate too much ‘noise’
• Small team(4-5) Social Presence, Cognitive Presence
• Teams prepare Point – Counter Point positions on a topic, and then
debate between pairs of groups with opposite positions.
• Medium Group (10-15)
• Seed the forum with targeted discussion questions, one for each
• Individual Assignments (short writeup), become source of
• Low stake activities for training
• Peer Feedback/Critique Vs Peer Assessment
• Assess the Process Vs the Product
• In initial Phase
• Self and Peer Assessment tool in Blackboard
• Project teams - Peer Assessments
Informal assessments of student
• Time spent on LMS
• Number of messages
• Content analysis
• Visualizations of Forums : http://www.snappvis.org/
• Self-report surveys
• Students perceive peer feedback/evaluations
• As less useful compared to instructor feedback
• As busy work, with no real learning
• Not trained to critically review content
• Might make hasty conclusions about plagiarism in peer
• Might criticize the student, instead of critiquing the work.
Keep In Touch
Peer learning (cooperative/active learning) has long been used in face-to-face teaching. But how do you create effective peer learning environments, assignments, and assessments in online and blended formats? In this session, you will learn about strategies to conduct effective peer learning sessions in blended/online environments.
Social Presence : The sense where the learner feels part of the community, by demonstrating willingness to engage in communication exchanges, perceives learners and instructor to be real people, and is able to project him or herself in the online environment confidently.cognitive presence: is the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001).
Eight nouns forum : 43 individuals, nodes scaled to degree, filter set to degree > 11