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| SPECIAL FEATURE

Using Education Technology To Facilitate

ONLINE PEER LEARNING BY JILL LAWRENCE

Every semester, when students

Defining Peer Learning

to gain perspective about their study,

are given the course outlines (or

Peer learning is a two-way activity

facilitate their reflective capabilities and

equivalent), the first part they read

between students in which they

augment their personalised problem-

is about the assessment. Students

support, critically review and provide

solving strategies. In other words,

want to know what they will have

feedback on one another’s work.

peer learning helps students consider

their group’s and tutor’s

to produce in the course and how

Opportunities for this kind of learning

themselves and their peers as valuable

responses as well as

they will be graded. Assessment

can emerge wherever students share

members of the learning environment,

responding to other forum

thus becomes a hurdle rather than

their experiences, not only inside but

rather than relying solely on the

a robust, and preferably engaging,

also outside formal learning settings.

academic for guidance, affirmation

opportunity to learn. Furthermore,

Ultimately, peer learning provides

and feedback.

students rely on the academic as the

learners with convenient and informal

sole source of direction, guidance and

opportunities to learn from those who

feedback. Students tend to conceive

• Require students to post their responses to weekly learning activities to their forum group. • Encourage students to read

members’ posts. • Include screenshots of posts and responses in assessment weighting (student engagement is much higher if assessment

are, or have been, in a similar situation,

Strategies to Foster Online Peer Learning

of the learning experience as a one-

assisting them to access support to

1. Integrate peer learning activities

forum posts) and reflections

way interaction from the academic

fortify their studies.

into course design, delivery

on peer learning activities as

and assessment:

assessment tasks.

to the student (and then the other

marks are allocated to group

of using peer learning to put the

Rationale for Peer Learning Activities in a First-year Online Course

meaning back into assessment

To effectively learn in an unfamiliar

and the overall university learning

online university context, first-year

experience. It also describes how

students need to reposition their

assessment (which means that

an experienced student (for

to run and encourage peer learning

expectations and fine tune their learning

students are given feedback

example), reflecting on it, then

through use of education technology.

approaches to meet those required/

and opportunities for correction

identifying specific, practical

Student quotes are provided to

expected by the university. Peer

and rewrites) prior to, and

and problem-solving strategies

consider the application of peer

learning activities can help students

specifically linked to, the

that the other students can

learning and students developing

make these transitions and enhance

final submission for marks

incorporate in their study

understanding of the overall university

their engagement and learning. Such

(summative assessment) – see

routines, before posting to

experience from their point of view.

activities can also inspire students

Figure 1.

their group forum. This activity

These examples come from use of

to value peer learning as a viable,

• Organise students into online

peer learning at University of Southern

user-friendly and accessible study

forum groups (n=20/30),

assessment task with students

Queensland, where approximately 70

approach and engagement strategy.

each supported by an

asked to reflect on the interview

percent of learners study online. Clear

Peer learning helps students to

online tutor whose role is to

instructions are therefore vital to the

become familiar with and expand their

provide individual feedback to

success of peer learning.

sources of support, assisting them

students’ posts.

way for assignment submission). This article presents a case example

• Divide learning activities into weekly modules to

2. Use explicit peer learning activities

give students a clear

to encourage students to learn

navigational pathway.

with/from each other by:

• Build from formative

• conducting an interview with

can be incorporated into an

and the strategies they applied. • incorporating a similar interview strategy, but with

Figure 1: A strategy for integrating peer learning activities into assessment practices

Students work through learning activities linked to assessment

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Students post learning activity responses to their group forum

Students receive feedback from peers and tutors about their responses

Students complete assessment utlising formative feedback received

Students receive markers' feedback on assessment

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Education Technology Solutions Issue #81  
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