Engaging Students Through Electronic Peer Review

Award Winner: 
2008 Sloan-C Effective Practice Award
Student-Generated Content
Author Information
John Sener
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
North Carolina State University
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

Using the Expertiza platform to support the peer review process allows a variety of activities which use student-generated content to enhance the learning process.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

Dr. Edward Gehringer and his colleagues at North Carolina State University are using a custom-designed software tool called Expertiza to engage students in active learning through electronic peer review, or students reviewing other students’ work via the Web. Expertiza enables students to use the peer review for a variety of purposes, including researching lecture material (i.e., finding links related to each lecture), annotating on-line lecture notes, writing research papers, reviewing papers from the literature, making up homework problems, making up machine-scorable questions, and weekly reviews of student contributions in a seminar course. Using the Expertiza platform to support the peer review process thus allows a variety of activities which use student-generated content to enhance the learning process.

One particularly notable example is enabling students to build resources through electronic peer review. Students select tasks, submit individually designed learning objects or papers, and review work submitted by their peers; working together helps them learn to improve their skills and each others’ learning experiences. Performing more authentic tasks which resemble real-world responsibilities also enhances the learning experience, as does giving students the experience of preparing and presenting their ideas for a peer audience. This system is used to produce student-generated learning objects; depending on learning needs, these learning objects can be built from scratch, or subsequent student cohorts can improve the work of their predecessors.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

Access: One product of the “Ethics in Computing” course was the development of an Ethics in Computing web site which covers over 100 related topics and was rated a “hot site of the day” by USA Today in April 2001. The site is currently the top-rated result for a Google search on “Ethics in Computing” and has been so for over two years; not surprisingly, the site has received thousands of hits per month.

Student Satisfaction: Students have reacted quite positively to peer review. Five classes (n=163) rated the statement “peer review is helpful to the learning process between 3.41 and 4.24 (5-point rating scale, 5 highest); the highest score (4.24) was given by one of the classes which did the most peer-reviewed assignments. Students also said that doing reviews of other students’ reviews motivated them to do careful reviews (3.9 on a 5-point scale). In one course which utilized peer-reviewed assignments, about 2/3 of the students agreed or strongly agreed that they learned a lot from doing peer-reviewed assignments, and about the same percentage said that they enjoyed or strongly enjoyed doing the assignments. However, students were more mixed about doing a peer-review process in another course which involved scrutinizing program code to identify design flaws. Students were mildly positive (3.47 on a 5-point rating scale) when asked to rate whether their redesigned code was better than code which they would have written from scratch. Students “felt that they spent too much time reading poor code and too little time improving it. According to Dr. Gehringer, there are two factors at work here: open-source software and peer review. All the prose comments associated with these questions relate to the experience of working with someone else’s code (the OSS aspect). None of them mention the peer-review process, which suggests that more focused questions will be necessary to isolate the effect of peer review. Other: The Expertiza project received an honorable mention for the Gertrude Cox Award, NCSU’s recognition program for work related to teaching and learning with technology.

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

See above.

Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: 

Implementing this requires the use of the Expertiza system which resides on NCSU’s server; future development plans include a downloadale version for local use.

References, supporting documents: 

Also see this link: http://research.csc.ncsu.edu/efg/expertiza/papers/ for a more complete list of papers.

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Dr. Ed Gehringer, efg@ncsu.edu