Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Eternal Independent Learning (using blogs and peer review)

Image by Wesley Fryer thru CC BY-SA
I was very impressed with the Peer Review framework Scott Klemmer had in his Coursera HCI classes last year.  I'm implementing simpler versions of that in my own online classes, but with all the student work submitted and reviewed through student blogs (I recommend, but don't require, using Google's ).

I really like the blogging in the wild approach since it ensures that when someone is commenting on their peer's work, they can (at least in principle) see the full history of the project being worked on by their peer, and if they are interested in can keep coming back to it, offer to collaborate etc.

I think this at least partially addresses some issues I encountered in the Coursera peer review system such as not being able to see the broader project context of peer work, and not being able to follow the development of peer projects, however it raises a number of new issues:

1) Are students happy with blogging in "public"?
2) How to scaffold the peer review process in public blogs

Addressing point 1) I explain to all my students that they can set the blogger to:

a) Full Public - appears in Google search results
b) Accessible to all by link
c) Private

And I explain that even with option b that in principle anyone can come through my public class site and find their blog unless it is explicitly set to private; but I encourage everyone to take the b) option.  I'm a bit of a sharing nut :-)  And I hope all my students can turn their projects into part of their professional portfolio.

Regarding point 2) I find myself equivocating on how much structure should be imposed on students both for assignments and peer review.  Too strong a structure and some student creativity is inhibited, too loose a structure and perhaps some students are left unsure how to proceed; not to mention the added concerns of encourage positive helpful feedback during pair review.

Any which way it makes me imagine an "Eternal Independent Learning" system in which individuals would be working on projects, posting them to their blogs and receiving feedback from each other.  Clearly this is what actually happens in the real blogosphere itself to some extent :-) But I'm imagining a little bit of scaffolding using the blogger API could create a sort of queue of people waiting for feedback on their projects and do something like except on a larger scale so that arbitrary project components (rather than just landing pages) could gain reciprocal feedback, while also allowing individuals to establish mutually supportative relationships with each other.

One could even go further to imagine a StackOverflow/Quora type points system that gave individuals a score based on their contributions to other blogs, and the positive feedback they attract on their own blogs, peer's setting each other challenges etc. 


Sam Joseph said...

Having explored the blogger API and found that it's not straightforward to get a list of all comments from a blog; you have to go post by post; I started wondering about Disqus. Perhaps a plugin like Disqus would allow students to choose whichever type of blog they wanted, and then building the course software on top of the Disqus API.

Sam Joseph said...

So this UPenn course is half way there with getting their students to use external blogs for their assignments