Reimagining the Role of Educational Technology in Promoting Peer Learning

Lim Chee Leong, Director of Learning Innovation and Development, Taylors University

Lim Chee Leong, Director of Learning Innovation and Development, Taylors University

Literature has suggested three main reasons that drive interest in peer learning in higher education. Firstly, when higher education funding is cut as universities are facing growing student populations, academic staff is expected to equip themselves with the skills to teach more students without diminution in the quality of the student learning (Boud, 2001). This phenomenon has prompted a search for teaching and learning strategies that could potentially increase or maintain students’ learning with less direct input and involvement from the academic staff. Thus, peer learning is promising as it is an instructional strategy that helps students to accelerate their learning through active discussions and exchange of ideas. 

Secondly, employers nowadays are seeking candidates who not only have higher education degree(s) but also able to demonstrate lifelong learning skills as one of the transferable skills (Assiter, 1995). This is aligned with the concept of peer learning, which has been cited by Candy et al. (1994) as one of the teaching methods which encourages undergraduates to become lifelong learners. Furthermore, peer learning involves students working together to develop collaborative skills and practice teamwork in the learning community (Boud, 2001). These are the essential transferable skills that can go a long way once students have acquired them. 

As information technology develops, communities get closer, overcoming the barrier to distant geography. It helps to bond students together in a learning community in order to share information and discuss different issues.”

Lastly, the advancement of technology is now a significant driver to promote the use of peer learning in teaching and learning activities. It provides students with more open access to information and makes participation more effective. It also provides shy students with more opportunities to interact with their peers as this encourages them to have dialogues without it being face-to-face (Keppell et al., 2011). As information technology develops, communities get closer, overcoming the barrier to distant geography. It helps to bond students together in a learning community in order to share information and discuss different issues. 

To improve the peer learning experience and ensure students gain the most from learning with peers in virtual learning environment, the following emerging applications are recommended:

(a) Use of Wiki for Collaborative Assignments 

A Wiki is a simple, flexible, and collaboratively designed webpage that is formed as a result of online collaboration among peers. Each time a student makes changes to a Wiki page, each of the edits and amendments in a Wiki becomes a revision, so the contribution of each peer can be monitored. As Wiki enables peers to write and edit a document collaboratively, it is a great tool to promote learning. This “mini-website” created allows peers to keep track of the changes made. Whenever needed, it allows the users to “roll back” to the previous version based on the “historical” information kept in the system. Therefore, it is an engaging tool enabling peers to own shared responsibility in producing a shared resource. 

Figure 1: Using Wiki to allow peers to contribute ideas according to their group

(b) Empower Peer-to-Peer Marking Using Workshop 

The Workshop is a powerful peer learning and assessment activity in LMS that administers the submission of assignments and then allocates these assignments among peers for review. This tool allows students to assess the submissions of their peers using structured assessment rubrics shared by the course instructor. In other words, it empowers students to practice peer assessments with the use of rubrics to support students in marking. This tool allows students to learn from a different perspective by evaluating their peers' answers. Instructors can also use Workshop to empower peers to assess their peer’s performance in a collaborative activity. Through the creation of a Workshop activity in LMS, the instructor allows their learners to report if another peer is not contributing to the group work and allows the learners to evaluate the performance of their peers. 

Figure 2: Peer marking in a Workshop activity

(c) Enhance Peer Learning through Digital Badges

Digital badge is another emerging tool used to promote peer learning in the virtual learning environment. It captures and communicates what students learn and what they can demonstrate. With learning today is increasingly made to be ubiquitous, digital badges are being used to “celebrate” learning upon completion of a learning milestone. Digital badges also are used to reward exemplary behavior amongst students and to support lifelong learning endeavors. Additionally, rewarding students using digital badges promote positive reinforcement of specific behavior to students. When these badges are published on students’ social media, it makes their learning more rewarding as they can share achievements instantly with their peers (Lim et al., 2018), in turn, it increases students’ success in learning.

Figure 3: Supporting SRL through the use of digital badges

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