The initiative described here was designed to actively engage learners in the assessment of a first year distance/online module – titled “IT and Web Technology Fundamentals” – which introduces computer programing concepts to BSc. In Information Technology students. The Peerwise system was chosen to implement a peer-assessment component to the continuous assessment element of the module.
Peerwise is a freely available cloud-based online social learning environment designed for peer assessment (Purchase et. al., 2010). It allows students to develop Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) for each other and then answer those questions. Students also rate each other’s questions for quality and difficulty. They also provide feedback on question correctness. Students earn badges based on their activity.
In a first phase students were provided with detailed instructions on the number and format of questions they were required to write according to best practice in MCQ Item writing (Tarrant et. al., 2006). Questions were required to include detailed explanations of the correct answer. Each student was then required to answer questions posed by their peers and comment on and rate questions. Students were instructed to use anonymous handlers in the Peerwise environment.
Students then created questions in a second phase whereby they used both the experience of answering the questions posed by others, and the feedback from their peers in phase one (and from instructors) to improve. Students were also informed that a selection of the questions they had created would appear on the final examination paper and given the criteria which would be used to select those questions.
This paper reports on the outcomes of this intervention aimed at increasing student engagement and the degree to which students met the new learning outcome of the module which was to teach others programming. In reflecting on this experience it offers valuable insights for other educators into the possibilities of dedicated online peer assessment environments.
Purchase, H., Hamer, J., Denny, P. and Luxton-Reilly, A. (2010) The quality of a PeerWise MCQ repository. IN: Proceedings of the Twelfth Australasian Conference on Computing Education-Volume 103. Australian Computer Society, Inc.
Tarrant, M., Knierim, A., Hayes, S. K. and Ware, J. (2006) The frequency of item writing flaws in multiple-choice questions used in high stakes nursing assessments. Nurse Educ.Today. vol. 26, no. 8, pp 662-671.