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Adapting Peer Review to an Online Course: An Exploratory Case Study

, , DePaul University, United States

JITE-Research Volume 10, Number 1, ISSN 1539-3585 Publisher: Informing Science Institute


With demonstrated benefits to higher level learning, peer review in the classroom has been well researched and popular since at least the 1990s. However, little or no prior studies exist into the peer review process for online courses. Further, we found no prior research specifically addressing the operational aspects of online peer review. This research addresses that gap by comparing the issues involved in managing peer review for an online course with those for a traditional classroom course. In an exploratory case study, two sections of the same introductory level course were taught by the same professor in the same academic term, one section in the traditional classroom and one as an online section. Both sections covered the same material in the same order. Online students had access to narrated PowerPoint recordings that tracked in-class lectures. The same assignments and exams were used. The two sections used a joint discussion board for posting questions and answers about the course material. In short, the two courses were almost identical, except for the steps necessary to make peer review operate in an online environment. An eleven-step process for implementing peer review was isolated and documented as part of this research. All steps except the first, creating the grading rubric, required more time and effort for an online class than for a traditional class. Four steps were substantially more complex in an online environment: assigning students to do specific peer reviews; handling late reviews; hiding reviewer identity before making reviews available to reviewees; and distributing completed peer reviews back to reviewees. Overall, results suggest that, without specialized supporting software, electronic reviews for an online class are far more complex to orchestrate than similar reviews administered using paper in a traditional classroom. Minor procedural steps that easily are made both unambiguous and obligatory in a paper-based classroom peer review became far more difficult to implement online. In addition, since specific peer review software is seldom available, the need to use a variety of software products, each of which was originally designed for other purposes, added substantially to the intricacy of implementing online peer review. This research provides specific suggestions for faculty considering using peer reviews in online courses, particularly in online Information Technology courses or other courses where writing is not the primary activity being reviewed. In addition, the online peer review features and functionality detailed here provide a basic requirements definition for a potential peer review software package flexible enough to be used across disciplines and with both traditional and online classes.


Knight, L.V. & Steinbach, T.A. (2011). Adapting Peer Review to an Online Course: An Exploratory Case Study. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 10(1), 81-100. Informing Science Institute. Retrieved February 28, 2020 from .



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