The digital classroom, transforming the way we learn

Online peer learning

A critical resource for supporting students

I have earlier argued for the benefits of peer learning. Considering how many students who are working from home, this is more important than ever. That is why I was pleased to read this article; Online peer learning: A growing trend sees 2 different approaches By: 

In many parts of the world, this is especially important right now. MILLIONS OF schoolchildren in the United States remain in virtual-only schools, and some 5.5 million of them have limited contact with a live teacher – even online. Source: US News. Many European countries have kept their schools open. In Norway, schools have been open since May, although at times a red timetable, like right now in my district. That means every student attends class each day, but only half the time. Most European countries, including Britain, France, Germany, and Spain, have kept schools open even as the continent remains among the worst-hit. A few countries, like Austria, the Czech Republic and Italy, have closed schools, in part or in full. Source: The New York Times. In Denmark they have seen a new rise in cases and school children from 5th grade upwards in the affected municipalities are to be sent home, with classes to take place online. In other words, we still have a significant number of students doing all their learning at home

I am sharing the article here:

I’ve argued in the past that now is the time to lean into student agency by reframing students as assets. Failing to do so may mean ignoring a critical resource for supporting students during a challenging year: their peers. There is a key difference is the one between tools for peer teaching versus those for peer learning. Here’s how to tell them apart: Peer teaching tools for exchanging knowledge and expertise

In his book called Peer Learning in Higher Education, David Boud describes peer teaching as when “advanced students…take on a limited instructional role.” Similarly, peer teaching products are built on the idea that the locus of expertise is found in individual students—one student a whiz in math; another the recipient of the highest grade in her comparative literature course.

For example, Brainly lets students crowdsource homework help by “[tapping] into the brainpower of thousands of experts worldwide”—in the form of other students. Anyone can ask a question or submit an answer, and answers are moderated by students who are vetted by the company. Knack enables students with skills in a particular subject to earn money by tutoring their peers. And a variety of tools function as marketplaces for study notes and resources, often paying students to upload high-quality notes, as Nexus Notes and StudySoup do.

Compared to peer teaching, Boud argues that peer learning “emphasizes students simultaneously learning and contributing to each other’s learning.” The divide between expert and learner is gone, leaving space for what scholars call “social” or “collaborative learning.”

For example, products like and Perusall set out to change reading from an isolated activity into a social one, betting on the idea that each reader’s reactions and interpretations can help other readers learn and make connections. Other tools are built to help students stimulate each other’s thinking, like Packback, a discussion forum tool that prompts students to ask deeper questions to stimulate each other’s conversation. PeergradePeerceptiv, and PeerStudio are all predicated on the idea that learners benefit from both giving and receiving peer feedback.

On the other hand, peer learning tools make no distinction between students who are learning and students who possess expertise. As a result, something—or someone—must facilitate exchanges between students (ranging from discussion forum threads to peer feedback) that spark what Boud calls “reciprocal” or “mutual” learning.

This is where the Peer learning that I have previously written about comes in. And where learning management systems like Itslearning or Peergrade can be useful tools. I encourage you to try the software mentioned her.

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