The Composition MOOC and Peer Review Based Grades

This MOOC┬ácame to my attention a month or so ago and it struck me as particularly interesting. We’d talked previously in class about the effectiveness of the MOOC and the concerns and questions it raises about best practices in teaching, but I don’t think that at that point, anyone had talked about the existence of a composition or writing-based course.

I glanced over it again last night, after our discussion on peer review in the classroom and how to structure effective peer reviews– modeling, the amount of time given to sections of papers, whether students should be paired or put in groups, and so forth. The FAQ section states that this MOOC goes as far as to give peer reviewers the authority of being the only feedback they will receive on their writing and the basis of the grade in the course (and presumably, the verification of completion necessary to receive the Statement of Accomplishment).

I feel like this not only complicates the model of the MOOC, with peer review based assessment and composition as a topic, but also assumes a lot about peer review. Is it even remotely possible that several hours of lectures on MOOCs could make a peer so effective that their feedback is the basis of the grade? Online peer review has been immensely more complicated than in class review for my students this semester; coordinating emails and communication has been challenging and it becomes near impossible when students withdraw from the course or don’t “show” for a week when a peer review is expected. When peer review is online AND the basis for assessment of performance throughout a class AND the completion rate of these courses is so low, is there any way that this can possibly work? Or is this just an experiment in (a potentially colossal) teaching/education failure?

2 thoughts on “The Composition MOOC and Peer Review Based Grades

  1. Greg Narr

    Nice questions Mikayla! Perhaps for a MOOC it could be streamlined in such a way that your paper doesn’t get reviewed until you have reviewed one, two, or however many papers that you wish the student to review. The more you have them review the more “accurate” the grade will be and you cut down the chances that someone will just sabotage their classmate by giving them a negative review. You might even think about the reviewer being reviewed by the person whose paper has been reviewed. Is the feedback of three of your peers as useful as that of a professor who possibly only has a few minutes to spend on each paper? I guess that could be debated. But then maybe we are thinking about assessment in the wrong way. Is it really important to be able to have a legitimate distinction between an A and a B paper provided by an expert so that students can be positioned on a curve? What if critiquing ones peer was incorporated into and seen as valid component of the learning process?

  2. Philip

    Greg I think you present some interesting angles or possible improvements to the current MOOC grading system.

    Did you guys see this Times article the other day ‘Grading the MOOC’. One of the author’s critiques concerned the low quality of peer review. I think the article is a little too forgiving of MOOC shortcomings, on the other hand I am always heartened to see even some critique or critical analysis, as opposed to just ra ra enthusiasm for ed tech that is all too common in the mainstream media.

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