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What I Learned from Peer Review on #DigitalScholar

The project is an online course announcement. How to make one? Use the rubric. Easy right?! Until I see the rubric! So I submitted my course announcement on time but was late finishing my peer reviews. It was more difficult than I had anticipated. I ended up on Reda’s list of #DigitalShame for submitting only two reviews (of three required) on time. I had to banish thoughts of Cersei of Game of Thrones walking onward even as people shouted Shame, shame!

The figure below is from Reda Sadki’s Scholar update on the peer review process.


So here’s my list of 10 things I learned in the peer review process of #DigitalScholar –

  1. I was given four course announcements to review. This allowed me to see the variety of ways that participants complied with the rubric. There were questions in the rubric that I had skipped since I didn’t quite know how to answer them in the context of my own course announcement. But the others did, so I had some light bulb moments.
  2. Seeing the work of others leads to a reflection on your own work. Without peer review, I don’t think I would have reflected much on the work I had submitted because hey, it was already done right?! Out of sight, out of mind.
  3. The rubric was used by everyone but there were interesting variations in the work produced, which may be due to differences in interpreting the rubric. Seeing this heterogeneity was an eye opener and added another layer of learning.
  4. I labored reading through a course announcement written in English, but so technical that I couldn’t understand it. I suppose that learners in the domain of that course might understand what it was all about, but I (the reviewer!) could not. So please, speak in human-readable English. I wondered if my own course announcement was readable too.
  5. I was amazed by the diversity of learning activities my peers had in their course announcements. It made me think of new activities for my own course.
  6. It was possible to link to online resources within the course announcements. One work I reviewed attached an entire free ebook while another linked powerpoint presentations. Even if I didn’t end up taking these courses, I already had takeaways I could study!
  7. Doing the peer review with the rubric meant giving a score but also an explanation as to why that score was given. The requirement to explain made the peer review process a learning experience. After all, it would have been too easy to just tick off scores. But because I had to explain the score, it made me think twice about scoring. There were even times I wanted to give a score in between which wasn’t allowed really 🙂 like 2.5?
  8. Explaining the score given also meant suggesting ways to improve the score in compliance with the rubric. It meant telling the creator of the work exactly what it would take to get a perfect score! Again, this required deep thinking as well as reflection. Am I too harsh? Would I want someone reviewing my work to be this harsh? Am I too gentle as to be unhelpful? How to keep a neutral tone when giving a negative comment?
  9. A peer review is not considered complete unless there is at least one annotation. Alas, I must confess that for the works I reviewed I only did one annotation each as I couldn’t submit the review otherwise. If I had more time, I would probably have added more. But I also realized that after reviewing according to the rubric, that I had said nearly everything already. Writing an annotation meant actually suggesting a concrete change to comply with your own suggestions. I realized it was easier to suggest than to try revising it yourself.
  10. When I got my three reviews back, one gave me a high score, the second a middling score and the third a somewhat low score. I realized the wisdom of not relying on these scores but looking at the explanations on how to improve the work instead. I suspect that the one who gave me a high score had some Twitter experience (my course is Building a Personal Learning Network on Twitter) while the one who scored me low was a skeptic. Their reviews were helpful as I was able to see how I needed to tailor my course for different learners.

So this post is for week 3 and it’s late, but never mind. I needed to get my thoughts on record! And there’s still week 4 which ends tomorrow and concludes this #DigitalScholar course.

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