Studies in Learning, Evaluation, Innovation and Development > Vol. 8, No. 1 (2011)

Challenges and Opportunities for Academics Adopting an Online Peer Review Innovation

Abdul Hafeez-Baig, University of Southern Queensland
Linda De George-Walker, CQUniversity Australia
Raj Gururajan, University of Southern Queensland
Patrick Danaher, University of Southern Queensland

Abstract

The growth of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the emerging needs of higher education students have emphasised the need to incorporate digital developments into learning and teaching activities. ICTs afford innovative and active engagement of the learner, recognise good teaching and promote lifelong learning. On the other hand, there are considerable challenges associated with implementing and integrating ICTs in course environments as academics and institutions struggle to keep abreast of rapidly evolving technologies and pedagogies. This paper reports on the incorporation of a comprehensive peer review system into a course within a Faculty of Business at an Australian university, and the experiences, challenges and issues faced by academics with regard to integrating technologies with teaching, learning and assessment practices and outcomes. The peer review approaches reported in the paper first featured in a postgraduate level course and incorporate a peer review system, a course management system, an electronic assessment management system, electronic discussions and a feedback system, which are provided in conjunction with the traditional mode of teaching. After successfully running the course for two years, the course team won a grant to extend its development. The peer review system was developed and trialled within the faculty, focusing on the blended learning environment across the wide range of disciplines and contexts within the faculty. The findings showed that the systems were successful at incorporating a combination of simulative and formative assessment items. While there were challenges about trust, quality and independence, they were minimised through a structured, peer review approach and moderation process. Participants acknowledged that the blended learning environment was challenging and complex; however, learning and teaching in this environment were effective and efficient. Another challenge in developing such a strategy was the requirement to accommodate a wide range of teaching and assessment practices adopted by a large number of academics. It was concluded that blended learning can be innovative and effective but requires careful management on the part of academics and a change in student attitude if the potential rewards of academics adopting a blended learning peer review innovation are to be reaped.

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