Instructor: Lori Bokowy

Department/School/College: School of Public Health


Intervention Overview

This intervention describes a peer review process as a component of a final course paper in an online, undergraduate public health course. This strategy was implemented using an online discussion forum with the goals of promoting co-learning, critical analysis, and student interaction.

Students were provided a structured opportunity to evaluate their classmates’ paper draft, as well as their own, with the use of the assignment assessment rubric. As a result of this assignment, students were able to successfully apply assessment criteria and evaluate the application of core course concepts on their peers’ work, as well as identify ways to improve their own and their classmates’ papers.

Title: PH 101 – Introduction to Public Health

Level: Undergraduate

Mode: Online

Session type: 16-week semester

Enrollment: 18 students


This intervention focused on the need to encourage further exploration of course concepts while fostering peer learning and a sense of community throughout the learning process in a fully online course. This intervention also looked to solve the issue of students not thoroughly engaging with an important assignment’s requirements by presenting an opportunity for students to apply exact assignment expectations to concrete examples prior to final assessment.

To foster peer learning and a sense of community while strengthening learning around the course concepts, a peer review activity was chosen as the intervention.

Translating the face-to-face peer review process to the online learning environment is not incredibly straightforward, but deserves attention due to the value and potential impact on student learning. Therefore, this project used an online discussion forum as the venue the peer review process. This activity was embedded as a component of the course’s summative written assignment, the Healthy People 2020 final paper. This assignment required students to integrate core course concepts, demonstrating the ability to work through the P.E.R.I.E process, an evidence-based public health framework.

The use of a peer review activity was intended to provide a structured opportunity for students to critically evaluate their peers’ work, as well as their own, with the use of the assignment assessment rubric. Implemented as an actual graded assignment, students were expected to use the rubric to provide constructive feedback to at least two of their peers. This peer review process encouraged co-learning as students applied and communicated core course concepts within the context of the final summative assignment. Students benefited from the feedback provided by their peers, but also reflected on their own work throughout the process. This activity provided another opportunity for student exchange and interaction within an online learning environment.

The peer review activity was listed as a scheduled assignment and addressed in various areas on the course’s D2L course site pre-intervention, during intervention, and post-intervention.


Students were alerted at the beginning of the semester that a peer review would take place for their final paper near the end of the semester. This information was documented in the course syllabus’ course calendar.

During the Intervention

Students were assigned to one of three groups in a way that ensured diversity in general course participation and achievement. I tried to make sure each group would have strong examples and enough people who would complete the reviews. I also offered extra credit to students who were willing to review additional assignments to ensure everyone had feedback from two students.

Students were limited in D2L to seeing their own group’s area through the “Group and Section Restrictions” feature. Each group’s area was further restricted to only seeing other posted drafts, through the “Must Post First” feature when creating discussion topics, once they posted their own draft. After being placed into their group, students were instructed to post their most current draft of the assignment by a particular deadline. After that time, students were able to begin the review process by applying the assessment rubric to two classmates’ papers and also answer three short answer questions. Feedback was given through a reply to the original post in the group’s forum.

To adequately prepare students to take part in the peer review process the activity was listed on the module checklist, mentioned in the module’s overview, and was talked about in depth in the “how to” overview presentation. Students also had detailed instructions in their discussion area and their assignment assessment rubric to guide their contributions.


After students completed the peer review, they were graded and given both individual and group feedback.



Students provided anonymous feedback on the intervention through an instrument that provided closed and open-ended questions. These questions focused on measuring student satisfaction regarding the intervention, as well as the impact the intervention had on creating peer-peer learning opportunities, building community, and understanding key course concepts. Students were also asked to reflect on things that worked well and convey constructive feedback for future changes to the intervention to benefit future students.


Although twelve students engaged in the peer review activity, only three students submitted the project survey. While this is a limited number of participants, those who completed the survey agreed that the intervention:

  • Helped them to engage with their classmates around the course concepts utilized throughout the P.E.R.I.E process.
  • Allowed them to think about their own work through the review of others.

They further indicated that it “was interesting to see other people’s ideas” and that it helped them to “better understand what was expected of [them] for [their] draft.” When asked about things they might change about the activity, students indicated that it might be helpful to “have a longer timeframe to complete the activity” and to instill a “system to require that each student gets two reviews” as reviews weren’t necessarily assigned.

Instructor review of the peer review activity provided additional information on the activity impact. Of the twelve students who completed the process, ten were able to identify at least one way they could improve their own work as a result of reviewing their peer’s papers. Students offered valuable feedback to their peers (e.g., improvements to the organizational structure, identifying areas that needed more statistics and evidence, and better application of course concepts). Eight students demonstrated the ability to successfully apply the assessment rubric in review of at least one classmate’s assignment. With instructor guidance, two more students demonstrated this ability and resubmitted peer feedback.

I will use this peer review activity in future courses. It is a fairly simply activity to include to promote co-learning in the online environment, while also strengthening performance on the final paper. It is also a great way to make students active in the learning process and to provide them with an opportunity to deepen content understanding. However, it is important to note that student impact will depend on the effort put forth by the student.

If you are looking to add an activity like this to your course, I recommend providing detailed instructions to guide the peer review process. Consideration of student pairings or groupings and ensuring everyone gets the appropriate number of reviews is also necessary. Also, it’s important to use the discussion area so that you can review progress made (or not made) throughout the process.

In moving forward, I am also planning to provide more time for the overall process. This would allow for more instructor feedback and student engagement throughout the activity. Including the specific rubric components with earlier assignment drafts may also help with the familiarity of the assessment criteria, while also more clearly defining expectations for the individual sections.