Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Coursera and Peer Evaluation

Readers of this blog know how enthusiastic I am about taking a course on world history on Coursera.  I've loved learning the history, and the experience has provoked many thoughts about the future of education (see this post).  Education is undergoing the process of disruptive innovation, and it's about to explode.

I've just discovered a TED talk by Daphne Koller, one of the founders of Coursera from TED Global this summer.  It outlines some of the motivations of the founders of Coursera and talks more about data on the efficacy of online teaching.

She quoted Thomas Friedman's article in the New York Times:
Big breakthroughs happen when what is suddenly possible meets what is desperately necessary. 
How true that is.

MOOCs (massive online open courses) in the social sciences must figure out a way to include written work as part of the course.  For a class of more 80,000 students, like The History of the World Since 1300,  what is desperately necessary - evaluation of those essays - meets what is suddenly possible - mass technology-enabled anonymous peer evaluation.

But can peer evaluation be effective and fair?  Koller showed some fascinating data on peer evaluation (which she acknowledged was based on relatively small samples).  Here's her chart of the very high correlation between peer grades and the grade a teacher would offer.

Even more surprising was the chart showing that self-evaluation correlated even more highly with the teacher grade (given some software that prohibited perfect scores).

I'm eager to see what my peers think of my first essay handed in a few days ago.  Coursera also asks students to self-evaluate their essays.  Coursera is so cleverly designed that I'm sure this data will all be collected and form the basis of future publications on the effectiveness of peer evaluation.  It is truly a new age!

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