Peer to Peer Interactions

Student Engagement Summary

Student success in an online course is ultimately determined by many factors; however, instructors must design assessments that ensure a student does not feel isolated in the virtual classroom.  When developing course assessments, instructors should take into consideration assignments that require students to interact with one another, as well as the course content.  When students are given the opportunity – and requirement – to interact with each other through activities such as discussions, peer reviews, and group assignments, they are more likely to feel like part of a community and become engaged with the course. By offering students several modalities for communication, they are better able to develop meaningful connections with each other, the instructor, and the content.

Best Practices

Project based learning

  • Collaboration in either asynchronous or synchronous learning environments allows learners to practice real-world skills that are applicable to the workplace.
  • A broader knowledge base means that distance learners will reap the benefits of collaboration as they learn from each other and construct their own knowledge.
  • Social constructivists argue that modeling expertise will enable others to become experts themselves; Learning takes place not by assimilation, but through the process of knowledge construction that the learning community supports (Yoany, 2006)

Peer review

  • They suggest that an important aspect of building common ground is that students ‘show evidence of understandings through written feedback [and] provide support to their peers (Wallace, 2003)
  • Peer review effectively allows academic societies to construct knowledge through social sharing and competition.
  • In reviewing peer homework, one must read, compare, or question ideas, suggest modification, or even reflect how well one’s own work is compared with others.
  • The benefit of peer review came from reading many peers’ works, i.e., summaries of some   important topics provided by peers, and obtaining critical insight from others’ work during the review process. Many students mentioned that they compared their own work with peers’ work and were more aware of their advantages and weaknesses than when in conventional teacher evaluation situations. (Lui et al., 2001)


  • Help develop students’ social presence (Dixson, 2010)
  • All students have a voice and no students can dominate the conversation.
  • Many researchers note that students perceive online  discussion as more equitable and more democratic than traditional classroom discussions (Swan, 2001)
  • Students reported that the peer teams were more satisfactory than instructor- led discussions, finding them ‘more responsive, more interesting, and more structured’ (Wallace, 2003)


  • Dixson, M. D. (2010). Creating effective student engagement in online courses: What do students find engaging? Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 10(2), 1 – 13. Retrieved from
  • Yoany Beldarrain (2006) Distance Education Trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration, Distance Education, 27:2, 139-153, DOI: 10.1080/01587910600789498. Available at
  • Wallace, R. M. (2003). Online Learning in Higher Education: a review of research on interactions among teachers and students. Education, Communication & Information, 3(2), 241. Available at
  • Dixson, Marcia D. (2010) Creating effective student engagement in online courses: What do students find engaging? Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 10:2, 1-13
  • Lui et al. (201). Web-Based Peer Review: The Learning as both Adapter and Reviewer. IEEE Transactions on Education, Vol. 44, No. 3: 246-251
  • Karen Swan (2001) Virtual interaction: Design factors affecting student satisfaction and perceived learning in asynchronous online courses, Distance Education, 22:2, 306-331, DOI: 10.1080/0158791010220208. Available at