Promoting Peer to Peer Participation

Remote Teaching and Learning does not need to be a self isolating experience for your students. Although we’re all working from home and keeping our distance there’s no reason we can’t work together. In this post we’ll give you few ideas and tools to get students interacting with peer to peer activities and supports.

Peer Support Discussion Forum

Often students’ questions about class get answered in the informal moments before and after class when students run into each other in the hallway or out in the bowl.

“Hey aren’t you in my History class? Do you know understand what we need to do for the second writing assignment?”

But without that physical opportunity for happenstance, you may find one of two things happening:

  1. You’re either fielding a LOT more emails than you’re used to (mostly about things that are in the Syllabus) OR
  2. Students are finding themselves in the dark and NOT asking the question at all, which is far worse.

At the Distance Education Unit we simply create a digital space for happenstance in the Discussion Forums of the Learning Management System. Creating a “Questions Lounge” forum of some sort allows students to have a place to ask those general questions about the course. This serves several functions in the online environment.

  1. It allows those eager and engaged students to jump in and support their peers. There’s always a few students who love this role. Having students support each other in this way means you’ll probably only have to monitor this feed and not answer every post. Just make sure that the answers coming in are correct and otherwise facilitate any questions that need your attention.
  2. By centralizing these responses, you’ll probably answer the question for more students than you think as their peers begin to build a FAQ of sorts that ends up helping more than just one student.
  3. It’s a good review process for your course design. If there are consistent questions about one assignment or aspect of your course perhaps it’s your explanation that needs to be addressed for next term. This forum can help identify aspects of your course that may not be clearly articulated.

Here’s a link to some help on how to set up a discussion forum in Blackboard.


There’s lots of ways to use groups in your remote teaching and learning class. It doesn’t always need to be a formal assignment. Think of all the ways you ask students to interact during class. Many of these opportunities exist online. Here’s a few ways to use Groups:

  1. Simple study groups – especially useful if you have a large class. Breaking students into smaller groups can mean that students can form a tighter group with whom to rely on when major assignments or exams are on the horizon. Building some type of learning activities early on in the term to encourage students to engage with peers is an important to the success of this type of peer group.
  2. Case-study – Giving students a specific case study to work through together can get them supporting each others learning. Have students discuss a case study with guided questions in the group discussion forums and give each group a summary question to formulate a response to. These responses can then be shared with the larger class in the main class discussion forum.
  3. Jigsaw – Jigsaws allow you to break up readings or other large chunks of content and assign them to groups of students. These groups then summarize the content for the rest of the class and synthesize how it relates to objectives and topics in that weeks learning materials. Presented back to the class, every students gets the benefit of the content and also a peer to peer interaction.

    Peer Reviews

Having your peers provide honest feedback on you drafts can be invaluable. You can set up a Peer Review system in your course in a number of different ways. The simplest way would be for students to post their drafts in a Discussion Forum (either the full class tool or within a group) and have their peers provide feedback through the replies on that post. There’s very little setup required for this method making it quick and easy.

Blackboard does have a Peer Review Tool that allows you to set up a more formal process where students can provide feedback similarly to how an instructor would do for a formal assignment.

For instructions on setting this up in Blackboard, follow this Link.