Blended learning activity 5: Student-generated quiz questions with PeerWise


In many blended subjects, lecturers provide subject content in a variety of formats in the LMS (e.g. short narrated PowerPoint videos, key readings, animated videos, podcasts). While these materials may be engaging, learning remains passive if students are not required to complete activities related to this content. Blended learning activities bridge the gap between the online and face-to-face environments.

What is PeerWise?

PeerWise is a free online tool that provides students with an interface to create their own subject-related quiz questions. PeerWise encourages student engagement with a number of 'gamified' elements including badges, points and leader boards. It does not integrate directly with LMS, but students can be provided with a link.

It is claimed that an instructor account can be set up in 60 seconds!

The PeerWise site has some very short introductory videos, screencasts and instructions about how to set up and use PeerWise.

Why do this activity?

Benefits to students

  • Designing questions
    Generating a question requires students to think carefully about the topics of the course and how they relate to the learning outcomes. Writing questions focuses attention on the learning outcomes and makes teaching and learning goals more apparent to students.
  • Answering questions
    Answering questions in a drill and practice fashion reinforces learning, and incorporates elements of self-assessment. Students are shown how others have answered the same questions, allowing them to gauge how well they are coping in the course.
  • Choosing distractors
    The act of creating plausible distracters (multiple-choice alternatives) requires students to consider misconceptions, ambiguity and possible interpretations of concepts.
  • Writing explanations
    Explanations require students to express their understanding of a topic with as much clarity as possible. This acts to develop their written communication skills and deepen their understanding.
  • Evaluating quality
    Evaluating existing questions incorporates higher-order cognitive skills, requiring a student to consider not only the content, but what makes a particular question more effective than other questions.

Benefits to instructors

  • Early feedback
    Instructors can see how students are answering individual questions in real-time, and can identify and address common misunderstandings in a timely fashion. Analysing student comments can reveal further insight into the student perception of topics within the course.
  • Large test banks
    The development of MCQ test banks is a very time consuming activity, and placing this in the hands of the students is a fast, low cost way for instructors to have access to a large body of MCQ test items designed specifically to test the course content.
  • Student confidence
    By evaluating the topic areas that students have created questions for, instructors can get a sense of which topics students are more confident with and which topics students are not engaged with.
  • Large classes
    PeerWise performs well in large classes. The number of high-quality questions is greater and students therefore have access to a higher number of effective questions.

How do I do this activity?

Before class

Below are a few recommendations from the PeerWise website for incorporating PeerWise into your subject. These are intended as suggestions only - other approaches may also work well:

  1. Assessment: allocate a small percentage of course marks for participation. This ensures that enough students contribute questions to make the repository worthwhile, and it shows students that their instructor regards the activity as important. Typical values are around 2-5% of the students' final grade. Allocating these marks only for participation eliminates the need for grading the student questions.
    1. Suggestion: 2-5% for participation
  2. Contribution requirements: in courses with a high workload, requiring students to contribute too many questions may be perceived negatively and may lower the overall quality of the repository. Students should be allowed time to develop a good quality question on a topic they have researched, and to provide an accompanying detailed explanation in their own words. Typical requirements may have students contributing 2 or 3 questions over the course of a 10 week term. Students are generally willing to answer questions on a voluntary basis, so a requirement of 10-20 answers per term would usually be easily achieved. In addition, students should be encouraged to evaluate the questions they answer, and when appropriate provide constructive open-ended comments. The question authoring and answering deadlines could be spaced out over the term to avoid a large amount of activity on a single deadline. 
    1. Suggestion: 2 or 3 questions / 20 answers per term
  3. Motivating students: using very good PeerWise questions in formal examinations is a simple way to motivate students. Adding some of your own questions can also encourage students to participate and give them examples of well designed questions. Awarding prizes for students appearing on the leaderboards or with high reputation scores may also be a good motivator for some students.
    1. Suggestion: use of PeerWise questions on formal examinations

During F2F class

The instructor comes to the class having looked over the PeerWise questions, responses and comments to identify any areas of student misunderstanding. These misunderstandings can be explored further in class by the use of pair/group discussions and further explanation by the instructor.