Computer-supported collaborative learning by medical students

Willem Koops, Cees van der Vleuten, Luc Snoeckx

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Objective: In higher education, it is common practice that expert teachers provide feedback on students’ learning tasks. Regardless of the quality of the provided feedback, students are more likely to accept feedback from experts than from peers. Still, peer feedback could be an interesting alternative or a valuable addition to expert feedback. Research suggests that peer feedback on the work of fellow students facilitates critical thinking and reflection. The benefits of peer feedback can be even greater when feedback on a task is provided by more than one peer. An asynchronous discussion forum of
a computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) environment offers an opportunity to conveniently exchange peer feedback when students are dispersed. The aim of the present study is to explore whether peer feedback by a CSCL environment could lead to task revision of such good quality that it obviates, at least in part, the need for expert feedback.
Methods: Fifty-two medical students were invited to participate in the review process. Students had to write a research protocol and they were invited by a review process consisting of three phases: (1) to discuss their protocol with peers, (2) to revise their protocol according to peer feedback, and (3) to submit their protocol to an expert for feedback. The nature and type of peer and expert feedback were analyzed. Descriptive statistics were calculated and differences between revised and unrevised tasks were statistically tested on the data of the three phases.
Results: Forty-six students participated in the review process. Peers provided significantly more feedback during a discussion of a task when compared with expert feedback after discussion. Eighteen (39%) written tasks received feedback from peers, one-third of which were revised accordingly. Of the 14 tasks that did receive expert feedback, 71% had remained unrevised. Overall, 32 tasks (70%) were of such good quality that expert feedback remained absent.
Conclusion: This study shows that in a process in which a complex task is reviewed, students make significant contributions. Feedback by peers is an effective instrument to help students revise a written task. Experts mostly provide feedback on tasks already revised by peers. Trivial comments in peer feedback do not obstruct medical students´discussions and task revision ensuing from them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalContemporary Journal of Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

© 2018 The Authors. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (


  • learning communities
  • Computer-mediated communication
  • cooperative/collaborative learning
  • interactive learning environments


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