I have very strong feelings about this and have proposed different solutions from time to time. I am experimenting with a peer review tool called SWoRD out of University of Pittsburgh. They have a feature called soft deadlines. The way it works is you set the submission due date in the past. When a student submits a paper, the system then allows them to request a paper to review. There is an algorithm that selects the paper that has been waiting longest with the fewest number of reviewers. After one review is complete, the reviewer can then request more papers to review.
In my dream world, this is how workshop would work. Rather than being driven by dates, it could be driven by events.
- Event one: paper submission
- Result: student can request papers to review (if none are available, or if there are too few in the system to prevent collusion or ensure anonymity, the user may need to come back later)
- Event two: the student has reviewed all required papers and their paper has been reviewed the required number of times
- Result: a grade is generated
Some possible ideas additional ideas include:
- Allow people to request additional papers to review for extra experience, and possibly extra points
- This could help ameliorate the problem of some students not doing their reviews
- Dates could still play a role as a soft "best if done by" deadline to help keep the class on roughly the same pace
- I would assign a small amount of bonus or penalty point for doing the assignment early or late, but let the students manage their own time.
- The interface would allow students to petition grades and request instructor comment
I imagine using this in large university classes where it would be too difficult to assign and grade numerous large writing assignments without peer review. In this system I get the best of both worlds. The students get quality writing assignments and detailed feedback from peers using a rubric and comments. If they are unhappy with their grade or would like an "expert" opinion on their writing, they have complete access to the instructor's feedback.
I use this on assignments where there are no real right answers, it is just graded on completeness and polish. I envision a day where I create a MOOC with thousands of students in it, all starting and finishing the class at different times, having a rich and engaging experience that would be impossible otherwise.