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In many studio classes, peer critique is an essential part of the learning process. How can you facilitate this process in the online environment?

The Challenge

Before an assignment deadline, students are scrambling to complete their own work. While a few students might post their assignments early, most are working down to the wire. So there's no time for them to look at their classmates' work before the deadline.

The Strategy

An approach pioneered by the Photography Department is now built into the Discussion interface, making it simple for you to ensure that students have time to review and comment on one another's work. Here's how it works:

  • Any topic designated as an assignment (i.e., a gradable topic) has not only an opening date and a due date but also a separate closing date. Students must post their assignments by the due date, or else they are marked "late."

    You may have noticed that there are three dates listed for each topic on the main discussion page: an opening date, a due date, and a closing date.

    Click on any image to enlarge.

    By default, the opening date is set to the first day of the module, and the due date and closing date are set to the last day of the module. In discussions, the due date and the closing date are always the same.

    But in an assignment, you can set a closing date that’s after the due date. The due date is the deadline for this assignment. Students have to get their work in by this date. But by setting a closing date that’s later than the due date, you accomplish two things:

    • First, you won’t need to create a separate topic for late homework. If students submit their work after the due date, their posts will automatically be marked late. So if it’s your policy to allow students to submit late work, you can simply extend the closing date to give them some extra time.

    • What’s more, the extended closing date allows students time to review and post comments on one another’s work — without your having to manually reopen the topic. Comments made after the due date are not marked as late; but late posts are marked. For more information, watch the tutorial on Posts & Comments.

    You can change the dates for any topic by editing it.

  • As the instructor, you can extend an assignment's closing date beyond its due date.

  • In the days between the assignment deadline (due date) and the closing date, students have time to review each other's work — and they can post comments on that work.

  • Once the closing date is reached, the peer critique discussion is over. 

(star) New!! (star)

Now the development team has streamlined this process by adding an interface that lets you extend the close dates for all your assignments at once. Instead of editing each topic individually, you can now quickly specify how many days to allow for peer critique for every assignment. Just navigate to the page for Current Topics or Pending Topics or Global Topics to find this tool.

What if...?

This is the first in a new series of posts addressing Common Teaching Problems (and their solutions). I hope you find them helpful!

If you have suggestions for topics you would like to see addressed in this series, please post a comment, below, or drop me a line (

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1 Comment

  1. Have you tried this strategy in your online class? Post a comment and let us know how it's working for you!

    And if you have questions or need help with this process, post a comment or drop me a line (