As I mentioned, I’m using SWoRD in my writing class for econ majors. SWoRD is a site that not only facilitates peer review, it allows for student grades to actually be determined by their classmates’ reviews. For each assignment, the instructor creates both open-ended comment prompts and a numeric rubric (the SWoRD template requires a 1 to 7 scale, though you can sort of get around that by skipping some of the numbers). Students submit their papers to SWoRD and once the deadline has passed, papers are assigned to peer reviewers (minimum of three, maximum of six; the creators of SWoRD strongly recommend at least five reviews if the scores will be used for grading). Everything is anonymous, as each student creates a pseudonym within the system (you just have to make sure students don’t put their names in the text of their files!). I can either assign specific reviewers or have the system automatically assign them randomly. After the reviews are completed, the authors have the opportunity to ‘back evaluate’ the open-ended comments, indicating how helpful the comments were, or weren’t; this is done before the authors see the numeric scores assigned by reviewers so the back evaluation is based purely on the open-ended comments.
SWoRD is a web-based reciprocal peer review system. In less fancy terms, students turn their class papers into SWoRD, which then assigns this paper to five or six peers in the class. The peers grade the paper and give advice for how to improve it. Students revise the paper and turn it back in to SWoRD, which distributes the paper to the same peers for final review. SWoRD determines the accuracy of the ratings through a complex process of separating out different kinds of bias in grading. The authors rate the advice given to them in terms of helpfulness. Reviewers get a grade for their work which is one half accuracy and one half helpfulness. In this way, reviewers must work hard and take their task seriously. SWoRD has been used in many different courses (graduate and undergraduate), in many different disciplines and at many different universities. The grades that are produced are just as reliable and accurate as instructor grades, and authors get advice that is possibly more useful than what they would have received from an instructor. Most importantly, SWoRD allows the instructor to assign writing tasks of the most important kind (with feedback and revision) without having to do any grading at all, which means that writing practice can now take place in every class (from small sections of 10 students to large sections of 1000 students). SWoRD is free for use. Instructors create an account and setup a course in SWoRD. Students then create their own accounts on SWoRD and sign-up for the class.