MusicCircle – creative peer feedback goes digital


flickr photo by betmari shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

Giving and receiving feedback from peers is a great way to learn. After all, professionals do it all the time. Organising this type of activity during a seminar can be difficult, but there are now many online tools for sharing and annotating text. When student’s work is not text-based, however, something else is required.

Dr Chris Kiefer, Lecturer in Music Technology of MusicCircle @luuma

Dr Chris Kiefer, Lecturer in Music Technology @luuma

Chris Kiefer (Media, Film and Music) is using MusicCircle, an online peer learning and peer feedback system that he was involved in developing as part of the EU PRAISE project. For this post, Anne Hole asked Chris about MusicCircle

‘MusicCircle was originally developed for musicians but could equally be applied to many other fields.’

Chris explains that ‘MusicCircle is a peer learning and peer feedback system. With the aim of enabling creative feedback…. It is a venue for people to share their work and provides an environment for constructive peer feedback between students.’

The key to the tool is its ‘social timeline’ which lets the users highlight a section of audio or video and add a comment – this can then be discussed with others. Although you can add brief comments to audio using SoundCloud or discuss YouTube videos, Chris argues that they do not allow for the sort of detailed feedback which will help students to improve their work.

Designed initially for musicians at Goldsmiths College, MusicCircle takes online the regular feedback sessions which encouraged students to provide constructive feedback to each other.

Chris believes that one of the strengths of MusicCircle is that it teaches students to both give and receive creative feedback. It can also ‘increase a sense of community around a course’.

Peer feedback is good for students because when we learn how to constructively give feedback we learn how to use feedback constructively in our own work.

The system has been developed and tested with various groups across the five European universities involved in the project and there is even a version that works with coding.

See the system demonstrated in this YouTube video – 

At Sussex, Chris has begun using the system with music technology students on the ‘History and Practice of Electronic Music’ module. Students ‘make a 1-minute piece each week based on what they have been learning. They can share those pieces with each other – so they can access them not only within their seminar groups but across the cohort’. But Chris emphasises that this is not just an online activity – ‘It provides a mechanism for a session in class where we play each other’s music and discuss  the music’ as well as letting learners ‘access the work out of class and continue the feedback’.

MusicCircle could be useful for anything that involves time-based media that people can give feedback on – videos of student work, interviews, presentations etc.

There has been some good feedback from users and Chris will be developing his use of MusicCircle with his students in 2016-17.

To find out more about the PRAISE project see the Papers, articles & Related Initiatives.

If you would like to discuss possible ways that MusicCircle could be used in your teaching at Sussex please contact Chris Kiefer who will be happy to talk to you.

To discuss other options for using technology to develop peer learning and feedback contact the TEL team

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