Creating a Social Online Community of Practice, Peers, and Feedback for ESL/EFL Learners and Our Future Surgeons

Concurrent Session 6

Brief Abstract

Challenged with creating interactive online exercises to build soft skills for ESL/EFL learners, and technical skills for medical students, the University of Pennsylvania and UCSF respectively have partnered with Practice, a video- and mobile-based platform that offers a social, learn by doing environment and scales skill development.


With a background in marketing and a desire to help others, Morgan spends her days at Practice assisting clients with problems big and small.

Extended Abstract


Learning a new language and developing clinical skills are often difficult skills to master in an isolated setting.  Additionally, translating these courses online is also challenging, particularly as language development and clinical skills require an interactive environment for learners to practice, apply their knowledge, and receive feedback. The English Language Programs and the Online Learning Department of the University of Pennsylvania has developed five Coursera MOOCs, with the goal of empowering learners to improve their language proficiency, career development, and understanding of global issues. The Medical School at the University of California, San Francisco has developed a clinical skills bootcamp, with the goal of scaling training without the need of a one-on-one environment.

To accomplish both goals, UPenn and UCSF partnered with Practice, a video and mobile-based platform for creating exercises that empower learners to practice and develop skills within a community of peers and experts. The platform is based on a proven live training methodology. This methodology involves learning by doing, where learners practice a skill by recording a video response to a challenge, receive feedback from peers and mentors, and incorporate that feedback into their next attempts.

The use of video and inclusion of peer assessment brings a powerful social element to the online environment, further allowing peers to interact with and learn from one another. Additionally, learners receive specific and actionable peer feedback, which can be consistent with instructor feedback.


How Does Practice Work?

Based on the work of K. Anders Ericsson, John Dewey, Donald Schon, and Albert Bandura, and supported by recent research from Pennsylvania State University, Practice’s pedagogical design prompts frequent practice, peer interaction, self-reflection, and mentoring in an effort to help learners hone and develop skills.

Instructors use Practice's mobile and video-based platform to create learning exercises for learners to build and develop specific skills. Each exercise built on the platform involves several stages that mirror key aspects of successful live training:


  1. The Challenge: Learners watch a short, real-world video scenario. Learners then record a video role-playing a response to the scenario, and in the process, practice the skill multiple times to get their response just right on video.

  2. Peer Review: Learners watch a pre-set number of randomly selected peer submissions, evaluate each submission with an Instructor-generated rubric, and leave written feedback. A study performed by Pennsylvania State University assessed the reliability and validity of peer grading, and determined that the average of five peer grades was consistent with those given by instructors.

  3. Model Response and Self-Reflection: Learners view a model response to the challenge and have the opportunity to reflect on their own practice, specifically areas of weakness and strength.

Whether the learners are geographically dispersed across the world in the MOOC context or taking this course from the same city in the blended learning context at UCSF, learners practice their skills on their platform asynchronously. The platform creates a social learning environment, providing learners with the opportunity to practice and learn within a community of their peers, regardless of location or schedule.

Morgan Loewith, Customer Success Manager at Practice, will demonstrate the ins and outs of how to teach and learn on Practice’s video and mobile learning platform and discuss Practice’s learning methodology and the UPenn and UCSF use cases in detail.

Morgan will engage with the participants with questions and answers throughout the presentation, and a designated Q&A session toward the end.

Slides will be provided during the presentation and posted to the conference website.