Frequently Asked Questions ComPAIR Home

ComPAIR has been used for peer review in active courses at the University of British Columbia and other institutions since 2014. These are common questions from instructors, students, and support staff that have come up over the years.


To answer our #1 question first:
YES! Anyone can use or modify ComPAIR free of charge,
as it is an open source application

Instructor questions

What makes ComPAIR different than other peer review applications?
ComPAIR asks students to review peer work in pairs. This allows student to use their inherent ability to compare to more easily recognize strengths and weaknesses of the work presented. This feature sets ComPAIR apart from other tools, but does not necessarily make it better, as that depends on the context. ComPAIR may not be the right tool for instructors who want a granular and/or contextualized peer assessment (i.e., marking and commenting on work directly), but it works very well for a holistic approach to reviewing peer work.
Are assignments / peer reviews anonymous?
ComPAIR by default encourages peer-to-peer anonymity by giving students anonymous display names when they register. Additionally, no identifying information (including display names) is shown during comparisons, meaning the peer review step is always anonymous, as long as students don't identify themselves in how they answer. You can reinforce anonymity by reminding students not to put identifying information in their display names or in their answers (especially if these are file uploads). Or, if you prefer students see each other's names after the reviewing step concludes, tell students to use their real names as their display names.
How are comparisons assigned?
ComPAIR automatically selects answer pairs according to the option you choose when creating or editing an assignment; pairs cannot be assigned manually. The selection options are "Adaptive" (tracks dynamic scores for each answer and pairs similarly-scored answers) or "Random" (pairs answers based on chance alone). With either option, students will not review their own (or their group's) answer in the pairs, and all answers will appear in roughly the same number of pairs, meaning each will receive about the same amount of peer feedback.
How best can I develop the criteria for students to use in comparisons?
Start with your learning outcomes and think about how seeing other work will help students get there—what do you want students to learn from each other? Keep in mind how experienced the students in the course will be, and use criteria at a difficulty level the majority will be able to understand. Consider also if your goal is more summative or formative. Harder, more complex and numerous criteria may be better for summative uses (critically looking at final work). Softer, more straightforward and limited criteria may be better for formative uses (constructively looking at drafted work). Instructors generally stick with between 1-6 total criteria, and some advise using an odd number to discourage students from selecting a "tie" between answers.
How do I enable scores in ComPAIR? / Why don't I see scores in ComPAIR?
To enable the tracking of answer scores, choose the "Adaptive" answer pair selection option (the default) when creating or editing an assignment. Note that this cannot be changed once comparing begins. Scores are not tracked (and therefore not visible) if the "Random" answer pair selection option is used. This is because when answers are paired randomly with one another, an unreasonable number of comparisons is required to produce a meaningful score to display.
Can I use the scores for marking?
ComPAIR's main focus is to help students effectively review peer work and write insightful feedback using the power of comparison. However, some instructors have chosen to use ComPAIR's scoring/ranking of answers for grading, primarily by chunking the answers into rough top, middle, and bottom groups and assigning a grade to each. We caution against relying on ComPAIR scores without any additional validation. Our internal research so far indicates that ComPAIR may not reliably map to traditional grading, as it ultimately relies on the skills and training of novices (students) to provide accurate, well-informed rankings of their peers' answers.
How should I evaluate assignments?
Many instructors grade students with some combination of: 1) their participation in the process (i.e., completing the answering, comparing, and/or self-evaluating steps) and 2) the quality of the work they do through ComPAIR. Assessing quality may mean reviewing the answers students initially submit, looking at the thoroughness and thoughtfulness of their peer feedback and/or self-evaluations, or considering (or having students explain) how peer feedback informs a revised/later work they submit. Many instructors have found success with adding weight for how much effort students put into writing the feedback, as this increases students' sense of accountability in providing quality constructive criticism.
How do I create a group assignment?
Select the group option when creating or editing an assignment, and make sure you've set up the right number of groups in ComPAIR to work with the number of comparisons you require. Note that this cannot be changed once answering begins. When you use a group assignment, one answer will be requested from each group, but each group member must complete the required comparisons and self-evaluation (if enabled) individually.
How do I submit on behalf of a student / deal with late answers for an assignment?
To submit on behalf of a student, click the "Answer" button for the assignment, then select the student's name from the "Submit As" dropdown. From the students' perspective, these submissions will appear as their own, and they will see all peer feedback left for these answers.
Can I or the students edit / delete / flag existing answers?
You always have the ability to edit or delete existing answers. Students can edit or delete their own answer up until the point that answering ends or comparing begins (whichever comes first). ComPAIR does not offer built-in flagging at this time. If students encounter an answer during comparing that seems inappropriate, they can write a comment in the peer feedback box (indicating the answer requires instructor review) and notify their instructor outside of ComPAIR to go in and review.

Student questions

Why can't I log in?
First, confirm your registration in the course using ComPAIR. For UBC students, see if you have access to the course in Canvas; if you can't access the course in Canvas, contact UBC IT support. Second, if your course uses an external site (like Canvas), make sure you enter the application initially by clicking the ComPAIR link from that site. This properly activates your ComPAIR account for the course. If your course does not use an external site, contact your instructor or TA for help. They may need to manually add you to ComPAIR.
Am I anonymous in ComPAIR?
Instructors and TAs will always know who is who in ComPAIR, but the application by default encourages peer-to-peer anonymity by giving you an anonymous display name when you register. Additionally, no identifying information (including display names) is shown during comparisons, meaning the peers who review your answer do not see your name. You can ensure your anonymity with peers by not putting identifying information in your display name or in your answer submissions (especially if these are file uploads).
Why can't I answer / compare / self-evaluate?
Each phase of a ComPAIR assignment may have a hard start and end date. If you missed the period to answer, compare, or self-evaluate, you will be unable to complete that phase, although an instructor may agree to upload an answer on your behalf (if you have already created a ComPAIR account). Additionally, if you missed answering, you will be unable to self-evaluate, since ComPAIR will think you have nothing to evaluate.
Can I undo / redo / edit an answer?
Once you submit an answer, you can edit or delete (and then re-submit) it up until the point that answering ends or comparing begins (whichever comes first). Only one answer is allowed per assignment.
When picking an answer in a comparison, does the other student get a bad mark?
No, your choice does not directly assign a mark to either answer. Depending on how instructors set up ComPAIR assignments, the application may track a score for each answer. However, this score is influenced by how answers are chosen in all the pairs they appear in, not just the ones you see and respond to.
Can I undo / redo / edit a comparison?
Once you submit a comparison, you cannot change your answer selection or peer feedback for that answer pair. However, if you happen to see the same answer again in a later answer pair, you will have to option to revise your peer feedback for that answer only.
Where can I find my peer feedback?
Once you click into any assignment, you should see a tab called "Your Answer + Its Feedback". Peer feedback will appear underneath your answer, with private feedback visible only to you (and the instructors/TAs) and public feedback visible to everyone. If you don't see much (or any) feedback, your answer was likely submitted late and couldn't be included in many (or any) comparisons for feedback.
What can I do if I disagree with my peer feedback?
If your instructor has enabled additional feedback, you will see an "Add Feedback" button near your answer in the "All Answers" tab when you click into the assignment. You can leave a reply to your reviewers by clicking this button and checking the "Show this feedback to the whole class" option underneath the comment box. If this feature is not enabled, there is no way to communicate with your reviewers through ComPAIR. However, you can address the feedback with your instructor when filling out a self-evaluation (if required) or messaging your instructor outside of ComPAIR.

Technical questions

Where can I get UBC-specific help with using ComPAIR?
UBC faculty, staff, and students can email compair.support@ubc.ca or contact the Learning Technology Hub for one-on-one assistance. All issues small or large can be reported at these contact points, and support staff will escalate any unresolved problems to the development team.
How do I get ComPAIR working at my school/university?
ComPAIR is a FREE, self-hosted application, meaning it does not run from one central location for everyone; the code needs to be downloaded and installed locally. Technical folks can check out our get started documentation for installation options.
Can you help with setup at my school/university?
If you have specific questions about setup not answered in our documentation or Github README , please post them to our ComPAIR Google group , which is actively monitored by the UBC ComPAIR team and community.
Where is the student data stored? / Is storage compliant with academic privacy policies?
At UBC, the ComPAIR student data is stored on Canadian servers located on campus, making this application fully compliant (i.e., in accordance with FIPPA). If you're external to UBC, please contact your IT for information about the local storage situation.
What browsers does this application support?
Supported browsers currently include Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and IE9+.
Is ComPAIR mobile-friendly?
ComPAIR uses responsive design, meaning it adjusts to fit the size of the screen it is used on. This makes it mobile-friendly and without having to download a special app; instead, anyone can go directly to the URL from their mobile device. That said, the comparisons may be easier for students on larger screens, where they can see both answers side-by-side.

Additional resources

Try the demo   Download our code

Get to know ComPAIR

ComPAIR is an open-source peer review application that pairs student answers for deeper learning through comparison of peer work

  • Understand the assignment workflow in the application from instructor and student perspectives.
  • Read about real-life examples » from English, Physics, and Math courses at the University of British Columbia.
  • Learn about the recommended best practices » based on experience and research so far.
  • Get started with basic documentation » for using ComPAIR as a standalone application or as an integration.
  • Explore frequently asked questions from instructor, student, and technical perspectives.
  • Try Demo   Download Code