The two examples I looked at were that of Eric Mazur on Peer Instruction – a technique which I have some familiarity with – and the HapTEL dental simulator. I’m not sure that there is a fair comparison of which is “more powerful” – both offer significant advances as learning experiences compared to that which they replace but in very different contexts.
Peer Instruction – and the inverted classroom/Just in Time Teaching model which usually goes alongside it – deals with turning a lecture into an active learning experience and as such it can be implemented in many subject disciplines. It’s about recognising that lectures were introduced as a compromise to counter a lack of resources (copies printed reading material), a limitation which the internet means no longer needs to exist. This means that we can get students to learn the material in more engaging ways where they are less passive and thus more likely to learn the concepts and be able to apply them. Peer Instruction works well because students have to actively participate in the session, and have to defend their answer to a peer and hear their explanation. We’ve often seen that as students begin to explain their answer, the penny drops and they realise why their original answer was wrong.
The HapTEL system relates more to practical classes and so is a solution to a niche problem. I can see the benefit of something similar in other healthcare disciplines where practicing on a real patient is not appropriate. Perhaps something similar could be used to allow students to practice administering injections for example.
I think they both offer something very powerful to the learning experience, but to comment on one being more powerful than the other would be comparing apples and oranges. On some courses it could be very appropriate to use both of these approaches, Peer Instruction in the lectures to facilitate learning of the theory and HapTEL to facilitiate the practicals.