Purpose Interest is currently growing in open social learner modeling (OSLM), which means making peer models and a learner's own model visible to encourage users in e-learning. The purpose of this study is to examine students' views about the OSLM in an e-learning system. Design/methodology/approach This case study was conducted with 40 undergraduate students enrolled in advanced programming and database management system courses. A Likert-type questionnaire and open-ended questions were used to obtain the students' views. System usage data were also analyzed to ensure the richness and diversity of the overall data set. Findings The quantitative data of the students' views were analyzed with descriptive statistics; the results are presented as graphics. The qualitative data of the students' views were examined by content analysis to derive themes. These themes are organized into four subtopics: the students' positive views, their negative views, their improvement suggestions and their preferences about using similar OSLM visualizations in other e-learning systems. The students' subjective views are discussed in the context of their recorded interactions with the system. Research limitations/implications Competition due to seeing peer models was considered by participants both as positive and negative features of the learning system. So, this study revealed that, the ways to combine peer learner models to e-learning systems that promote positive competition without resulting social pressure, still need to be explored. Practical implications By combining open learner models with open peer models, OSLM enhances the learning process in three different ways: it supports self-regulation, encourages competition and empowers self-evaluation. To take advantage of these positive contributions, practitioners should consider enhancing e-learning systems with both own learner and peer model features. Originality/value Despite increasing interest in OSLM studies, several limitations and problems must be addressed such as sparsity of data and lack of study of different contexts and cultures. To date, no published study in this area exists in Turkey. The purpose of this study is to fill this gap by examining OSLM features in an e-learning system from the perspectives of Turkish students by using both their system interaction data and their subjective views.