Blogging for student engagement
Many academics already use blogs to communicate with their students, peers and wider communities. But what about using blogs to generate student engagement and offer alternative forms of assessment to more conventional tests and essay? Let’s review some of the advantages that blogs may offer, and some useful guidelines for introducing student blogs to coursework using Learn’s blog tool.
While blogs can provide a focal point for students to wrestle with ideas and observations arising from course material, it is the public nature of blogs that makes them suitable for generating student-student or student–instructor interactions. While they may stimulate interaction between members of a course, they can also be setup as assignments for easy grading and feedback. Since they are generally written in an informal style, they’re suitable for a variety of purposes, such as reflective posts, constructing arguments or to experiment with ideas. Blackstone and Harwood (2011) suggest the following benefits to students:
- developing written communication skills
- supporting peer learning
- helping students to develop a critical voice
- helping students to develop confidence in writing about new topics
- practising writing for a non-academic purposes
- generating a repository of information and ideas, which all students can draw on (not unlike a wiki)
- fostering a ‘community of practice’, where students can develop a sense of participation
In addition they may provide an opportunity for collaborative writing, and give students valuable experience in correct etiquette when leaving feedback to each other’s posts.
Where to start
Setting up a blog space in Learn is relatively straightforward. For a demonstration visit these resources in Media Hopper:
As with reflective journals, students are unlikely to use blogs unless there is a rationale and clear guidelines for their use. In the case where they are assessed, a clear rubric should be provided, and how they align with the course outcomes should probably be made clear.
Blogs support the use of a variety of media, and offer students some freedom to choose how they would like to create and share their posts i.e. through text, audio, video, image, or a blend. So students may need some room for experimentation with their preferred media. As a result, guidelines also shouldn’t be too prescriptive.
Being public, there is an expectation that students’ posts will be read. Establishing up a peer-review requirement is a sensible way to do this. But it also falls to the course instructor to read and provide feedback to students’ posts.
Blackstone, Brad & Harwood, Chris. (2011). Pedagogical Blogging for University Courses.
Global Perspectives, Local Initiatives – Reflections and Practices in ELT, Chapter: 6, Publisher: Published in Conference Proceedings CELC Symposium 2010, National University of Singapore, pp.67-85