Blogs have greatly contributed to the explosion of content created and shared on the internet. I, myself, couldn’t count the number of hours I’ve spent reading blogs about everything from recipes to research. There are many academic applications for blogs. Blogs allow students to easily publish and share content, foster writing and presentation skills, and help faculty facilitate peer learning and discourse. Blog writing can also encourage the personal reflection and processing of content that is critical to deeper learning. Though the potential uses are endless, blogging requires commitment from the instructor and students to be successful and worthwhile. To help you use your time wisely, I have gathered resources and advice for you here.
How do you know if blogging would work well in your course? There is no easy answer to that question; however, before assigning a blog activity, instructors should critically analyze the purpose of the activity. Any blogging project should be in support of the course’s learning objectives and enhance meaningful communication. Expectations and processes for the activity should be defined up front. In most cases, technology hurdles should be minimal, allowing students to focus on the content and not the tool. It is also important to analyze the audience for student writing. Will these blogs be private to the class or shared openly on the web? How you design your assignment will depend entirely on your unique needs.
If you’re worried about the time commitment of reading and assessing blogs, consider the following ideas and strategies:
- If possible, start small. A class blog can be supported by rotating one or two student authors each week.
- If appropriate, skip the analytic grading and assign simple participation points for blogs mainly used for reflection or journaling. Don’t forget to post a few short comments. Students want to know you are reading what they are writing.
- If students are regularly blogging all semester, have them submit their top 3 blog posts to be officially graded at the end of the term.
- If you have a high volume of posts to manage, try “randomly” grading just a few posts each week, while quickly skimming the un-graded posts. Be sure to make students aware of this grading procedure.
- Try using a holistic rubric to quickly provide feedback on the quality of student posts. An example is provided here for you to modify and use.
- Consider using Twitter when frequent, super-short communication is appropriate. It can be very engaging and encourage concise, well-planned responses.
WordPress, Google Blogger, and Twitter are three tools to explore for student blogs. I would suggest examining each option to see which one might best fit the needs of your assignment.
There are many resources available to help you make the most of student blogs. If you are interested in learning more about blog assignments, I encourage you to read “Develop and Implement a Course Blog” or “Getting Started with Student Blogs: Tips for the Digital Immigrant”. If you would like to know more about managing and grading student blogs, check out some of the many fantastic posts by the ProfHacker team for the Chronicle of Higher Ed, such as “‘How are you going to grade this?’ Evaluating Classroom Blogs”. And of course, the Instructional Technologies team at PLU provides consultations and workshops for faculty interested in blogging. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, time to blog!
Originally published 11/26/2014 in PLU’s Instructional Technologies blog