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Guide to Blogging

What is it?

  • Online diary (effectively a website)
  • The blog owner writes entries (posts)
  • Each post has a time and date attached. The reader scrolls down the webpage to see older posts
  • Usually includes links to other websites
  • Can include multimedia - images/video/audio
  • Comments - can enable comments from other users, either from anyone or from selected groups/individuals
  • Privacy - can be kept completely private to the blog owner; can be open to other selected users; can be completely open so anyone on the internet can view it.

Why use it?

Blogs set up and written by students can be a powerful tool for encouraging reflection and independent learning. They are similar to a paper-based diary but offer the possibility of online conversation and serving as a respository for digital resources and links to other websites.

Blogs run by staff can help focus in-class discussions; encourage debates to continue outside class; keep a record of seminars; and offer an additional way of disseminating information.

Teaching Ideas

Students might:

  • Reflect on their progress, making notes of any areas of difficulty
  • Provide weekly summaries of the readings for seminars.
  • Respond to questions posed in class
  • Teach and mentor other students
  • Record group progress on a project
  • Assemble and annotate a collection of digital resources. This could be files of their work that they have uploaded (e.g. Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, etc.) and/or links to other websites

Tutors might:

  • Discuss shared classroom experiences with students
  • Provide brief summaries of seminar discussions to preserve key teaching and learning moments and for providing an entry point for any student who was absent from the session.
  • Discuss assignment requirements with students
  • Disseminate key information about an upcoming event e.g. visiting speaker or a field trip.

Case Studies

Blogs at Birkbeck

  • Dr Edwin Bacon, Department of Politics, requires students to contribute to a public blog to accustom learners to the idea of participating in a public, online conversation.
  • Dr Wendy Hein, in the Department of Management, uses blogs for formative assessment.

Blogs Elsewhere

  • Case Studies of using Moodle¬†Campus Pack Blogs
  • Dr Mark Sample, Associate Professor of English at George Mason University, requires his postgraduate students to post a 500-word response to readings each week.
  • Beatriz Arias, from the¬†School of Modern Languages at the University of Bristol, requires Medical School students on hospital placements in Spain to contribute short posts in Spanish, reflecting on a typical day or on a case study. These posts are then used for a report written in Spanish which they submit 2 - 3 months later. Students report that using a blog in this way is very helpful.
  • Using blogs for a large cohort - the hub and spoke model. Boone B. Gorges teaches around 70 students on Intro to Philosophy and Intro to Ethics modules at Hofstra University. He puts students into groups of 5-6, and asks them to post to their blogs twice/week. Students read all the blog posts of other group members and are required to comment on them. Boone suggests that this practice has been highly successful in encouraging engagement and comaraderie amongst the students.

Assessing Blogs

Many of the case studies above use blogs for summative assessment, placing a comparatively small percentage of marks on the blog to encourage student engagement. If you want to assess blogs, here are some ideas for marking schemes:

  • The University of Wisconsin provides an extensive rubric.
  • Mark Sample from George Mason University, whose work is discussed above, has given details of his marking scheme.
  • Tim Horgan, lecturer at Cork Institute of Technology, has provided his rubric online.