The “what” and “why” of Blogs
Blogs are typically viewed as personal, online journals. However, blogs can add value to the educational process and act as a formative assessment tool for instructors. Introducing students to digital literacy skills in the classroom helps prepare students for the 21st century. Students create and administer a web space. Blogs help to improve student writing and enhance critical and analytical thinking skills. Personally created blog sites can live beyond the course runtime, which allows students to create online portfolios and continued development.
How to use blogs in your class?
The instructor or the student can set up the blog. As an instructor-driven, classroom tool the interactions and activities are facilitated by the instructor and allows for more control of the content. When blogs are created and directed by the student, motivation increases to take an active part in the learning process. Either way, blogs allow students to develop communication skills and participate in peer-to-peer learning. Submissions can be enhanced with multimedia (e.g. presentation or screen capture) and link external resources (e.g. news article or YouTube video).
Additional uses for blogs in classrooms include:
- Discuss topics outside of class
- Continue classroom conversations
- Collaborative tool for group projects, such as creating a forum and group presentations
- Reflection, such as news article, research journal, or movie
- Coursework display or portfolio creation
Caveats to Consider
It is important that the blog meets the learning goal. Do students need to create their own blog site to meet the learning goal? Or can students achieve the learning goal through an instructor-driven blog where the instructor creates individual posts and drives the commentary?
In order to achieve the learning goals, the instructor could use individual student blogs, group blogs for team projects, or a class blog that everyone contributes to. However, it is important to distinguish between blogs and discussion boards. Blogs provide a way to catalog a student’s learning process. As the instructor, it is important to provide guidelines and directions to keep the blogs learning focused, but unlike discussion boards, the content students are publishing about are student-driven.
For example in a programming course, a student may document attempts at coding a project, reflect on the outcomes, ask peers for help or feedback, and publish the final project to an open source community, such as GitHub.
Ways to use blogs in your classroom:
- Provide further assignments for students to work on, such as some of the Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)
- Writing assignments
- Small groups write and post summaries of content covered in class to build a compendium for content covered over a semester
- Individual students to do their writing assignments in the form of blog posts
- Use blogs for peer learning. Encourage students to post comments and feedback on each others postings
- Students can build multimedia presentations that include video clips, audio, text, and images
- Teachers and students can create a section for website links and references to other interesting online content
- Use or embed activities, games, or puzzles to enrich students learning experiences
- Post your classroom guidelines and code of conduct on your classroom blog for students to review
- Publish course and lesson objectives
- Challenge your students to write, record, and post tutorials about certain concepts
- Post weekly challenges such as a riddle or brainteaser that require your students to think creatively and critically and improve problem-solving skills. Ask students to post their answers on the blog then discuss the solutions with the whole class at the end of the week.
*For more additional assignment prompts, view the article Course Blogs under Assignment Examples.*
Course Blog Assignment: Students will create individual course blogs by choosing from available blog sites. The students will retain ownership and post a direct link within the LMS (e.g. Blackboard, Canvas, Moodle). For an example of this assignment prompt and rubric, click here.
Set Up Course blog within Canvas:
- Create an assignment in the first week of class.
- Submission Type: Online.
- Online Entry Options: Website URL
- Display Grade as: Not Graded, Complete/Incomplete or low point value for completion
Set Up Course blog within Blackboard:
University College Learning Videos Blogs in Higher Education explains what is a blog and provides an overview of the Blackboard blog tool. For more information on the Blackboard Learn blog tool, please view the information provided in the online instructor guide from Blackboard.
Set Up Course blog within Moodle:
In Moodle, blogs are user based – each user has their own blog. External blog sites, such as Blogger and Wordpress, can be registered so entries are automatically included in Moodle. Click here for more information on using blogs in Moodle.
Additional Blog Sites:
Blog.com: Create a personal website that incorporates themes, widgets, multiple author options, and customized domain.
Google Blogger Getting Started Guide: Blogger is a free blog tool acquired by Google. It allows for the simple creation of a blog through a Google account.
Wordpress.com or Wordpress.org: WordPress was started as a blog tool and has been developed into a content management system (CMS). Users can download the full CMS through Wordpress.org and customize themes and features of their website. Or use Wordpress.com, which is the free, barebones version with community developed resources and streamlined options.
Weebly.com: Build blogs, websites, or eCommerce site using prebuilt themes that feature easy drag-and-drop styles.
WIX.com: Free website designs that feature drag-and-drop templates.