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Blogging in Higher Education

Blogging as an academic and teaching tool has been gaining attention and becoming accepted as a method of reflection and assessment in Higher Education. In their research on feedback and peer and self-assessment activities, Hatzipanagos and Warburton (2009) found that blogs “by their nature, place the student at the centre of the educational process as an active participant in constructing knowledge”.

So what it is blogging all about?

A blog (a truncation of the expression weblog) is a website with content regularly updated by a single author and published to share with others, encouraging interaction through comments. Entries are generally written to be informal, reflective, and moderate in length from 300-1000 words (although this varies).

Blogs are organised in reverse-chronological order from the most recent post, or entry, to the least recent.

There are several reasons why blogging can be a useful tool for learning and teaching:

  • Blogging about what you’ve seen or done is a great way to develop reflective practice.
  • Blogging about events, tasks, learning content, or activities, helps to remember them more clearly in the future, and that’s useful when working towards assessments and qualifications.
  • Blogging is a great space to practice and use new vocabularies and concepts.
  • Blogging across a community can positively impact on the whole group’s development by encouraging further exploration and discussion of ideas and experiences.

Additional bonuses for educators:

  • Student blogs can assist in gauging levels of understanding prior to classes and tutorials.
  • Blogging can encourage student groups to get to know each other and interact faster.
  • Blogging can be incorporated into assessments and participation hurdles.

At The University of Edinburgh blogging has been used in our courses in with a variety of methods and approaches.

The PG Arabic language courses incorporate reflective blog posts and microblogging for students to practice vocabulary use and grammar structures. Read student feedback on the E-Arabic Learners Portal.

After finding that students were turning up to tutorials underprepared the School of Divinity used blogs across the School’s undergraduate and taught Master postgraduate programmes. Each week the lead student posts a blog analysing that week’s text. The other students are then required to comment on the blog post before the tutorial. The result was that “everyone was much more engaged, and they ‘hit the ground running’”. Read more about the School of Divinity tutorial preparation blogs.

The fully online distance course, MSc in E-Learning, from the School of Education created an open access blog environment, using ELGG and then WordPress to help create communities and collaborative assessments. Read about the MSc in E-Learning’s use of blogging for community.

The University of Edinburgh provides supported tools with blogging capabilities, including Learn (Blackboard) and PebblePad, where students can create and share blogs with teachers and classmates, or write more private reflective journals.

How to use Blogs in Learn (Blackbaord)

How to use Journals in Learn (Blackboard)

PDF and Video guides on creating content and blogs with PebblePad

 

Additionally, there are a number of external tools available including WordPress and ELGG as used by the MSc In E-Learning.

 

If you’re considering using blogs as part of your teaching and assessment take the time to:

  • Ensure that the use is pedagogically driven and embedded.
  • Create guidelines and requirements around acceptable behaviour.
  • Be very clear in expectations of student participation and output.
  • Create practice examples and prompts to assist students in understanding what is required.
  • Read through the ‘Before you start’ guidance on Social Media for teaching in HE.

 

 

References

Hatzipanagos, S. and Warburton, S. (2009).  Feedback as dialogue: exploring the links between formative assessment and social software in distance learning.  Learning, Media and Technology, 34(1) pp. 45-59, http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/17439884.asp

 

Header image: cropped wocintech stock – 191WOCinTech Chat (Flickr), CC BY 2.0

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