What is it?
Blogs are online platforms that allow users to write and publish material to the internet. Blogging is the act of writing regularly to such a platform where posts are presented in reverse chronological order so that the newest material appears on top. Blogging developed as a reflective tool where authors can share thoughts, link to others writing on the same themes and receive comments to further aid further discussion.
In education, blogs have developed as a means for staff and students to share reflections and resources, with some being devised for assessment purposes.
How might I use it?
Blogs can be incorporated into programmes to give learners opportunities to:
- develop critical writing skills
- support their peers by reading and commenting on posts
- improve writing skills aimed at varied audiences
- create resources which can be used for revision or review
- exchange ideas and information with others
- seek responses from, or respond to, other bloggers who may be experts in the field
- demonstrate their understanding of a given topic
Blogs can also be used by research project teams to keep a journal of project developments, or by students on placement to record their activities and development.
There are a number of blogging tools available. You can review them at Top Tools for Learning, search for 'blog'. If you have many students blogging then you might want to consider using an online aggregator or curation tool so that you can easily see updated content by your students. Consider Feedly or Flipboard.
Moodle also includes a blogging tool across the whole site. It can be accessed in Moodle courses via the Blog Menu block which can be added to course pages (by configuring the Course Toolkit). You can choose for blog posts to be visible by anyone who has access to Moodle or only to yourself (and administrators).
Within Moodle there is also a discussion forum type called "Standard forum displayed in a blog-like format" which provides simple blog functionality.
- Using WordPress to to support individual student blogs and peer assessment as part of a third-year Anthropology course summative assessment (LSE)
- JohnsBlog - an Open University student blogs through their course. See this post reflecting on the use of blogs in this way.
How do staff and students use it effectively?
Dr Oliver Walton (University of Bath) has written guidelines that set out 6 tips for using blogs in higher education developed from his TDF project in 2016; ‘Learning from Blogs – evaluating the learning and teaching benefits of using blogs in higher education'.
What are the pros & cons?
- Students can reflect on their learning and receive feedback from peers, staff and the wider world (if required)
- Writing skills can be developed through regular practice
- Views from within the field can be gathered
- A professional digital presence can be developed which, combined with social media channels such as LinkedIn and Twitter, can present a picture for prospective employers
- There needs to be a clear purpose for writing a blog and students need to write regularly in order to encourage others to engage in discussion
- Students need to bear in mind prospective audiences in order to set the right tone
- Anyone unfamiliar with blogging may be anxious about sharing to the 'public' at first
The following videos from Vanderbilt University (Oliver and Coble, 2016.) describe how blogs were included in a course, and what the outcomes were.
Oliver, K. H. and Coble, R. R., 2016. Teaching with Blogs. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. [Online]. Available from: https://cft.vanderbilt.edu//cft/guides-sub-pages/teaching-with-blogs/