Blogs

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Blogs as a form of online assessment require students to write short pieces ('posts'), often continuously throughout a course (weekly or bi-weekly). These are posted publically online, or in an enclosed blog area on Moodle where the class can read them (and potentially comment on them). Blogs are a flexible tool, allowing teachers to elicit different forms of writing from students (for example, a brief response to a course text, or a short specific argument). They are particularly useful to check students’ capacity to present complex ideas in an accessible format; develop their writing skills, and enhance their capacity to express original ideas. They promote engagement and progress across the length of the course, and can also be used for more continuous assessment.

Advantages of blogs

 

  • Blogging requires students to write for a wider audiences, a useful transferrable employability skill.
  • Blogging can increase writing confidence by requiring students to write more frequently, and to use writing as an aid to thinking (Farmer et al, 2008).
  • Writing posts, and reading peers’ posts, develops students’ understanding, argument, and reflection on the topics of the course.
  • Posts can function later as aids to revision.
  • Blogs allow for the presentation and discussion of a wider range of material than (for example) essays (including film and audio).
  • Online discussion allows quieter students to contribute to course debates. Students reading each other’s blogs helps to build a learning community among course participants (in Farmer et al, 2008, students reported this as the most valuable aspect).
    • Students can be expected (or required by the marking criteria) to comment on one another’s posts.
    • Blogging may increase interaction during contact hours (Davi et al., 2007).

Challenges of blogs

 

  • Students will require clear guidance, and ideally some examples, to understand and use an appropriate level of scholarly discussion.
  • Writing in a less formal style is a new skill for many students, particularly those with English as an additional language.
  • Regular writing could take time from other academic work (although setting blog tasks which directly relate to weekly readings can minimise this, and potentially increase student preparation).
  • Poor time management and a large blog workload could lead to token posts or comments.
  • Depending on the platform, students may require training so as to reduce any user fears.
  • If blogging publically, students may experience negative comments from the public (it may be best to blog within a contained environment such as Moodle).

How students might experience blogs

Students may feel that the skills required by blogging (accessible, concise, specialist writing) are more transferrable than those developed by essays or exams and a well-written blog can be used as a showcase for future employers. Public blogging can bring students into contact and conversation with a wider community around a specific topic, including practitioners, academics, and members of the public. However, students who feel proficient at essays and exams may be anxious about failing a less familiar assessment task and impacting their overall results.

Reliability, validity, fairness and inclusivity of blogs

The process of assessing through blogs can be enhanced by setting clear criteria and communicating them to students in advance, with models/examples. If peers are expected to comment on one another's work, guidance on this should also be provided. It is important to consider the fairness of the word count: 10 posts of 300 words each may well be harder to generate than a 3000 word essay, as each post requires specific reading and an original argument or point. A greater range of word count than is normal for essays is suitable for blog posts (it allows students to adapt to a new style of writing, and a variation in the length of posts is normal in blogs). Decide on deadlines and mechanisms for checking blogs early on and share these with students (a single end-of-term deadline may lead to students writing all their posts in a short space of time). Writing in a less formal style may be challenging to students for whom English is not their first language.

How to maintain and ensure rigour in blogs

As with other written work, marking and moderation should follow departmental practice, but the volume of writing may pose a challenge. Early feedback from an academic can ensure students work at the right level from near the start of the course, and could give students additional perspective on their posts. The content of blogs at the time of assessment should be captured, in case of future queries or appeals.

How to limit possible misconduct in blogs

Grounding blog writing tasks in other aspects of the course (readings, lectures, class discussion or student research) makes comparable material harder to find or purchase. Blog posts can be submitted to Turnitin, but this may require students or staff to paste the text into a new document.

LSE examples

Further resources

Davi, A., Frydenberg, M. and Gulati, G.J. (2007) Blogging across the disciplines: Integrating technology to enhance liberal learning. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 3(3). Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol3no3/frydenberg.htm

Farmer, B., Yue, A. and Brooks, C. (2008) Using blogging for higher order learning in large cohort university teaching: A case study. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 24(2): 123–136.

LSE Teaching and Learning Centre Guidance on Blogging for learning and assessment

LTI Guidance on blogs for assessment

 

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