Tips for Using Blogs to Improve Student Outcomes

Blog imageKendall Kelly, Assistant Professor of English, Writing, and Rhetoric, is our guest blogger for this post:

Student blogging can create valuable learning opportunities.  Blogs can provide students the chance to work on particular skills like writing, audience analysis, or critical thinking, or engage a text or project in an asynchronous, low-stakes manner.  They give students a medium to engage classmates and allow the instructor to informally evaluate student comprehension before class begins.  However, to facilitate student learning, instructors need to use blogs properly.  Below I’ve listed some tips to maximize student learning.

  1. Write a prompt for each blog.
  2. Set a due date that gives students time to respond to one another’s blogs.
  3. Require students to respond to one another’s blogs.
  4. Set quality and quantity guidelines i.e. two paragraphs that analyze the salient point with evidence from the text.
  5. Grade every blog, every time. (I usually assign a point value to each blog and student response and just add them up as I go.  And I give extra credit to good blogs. )
  6. Integrate the information from the blogs into your lectures.  (Give a student a shout out for a good blog or even invite him or her to start class discussion.)
  7. Blogs are iterative and essentially collaborative (i.e. everyone’s reading everyone else’s blog), so one or two good bloggers can raise the bar for the class, and one or two bad bloggers can drag the class down.
  8. Use Blackboard for student blogs if possible.
    1. Blackboard allows you to give student grades.  They see their grade go up with each blog which encourages them to write the next blog.
    2. You also have the opportunity to give students private feedback on Blackboard, so if their blogs aren’t quite up to snuff, you can let them know.  Blogs are an iterative process, so if they don’t initially do well, they have the opportunity to improve.
    3. Blackboard will count blogs and comments for you.
    4. Blackboard will keep track of the grade and just put it in the grade sheet, if you set it up properly.
    5. And the blogs will only be available to the class which creates a safe place to write and keeps crazy outsiders from making inappropriate comments or using student information for nefarious purposes.
    6. Blackboard won’t allow students to post video (or at least it hasn’t in the past) or audio files so it may not work for every situation.  SEUfolios will allow multi-modal media and let students manipulate the format, so it might work for those assignments.

Note: WordPress Blogs are also available to St. Edward’s University, faculty, students, and staff through http://sites.stedwards.edu/blogs/ These sites can be set up as individual blogs or a group of blogs can be set up for a class. Contact Instructional Technology for more information.

References: Image available from Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blog_(1).jpg

About Rebecca Davis

Rebecca Frost Davis Director of Instructional and Emerging Technology Rebecca Frost Davis joined St. Edward’s in July 2013 as Director of Instructional and Emerging Technology, where she provides leadership in the development of institutional vision with respect to the use of technology in pursuit of the university’s educational mission and collaborates with offices across campus to create and execute strategies to realize that vision. Instructional Technology helps faculty transform and adapt new digital methods in teaching and research to advance the essential learning outcomes of liberal education. Previously, Dr. Davis served as program officer for the humanities at the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE), where she also served as associate director of programs. Prior to her tenure at NITLE, she was the assistant director for instructional technology at the Associated Colleges of the South Technology Center and an assistant professor of classical studies at Rhodes College, Denison University, and Sewanee: The University of the South. She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in classical studies from the University of Pennsylvania, and a B.A. (summa cum laude) in classical studies and Russian from Vanderbilt University. Dr. Davis is also a fellow with the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE). As a NITLE Fellow, Dr. Davis will develop a literature review relevant to intercampus teaching, which will cover contextual issues such as team-teaching, teaching through videoconferencing, and collaboration; a survey of intercampus teaching at NITLE member institutions; and several case studies of intercampus teaching at liberal arts colleges, including interviews with faculty, students, support staff, and administrators. This work will be summarized in a final report or white paper to be published by NITLE. At Rebecca Frost Davis: Liberal Education in a Networked World, (http://rebeccafrostdavis.wordpress.com/) Dr. Davis blogs about the changes wrought by new digital methods on scholarship, networking, and communication and how they are impacting the classroom. In her research, she explores the motivations and mechanisms for creating, integrating, and sustaining digital humanities within and across the undergraduate curriculum.
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