Friday, August 12, 2011

Blogging in the Classroom

I have been assigning blogs instead of discussion board in my online and web blended courses. It a bit of a hybrid of journals and discussion. Blackboard's blogging tool works just fine. While it's not as flashy as blogs out on the open web, you can post pictures and add hyperlinks.

The comment section can also function just like a discussion board. I assign a range of topics related to course work and readings, and allow a certain number of "random" topics so they can write about anything they'd like, including their personal lives if they so choose.

Once we begin working on research papers, I ask them to use their blogs as way to build content by referencing an article, quoting from it, and then adding their response/interpretation. The following is from my syllabus:

During the semester you will maintain a blog. I will ask you to reflect on a range of subjects related to writing, assigned readings, and topics of your choosing.

“Blog” is short for “weblog,” which is a relatively new coinage meaning, in a sense, “a log of activity on the web” in much the same way that a ship’s log records activity on a ship or a diary records activity in one’s life. In that sense, you will be writing both about yourself and external topics from the web.

You will post 2-3 entries per week, sometimes more or less, as assigned, until you reach 30 entries some time in the last two weeks of the course. Blogging will count as three hundred points out of 1000 for the semester. You score will be based on completing 30 entries and on being active in the comment section of your classmates' blogs.

Think of these blogs as writing practice. I will not be grading them based on their grammatical correctness or their polish, just scoring them based on your rate of completion. Basically, I want you to do them. In so doing, you will be generating text and ideas for the essays, practicing your writing, and hopefully expanding your capacity for reflection and critical thinking.

For each blog post, you will be asked to:
1) Post an entry based on course material, either in response to an article or a discussion topic.
2) Comment on other students’ blogs.
3) Respond to comments left on your blog.

Here are some guidelines to help you earn maximum points for your blog score at the end of the semester:

1) Write a minimum of 250 words per entry. (Writing more is welcome and may actually put you at an advantage when searching for material for the essays.)
2) Reference one or more of the following in each entry: a topic from class, an article on the Web, another student’s blog, another student’s blog comments, or anything else you have read (please include the hyperlink when appropriate or possible).
3) Write comments in response to the blog entries of your group members. Comments need not adhere to the criteria for posts established in #’s 1-3 immediately above. Try to post 2-3 comments on the blogs of other students per assigned topic.


  1. How easy is it on Blackboard to grade blogs? Are you able to grade the comments individually like you do with discussions boards?

  2. You can grade the blogs from the same screen you view them on. You can leave grading comments too. Mostly, I just make sure they are writing about a min 250 words. I set it up as one total grade for the semester, and then update the scores as we go along, every so often. Otherwise it's just a lot of grading. If someone starts off writing blogs that are too short, I let them know. But I don't take much time to go over them with a fine-tooth comb. 15 students X 30 blogs x 250 words is like well over 100,000 words. The real benefit is in them getting some consistent writing practice and in interacting with the class. I try to keep up writing some blogs too as well and leaving them plenty of comments in the comment thread. I don't mess with a rubric or anything with the blogs since I kind of view it as "non-graded" writing or practice work. I think it's helpful for them write for in a casual way that I'm not really grading (for quality anyway). I also try to emphasize that they can go back and pull material from their own blogs for the papers, so that the blogs become free-writing/brainstorm, and they go through a revision process.

  3. I like your grading method. It's the high school teacher in me to feel the need to grade every word students write, but that becomes tedious and I find myself spending more time grading than interacting/commenting on their posts.
    I am excited to try blogging this semester.
    My last request(and then I'll leave you alone) is that you share a few blog topics that get good responses.

  4. We spend time early in the semester flogging about writing...their strengths, weaknesses, habits, routines, things they've struggled with in the past. I try to get them to open up by acknowledging the general lack of enthusiasm students feel for writing and why that might be. One thing I've done is have them create a list of 10 writing tips based on some similar lists I've found from professional writers. Later in the semester they're mainly blogging about their research topics.