Student Blogging in 072
4 September 2007 1 Comment
I continued with the use of blogging as part of each student’s assessment during 072. There was a class of 8 in INFT338 Programming Web Applications and this time I allocated 7% of the marks for the blogging assessment. Although a blogging facility was made available in iLearn it was not possible for public, web-based blog readers like Google Reader (the recommended RSS feed aggregator) to access the iLearn blogs. Instead public blogging services, mainly edublogs.com, were used very successfully.
Twenty blog entries over 12 weeks were still required but the major innovation was the addition of ten blogging tasks each to be answered with a single blog entry. These blogging tasks were set a week in advance which allowed them to be matched to the overall progress of the class. I used the tasks to provide more in-depth study of particular topics to supplement in-class work or to prepare the students more fully for practical work in assignments. Some task types included:
- list previous programming experience
- watch on online video and comment on the main points covered
- research a specific technology from provided sources and summarise
- read textbook chapters and answer a series of questions
- read sections of an online text containing code and construct a short program using the code (this ability to copy code from an online text is of immense value)
Over half the class completed all their blog entries and took to blogging with enthusiasm. As usual they chose the topic of the other half of their blog entries. Some selected information technological advances that were reported by the week, others commented on their studies, their progress and problems faced – all of valuable to the class as a whole. Of particular importance were a number of entries introducing related topics not covered in the class together with associated links to resources such as examples and tutorials.
In an end of semester survey students were asked to comment on their use of both the discussion forum and their blogs. 75% of students responded. Over 80% of the respondents accessed their own and other students’ blogs more than twice per week. The same proportion agreed or strongly agreed that blogs were beneficial to their learning. Only one student was ambivalent about the usefulness of the blogging tasks which were praised by the other respondents. One remarked ‘The blogging task was a great way to learn something new every week’; another commented ‘I actually learnt a fair lot from the blogging tasks. For example, i think one of the tasks was to review a couple of chapters… it helped me grasp that information that much better when it came round to studying it again’. However a couple of comments indicated that spending sufficient time on blogging tasks was difficult towards semester end as assignments in this and other subjects required a lot more time.
Half the respondents felt they would continue to blog into the future once their blogging assessment was finished. This is an improvement on previous semesters but shows that blogging is not universally welcomed.
I was much happier with the blogging outcomes during 072. The specific blogging tasks proved successful. As always there is scope for improvement and I will introduce an additional requirements to comment on other students’ blog entries in the next semester perhaps including them in the blogging tasks. The standard of textual composition was an improvement on previous semesters and the growing tendency to include structured data like code and data and images also led to better blog entries. I am definitely encouraged to continue with the blogging experiment.
My blogtrail on this topic, ie previous entry in this series:
Other entries of relevance:
- Blogging for teaching – paper summary
- Participating in an Online Discussion About Blogging in Education