Blogs are web-based platforms that host multiple posts, either from a single person or a group.
They can be key to assessments that involve: reflection; a prolonged group or individual project; development of writing and digital communications skills; content presented through a range of media.
The use of tools such as blogs reduces the risk of eleventh-hour exam cramming and of plagiarism or cheating, as students produce smaller pieces of work over the course of a module (or even programme), often referencing unique personal experience.
Blogs allow students to evidence the development of their skills, experience and understanding over an extended period of time. This could include:
- Reflection on their learning within or across modules throughout a term, year, or degree programme.
- Practice in writing and/or producing digital content (as formative or summative assessment, or as supplementary skills development).
- A log of their work on an extended project, especially including reflection on what they have learned each step of the way.
- Commenting on other students’ blogs (as a way of, e.g., practicing critical evaluation, benchmarking their own progress, or learning from others’ experiences).
Blogs also allow for collaborative work among a group of students. This could include:
- An informal space in which to share research and resources.
- A log of work on a group project, including each member’s contributions.
- A collaboratively compiled collection of posts around a topic or question.
Best Practice Tips
- Choose your platform carefully. University systems might be limited in what they can do in some respects, but they do not require a separate login, are backed up regularly and hold student data securely.
- Consider the learning outcomes for the exercise. For example, if the object is to encourage students to reflect on their learning and make connections across their experiences at university, a requirement to use a lot of images and video might distract them from the main goal of the blog.
- Plan how the exercise will be assessed. Design of a new form of assessment usually requires changes to the module descriptor, which could take a long time to be actioned. If you have a tight timeframe in which to introduce blog-based assessment, consider how the blog could impact current assessment methods. For example, students could be instructed to refer to their blogs when writing summative essays.
- Provide students with plenty of guidance. Students will need both technical instructions (how to access the blog; how to use the tool; how to comment on others’ blogs; etc.) and guidance on the assessment (what is and is not being assessed; formal or informal writing style; use of multimedia; expected frequency of posts; what ‘reflection’ means; etc.).
- Plan the marking process. Students will usually be able to edit their blogs after the deadline, so ensure that your marking process takes account of this (e.g. check the edit dates of blog posts; students provide PDFs or screenshots of their blogs; etc.).
Duarte, P. (2015) ‘The use of a group blog to actively support learning activities’, Active Learning in Higher Education, 16(2): 103-117.
Garcia, E., Elbeltagi, I., Brown, M. and Dungay, K. (2015) ‘The implications of a connectivist learning blog model and the changing role of teaching and learning’, British Journal of Educational Technology, 46(4): 877-894.
Yilmaz, F.G.K. and Keser, H. (2016) ‘The impact of reflective thinking activities in e-learning: A critical review of the empirical research’, Computers & Education, 95: 163-173.