What is a Blog?

A blog is a collection of posts and pages, often, but not necessarily organized by date. Blogs can have single or multiple authors. Blogs are designed to be easy to use requiring little more than a few clicks to set up and maintain. Blogs are meant to foster discussion and community. See Also – Micro-blog Twitter

How can I use a Blog in my course?

Reflective Writing
Individual students can use weblogs to create and collect reflective exercises such as journals, assignment responses, or directed writing exercises. Using a blog, instructors don’t have to collect, sort, and archive email messages or bulletin board entries. Because blog entries are “posted” rather than simply sent to an individual, it highlights and reinforced the idea of semi-formal discourse. If the posts are made public (or shared with just the rest of the class), then the student will gain practice writing for others.
example:  Art Music Theater 200 – click on individual student links

Create a Class Community
Multiple authors can write for a blog. Creating a single blog website in which all students in a course become authors is a natural method for creating a class community. Like a discussion board, each instructor will need to facilitate the flow of posts, model good blogging behaviors, and define expectations for what students can (and should) post. A blog based website might be simply topical or it might be assignment driven. This kind of community website can be particularly useful in the distance education setting, to combat “the loneliness of the long-distance learner.”
example: Instructional Design ED 653

Create a Collaborative Resource
A blog can be used to create a collaborative resource. Having students collaboratively build a website around a specific topic is not only a good exercise in research and writing, but may well result in a genuinely useful resource to the world at large. Website blogging readily facilitates this.
example: Curation of large ocean species from ‘Story of Size’

Create a Course Information Site
In distance education it’s critical to disperse information quickly and easily. Blog based websites are easy to maintain and post, and most tools allow for different streams of information that can be syndicated and picked up by students in a variety of different ways. This is more visible than discussion board posts or posting such information as course documents, while allowing for room to expand on topics and posts that are not easily handled by the “Announcements” section of a Learning Management System.
example: Web Graphics and Multimedia CITS 221

Online Portfolio
A blog can be a place to show progress or present materials that a student has used or created throughout a project, class or program. Since most blogs allow for posting multiple types of media, as well as adding links and commentary, this can be a great tool for online portfolios.
example: M.Ed. portfolio site for UAF Online Innovation and Design program

Peer Review
Have students post their work to a blog to get comments back from other students and other blog readers before submitting to instructor for grading. Suggestions and comments about content or grammar can be a good exercise for both writer and reviewer. Plus the added impact of getting comments from experts outside of the class can be a powerful motivator.
example: Graphics Assignment from Instructional Design ED 653

Group Workpost
Post results of group work and create critical conversation and connections in the learning experience. Blogs enable more than just a personal writing space, but they invite users to participate in a larger community, to take their place in the information ecology, to learn how to participate in and perform (not just learn about): critical thinking, creating a narrative, formal and informal discourse, research and attribution, linking, write for others, take creative risks, collaborate with others, participate in a variety of conversations, and much more. Plus students are developing their onilne skills, learning from their peers, and getting insight on intellectual property.
example: Natural Resource Conservation NRM 101

Get started using Blogs

  1. Read up on blog mechanics and get the lingo from this WordPress blogging primer.
  2. Think about what you want to emphasize on your site: communication from you, discussion amongst authors, or the public at large?
  3. Think about how you want the information organized: chronologically, by project, assignment, by author, or some combination of these things
  4. Request a blog site from one of the designers at UAF eLearning. WordPress blog sites are offered to folks at the University of Alaska free of charge.
  5. Make your first post. Our Creative Writing online class (English 371), has a tutorial for first time student bloggers making an introductory post. The mechanics in any blog are very similar.

Alternatives to WordPress

WordPress is very customizable and can be used for many blogging purposes. If you’d like to explore other blogging platforms, check the list below:

  • Tumblr is a blogging platform that provides streamlined post entry by content type.
  • SETT is a platform which attempts to connect users and readers of your blog, to other SETT members in order to create a larger community.
  • Squarespace provides a paid space to blog for one or more authors, depending on the pricing plan. Students who are interested in hosting final projects or portfolios online might be interested in Squarespace; it provides visually compelling and artistically customizable screen layouts in an easy fashion.

About the Author:

Dan has a background seasoned by a study of physics and astronomy, public government, teaching, software development and the pursue of adventure. He is pursuing a M. Ed. in Online Innovation and Design while working at UAF eLearning as an Instructional Designer.

This page was last updated on : Oct 21, 2014