A blog is a website which usually takes the form of a series of posts arranged in reverse-chronologocal order, i.e. the most recent post appears at the top of the page. Students writing their own blogs, commenting on other people’s blogs, and consulting blogs written by experts in their field are common learning activities in Higher Education today.
Blogging is a particularly useful activity for:
- reflective learning,
- collaboration and communication with students and subject experts,
- developing a community of learners
Blackboard includes a basic blogging tool – for more details see the Blackboard Support pages about the blogs tool.
PebblePad has a blogging function – find out more about it here.
WordPress is the biggest provider of blogs in the world and is an easy way to have a professional fully-featured blog. Register a free account at WordPress.com and you can start blogging within five minutes.
The guide below to using WordPress.com blogs in education will help if you want to get your students blogging and working together.
Consider whether you want your blogs to be private (just the students and, perhaps, the tutor to see the content), shared with a specific group of others (e.g. classmates), or entirely public for anyone to see.
One of the key features enabling collaboration and communication on blogs is the ability to leave ‘comments’ on blog posts. Learners and tutors can engage with and discuss each other’s posts by leaving and responding to comments.
You should consider who is able to comment on blog posts and whether comments are published immediately or require moderation (acceptance) by the blog owner before being published. With publicly available blogging platforms (e.g. WordPress, Blogger or Weebly) you can restrict access to the commenting functions.
Related blog posts can be grouped together (e.g. using ‘categories’ or ‘tags’) to make it easier for users to find related content.
Some ways to use blogs for teaching & learning
Perhaps the widest use of blogs in education is as a reflective journal: a place to focus on how you learn as well as what you learn. Ask yourself the following questions and write your answers on your blog:
- What did I learn?
- What was I supposed to learn?
- What did I find unclear?
- What was it that made something clear/unclear? (e.g. the mode of delivery, previous exposure, talking to peers, opportunity to practise)
- Which methods of understanding/doing/remembering do I prefer? Which work well for me?
After some time, read your earlier posts and the answers you wrote to the questions above. You will probably see patterns developing and your awareness of these will help your learning in the future.
A blog is the ideal place for making all sorts of virtual and mental connections with other people and ideas.
Make connections with experts and with in your subject community. There are literally millions of blogs on the web, so you should be able to find quite a few knowledgeable bloggers in the field that interests you. (Try adding ‘blog’ to your search term in a Google search and see the results). This is a very useful activity for both staff and students alike.
Once you have found some blogs of interest you can subscribe to their RSS feeds (a format used to publish frequently updated works – such as blog entries, news headlines etc. in a standardized format) saving you the effort of checking each of the blogs you like to see if anything new has been written. So instead of visiting ten websites and checking them individually, you can just check your RSS feed to see what new content has been added to the blogs you are subscribed to.
Possibly the most beneficial way of using blogs for making connections is through comments. Reading and writing comments on other people’s blog posts is a good way to engage further with content.
- Comment on other people’s posts to ask for clarification, to make recommendations and suggestions, to agree or disagree or just to say thanks for an informative read.
- If your blog is accessible to others, encourage (explicitly ask for) comments on your own posts and get the benefit of hearing other people’s views.
- Use comments to extend the discussion or analysis started in a blog post.
- Include further thoughts and ideas in comments or say something you forgot to write earlier.
- Share ideas, links and resources with others via comments.
Blogging in Higher Education (YouTube video) – includes guidance on using blogs in Blackboard
Seven reasons why blogging can make you a better academic writer (Times Higher Education)