Introduction

A blog is an online genre that allows sharing of ideas and engaging others in conversation. It comprises a series of dated entries that appear in reverse chronological order, with the most recent post appearing first. Blogs can include formal or informal writing and can link to multiple forms of media (e.g., images, videos, and audio recordings). They can take many different forms, from brief descriptions of ideas to longer narratives. Most blogs enable comments and discussion, allowing for dynamic interactions about ideas and opinions.

As a pedagogical tool, blogs are most often used as an assignment for students. They can be created by individual students or by groups of students. Creating a blog in which students write about their course readings, discussions, lectures, and other assignments provides students with opportunities to engage actively with the material. Using a blog as part of a course also allows students to practice their writing in low-stakes, public or semi-public ways. Additionally, it allows them to share with each other, learn from each other, and interact with each other outside of class time.

Benefits for Learning

Blog assignments benefit student learning in the following ways:

  • Creating learning communities by allowing students to share their own perspectives and experiences while learning about those of their classmates as well as to share resources and materials with each other and the instructor
  • Encouraging students to interact and collaborate with each other by working together and holding discussions outside of class time
  • Providing students the opportunity to think through problems, explore possible solutions, and engage critical thinking when creating blog posts or responding to them
  • Promoting intellectual discussions among students
  • Encouraging students to think about course concepts outside of class and make connections with non-course concepts
  • Providing students with another forum for asking both specific and complex questions
  • Encouraging creative expression by giving students a platform to experiment with a variety of genres and modalities
  • Giving students opportunities to address audiences other than their professors because their posts can be read by their classmates, other students, and even people outside the school
  • Providing students with opportunities to reflect on their experiences and see evidence of their progress by identifying patterns in their thinking, changes over time, and other evidence of development
  • Familiarizing students with widely-used web content platforms capable of hosting a wide variety of media; the knowledge and skills gained by writing and maintaining a blog are transferrable to a wide variety of work contexts
  • Reinforcing the importance of writing and helping students develop their unique voice when they comment on other students’ posts or reply to feedback on their own posts
  • Improving students’ writing by giving them opportunities to practice writing with low stakes assignments
  • Providing alternative ways for students to participate in additional to oral presentations
  • Highlighting collaboration and peer review and giving students opportunities to learn to give feedback and to receive and respond to feedback on their own work

Blogging Assignments

In blogging assignments students may be asked to do the following:

  • Respond to or ask questions about readings
  • Respond to or ask questions about class presentations or discussions
  • Offer reflections about readings or assignments
  • Post news or other information relevant to the course
  • Share research ideas
  • Create a research log about their questions, experiences, and results
  • Post drafts of papers for peer review
  • Share links to class-related articles
  • Create a showcase for final projects
  • Reflect on own learning and progress in the course
  • Evaluate own or class blog: use, strengths, weaknesses, suggestions for changes

Tips for Using Blogs

Tips for using blogs in teaching include the following:

  • Decide which course objectives blog assignments will meet and explain to students why you are using them.
  • Decide how blogs will fit into the design of the course and what assignments from previous courses blogs will be replacing.
  • Inform students how performance will be evaluated (i.e., provide a rubric), and how you will provide feedback.
  • Establish a regular schedule for blogging and commenting but allow some flexibility. Make expectations clear on when students should post and comment (e.g., alternating posting and commenting weekly, signing up to post on weeks of interest to them, or asking them to post a certain number comments by midterm).
  • Provide guidelines and models for good posts; consider giving word-count guidelines (e.g., at least 250 word for a post and 100 words for a comment).
  • Establishing clear expectations regarding
    • Access/sharing (e.g., Is it password-protected or available to the public? Will students share their posts with only you or with you and their classmates?)
    • Your role (e.g., Will you moderate student interactions and collaboration? How often will you read and comment on students’ work?)
    • Type of content (e.g., How much personal experience should they include?)
    • Student interaction and collaboration (e.g., Is this an individual or class blog? How often should students interact or collaborate with each other? What are the ground rules for their collaboration?)
    • Format (e.g., Must students provide citations? Should they use a specified writing style? Should they use a specific template?)
    • Privacy considerations and intellectual property laws concerning copyright material (e.g., have a Blogger’s Agreement)
    • Accessibility (i.e., Provide an Accessibility Checklist for evaluating posts)
  • Provide specific rules, such as
    • Stay on topic
    • No spam, chain messages, or hoaxes in the comments
    • Follow netiquette rules and show respect for others
    • Offer some concrete suggestions in responses
    • Be constructive in providing feedback
  • Give students some flexibility; avoid detailed weekly prompts and ask questions that require critical thinking and creative problem solving.
  • Don’t edit blogs or require them to be revised; treat them as low stakes writing assignments to generate and exchange ideas.
  • Give students who are hesitant to post publicly the option of emailing you their posts and comments directly instead of blogging online.
  • Let students know you are reading their blog posts and comments: Refer to their ideas in individual conversations, class discussions, or written communications to the class; leave comments on individual blog posts.

Sources

Teaching with Blogs
Vanderbilt Center for Teaching

Blogs for Teaching and Learning
DePaul University Teaching Commons

Blogs, Wikis, and Discussion Boards
Carnegie Mellon University Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Blogging Basics
University of Michigan Sweetland Center for Writing

Blogging
University of Kentucky Center for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching

Benefits of Blogging in Education
Nova Southeastern University Florida Learning and Educational Center

Blogging: Best Practices
University of Iowa Office of Teaching, Learning, & Technology

Blogging as a Teaching Tool
Mount Holyoke College Campus Updates

Teaching with Blogs
​​​​​​​Inside Higher Education

Using Blogs for Online, Hybrid or HyFlex Teaching
Inside Higher Education

Integrating, Evaluating, and Managing Blogging in the Classroom
Chronicle of Higher Education

Additional Resources

Writing an Academic Blog
Hamilton College Writing Center
This site provides advice on writing an academic blog, including common traits of strong blog posts.

How to Write an Engaging Blog
University of Edinburgh Information Services 
This site lists guidelines for how to write an engaging blog post and gives ideas for different types of blogs.

A Rubric for Evaluating Student Blogs
University of Wisconsin – Stout
This site includes a link to a rubric for evaluating student blogs.

Using Blogs and Blogger in the Classroom
University of Maine/Presque Isle Instructional Design
This site lists specific steps for creating and publishing a blog.

A Rubric for Evaluating Student Blogs
Chronicle of Higher Education
This blog post describes a rubric for evaluating student blogs.

Guidelines for Public, Student Class Blogs: Ethics, Legalities, FERPA and More
hastac
This is a blog post on Guidelines for Public, Student Class Blogs: Ethics, Legalities, FERPA, and More.

Blog Basics: Copyright and Fair Use
GFC Global
This site provides information and explains copyright and fair use in blog content.

Finding Non-Copyrighted Images for Presentations
Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching
This post lists sources for non-copyrighted images that can be used for blogs.

Weblog Option
Washington State University
This is an example of one instructor’s instructions sheet for a blogging assignment.

Blogger’s Agreement
University of Iowa Information Technology Services
This is an example of a Blogger’s agreement for students.

Accessibility Checklist for Blog Posts
University of Iowa Information Technology Services
This is an example of an accessibility checklist for blog posts.