Blackboard Blogging for the Classroom
by Brandon N. Crawford, CFT Instructional Technologist
The Vanderbilt Center for teaching recently released a comprehensive guide to Teaching with Blogs. Blackboard users on campus will be interested to know that a blog tool is included in every Blackboard course, and can be used to support student learning inside of the secure course management environment.
What is a Blackboard Blog?
A Blog is a collaborative tool that allows students to post their personal reflection about the course or discuss and analyze course related materials. Blogs are an effective means of sharing the knowledge and materials collected and created by the group with the rest of the course.
A Blog consists of two elements:
- Blog Entries: Text, images, links and attachments posted by students and open for Comments.
- Comments: Remarks or responses to Blog Entries made by others.
Blackboard offers three blog settings:
- Individual Blogs provide each student with his or her own area to publicly share thoughts and work with others in the course and to receive comments and feedback on entries. Avatars added by students will be displayed in their public space to help personalize the page.
- Course Blogs allow all users in the course to share their thoughts and work in one common area where everyone can read and comment. All entries are posted to the same page to help promote collaboration among all course members. Users can add entries and comment on entries anonymously to maintain privacy.
- Group Blogs allow groups of students to collaboratively post thoughts and comment on each other’s work while all other users in the course can view and comment on their entry.
In each of these cases, users create entries, which are added to their Blog. The entries can be saved as drafts or published and then edited later. When entries are added to the Blog, they are added automatically to an index organized by date. A “New” indicator is displayed on entries and comments that the user has not yet seen. Entries also can be re-marked as “New” to create a reminder.
For more information about how Blackboard blogs work, visit the Blackboard help page.
Why Use the Blackboard Blogging Tool for Courses?
Blogs foster and encourage personal reflection, offer the opportunity for deeper thinking on a subject, and simply allow the opportunity to further develop one’s writing skills. Blogs have the ability to open constructive dialog on the subject, and usually with an audience of readers who have strong and valid opinions, who may offer a variety of perspectives, and who may suggest other methods to solve a problem. Blogs also encourage the original writer to revisit their posts, digest the feedback, and reflect further. The isolation of journal writing invites more private thoughts, but omits so many other perspectives that might be valuable to the topic.
By asking students to review and comment on each other’s blogs, you not only keep ideas grounded but open the playing field for further examples and contextual relationships to build. Some instructors ask students to read/comment on two other student blogs, and provide examples of how to comment effectively. Also, asking students to avoid commenting on a post if it already has three or more comments will keep friends from always going to friends’ blogs.
In addition to student learning goals, Blackboard blogs can also make it easy to assess student performance on blogs. With direct grading that goes into a FERPA-compliant gradebook and a range of assessment tools such as rubrics and adaptive release, Blackboard can make using a course blog as efficient for the instructor as it is enriching for the students.
Much more information can be found in the Vanderbilt CFT’s Teaching with Blogs guide.