Blogging Assignments: Yes, I’m Sold on Them

For the last four to five years I have included a blogging assignment in my Women’s Studies or Political Science courses. During the last three years the blogging assignment is mandatory and I have found that most students find the assignment(s) liberating in that it offers them a place to combine analysis with a creative assignment. However, I find that it is good to offer some flexibility with the assignment. Last Summer students had an opportunity to blog, put together a zine or make an iMovie that responded to a series of course readings. Six to eight of them put together zines and more opted to blog. For the second year in a row–no one opted to complete the iMovie assignment. However, one person did vlogging for her assignment and I was pleased with her vlogs.

These creative assignments are coupled with class participation, and lots of writing–a major research paper. The students get ample opportunity to think and write. My expectations are that the series of blogs helps the student hone her/his analysis of the course readings and my comments, then, help them improve so that the final paper is not merely an extension, but the final product for their thoughtful analysis related to the course material. I will continue to offer them this opportunity to blog.

The blogging assignment also allows the student to become familiar with a blogging platform and I find that most students enjoy learning how to add different matter (photos, video clips and the like) to their posts. The students experience some pride of ownership with their particular blog and then they get to do that practical thing—add familiarity to said platform to their resume. That said, there is also a growing area of literature that is examining blogging as a genuine assignment in the classroom and the benefits of blogging. I do think that we will continue to see social media use in our classrooms and here I do not mean that student laughing or smiling into their hands, as they text one another. No, we will see more colleagues using social media platforms in the classroom assignments. How are you using Web 2.0 in your classroom?

9 thoughts on “Blogging Assignments: Yes, I’m Sold on Them

  1. Could you give a little detail about your grading process? For example, though you might not want to say it here, I’m wondering how much time you spend on each student’s blog (and how many students we’re talking about!). It’s a great assignment, but what’s a baseline the time commitment for you, and what percentage weighting does the assignment have across the term? All about integrating it into the time available!

    • This class has 24 students and last term’s class had 54. They don’t have to blog weekly–6-7 out of the 13 weeks. This spreads out the marking.

      I read each blog once and then I go back and assess based on depth of analysis and engagement of the course materials. Did the student offer a coherent argument. Are the rules of GSP followed.

      I don’t think it takes any more time than a short in class reflection would take.

    • Can I send you a syllabus? And, it varies. I look at them all at once and then assess for marks the second time around. It gets easier, too. First term is the hardest–and you can relate.

      I’m assessing on analysis, writing, and look/feel of the blog.

      • Sure, send a syllabus! More info is always better: I like the idea a lot, though it immediately raises questions for me (and my first-year composition classes) about whether it’d be possible to piggy-back on someone else’s assignment. It’d seem odd to me to require a second blog, as it’d make it all seem a little artificial, but people do maintain multiple online identities, so maybe students wouldn’t find it strange.

      • Only a small percentage of the students in my courses are actively blogging. 4-5 years ago it was one (if that) per class. Today it’s still just a few. And, some add a new page to existing blog or others just start a new one and don’t seem troubled by it.

        I do leave the assignment somewhat open. It’s all about the analysis and writing for me. Have they demonstrated that they’ve done a close reading of the material and that they’re thinking of the reading. Not a knee jerk, “I didn’t like it.” It’s all about the why. Why you liked/disliked/agreed, etc with the reading. Then, also contextualizing the reading with the larger course discussion.

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