Blogging tasks and assessments for your uni class

As the session gets underway, we’ve had some interesting new blog requests for new teaching blogs. I have been asked for information on how to get students writing good blog posts, and how these can be assessed.

Read on for my reply…

Academic Blogging

In an academic setting, student’s blog postings are often made in response to the various educational resources presented ie lectures, readings, or case studies. Word length ranges are usually specified ie 250-750 words. The aim of the activity often has a component of “demonstrate that you have read and understood the materials” and often asks student to write a reflective c500 words blog post explaining whether they agreed or disagreed with material presented, or to compare and contrast theories presented, or to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of a case.

A different blog-related task is to ask the student to locate 3 other articles on a class topic and blog about those new resources – it could een extend to posting a draft annotated bibliography to support a larger essay or assignment. I have also seen blogging used to host on online debate, where students in teams wrote for or against a topic, and guest/expert markers judged who won the debate. Feedback was made to each team via the blog commenting feature.

As you can see, for each different type of blogging task – the marking criteria is subtly different as it flows from what is asked of the students in the task. So for ease of writing good marking criteria, first you need to design and write up a good blogging task!

Marking criteria examples

For example, if the activity is to “demonstrate that you have read and understood the materials” – and to write a reflective c500 words (ie blog post) explaining whether students agreed or disagreed with points of views taken in readings required for that week, then the marking criteria would be around  how clearly they have taken a position, how well they have explained and justified that position, referring to (all/some/few) the materials presented.

If the blog post was a compare and contrast type of writing activity, then the marking criteria might ask for a certain number eg 3-5 similarities which are noted and justified, and a certain number of differences noted and justified.

You might want the students to summarise the material, or take a certain point of view in which case the marking criteria would be about synthesising the different sources into a cohesive argument. For an annotated bibliography, it would be about the number, variety and quality of each source, and perhaps the succinctness or helpfulness of the annotation.

Giving marks for commenting on students’ posts

Similarly, if you want the students to read and comment on each other’s work, there should be an aim for this which can be used to shape the marking criteria. For example, if there’s an international perspective focus in your task, the students might be asked to find 3 posts where the situation described in the blog post is different to how things are done in their country/culture – and be asked to write a 350 word reply (ie comment) to each explaining how things are done in their country/culture and to offer an opinion as to the pros and cons of doing it this way.

If the purpose of the post is to write up a project proposal and the purpose of the comments is to provide feedback and constructive criticisms to students as to their proposal, then there might be 0-5 marks offered for the quality of the feedback over  three criteria ie research question, research method, quality of sources.

When students need to learn and practice public blogging and social media integration

Where you have journalism, communication, media or PR students, they really need to practice being media/comms professionals. They would benefit from getting up to speed with both public blogging and twitter use as communication channels. You could try what Dr. Ted Mitew (Arts) does in his “Convergent Media” class (BCM112 ie first year subject!). The students have to use Twitter “tweets” with links to material, and blog postings every week. This is called their “learning portfolio” and they submit a selection of their posts and tweets with reflective commentary twice during semester. The submission is done via the Assignment tool in the eLearning space ie formally. The students are also encouraged to share and learn from each others’ discoveries, so they use a twitter hashtag #bcm112, which creates a feed of the students links to their discovered resources. It also teaches them how to use hashtags and twitter properly for best social media practice. Essential comms skills for some professions!

Another great public/media assessment is to swap a group presentation for a group produced YouTube Video presentation/story (3-4mins). The students have to create a YouTube account, make a YouTube clip, upload it, post it to the blog. Then view other students videos and use the facebook “like” button  or a voting/poll tool to vote for their favourites. There can be  some  marks (maybe 5-10 marks for example) given in the assessment criteria that comes from how many votes they got. But you still might want the majority of marks coming from teacher’s mark or formal peer review using assessment criteria matrix.  See for a sample of a video competition in the blog.

I hope this is helfpul, and if you have any questions you can email me at Sarah Lambert –


iPads for in-lecture polling

Uni of Adelaide iPads for in-lecture polling. Whist “clickers” faltered due to the need for students to all have one, this simple but clever solutions means the students just put their hand up, and only the lecturer needs the iPad.

See page 13 for the article

IdeaPaint in teaching space at VicUni

Dave Cummings at Victoria University is blogging about his Teaching Space project. They’ve just finished doing the walls and floor in IdeaPaint. They have to wait til friday for it to dry/cure before then can use it. But then…. it’ll be cool. Here’s a YouTube about IdeaPaint:

Oui oui! Le Skype is working!

After months of planning and testing, the Skype pilot kicked off today. With slick new high definition web cams, and the help of the “how to” login sheet, the french language students connected with other students in Noumea. And the French conversations began to flow.

While many staff members have had Skype installed and working fine in their offices on their individual managed desktop machines (ie supported centrally by ITS), up until know it has been impossible to intall and use them “en masse” for use by students in an ITS managed teaching computer lab. But, thanks to the hard work of everybody involved (especially Krstan Risteski, ITS Labs Manager and Liz Burns, ITS System team) a special ‘software package’ was developed, tested, tweaked, and re-tested. Now Skype can be remotely installed in labs by ITS Support staff, with the correct network and software settings so that it actually works within the confines of a teaching lab. The only last minute hitch was that each new web-cam purchased by Arts (they are for use in the new Bld 19 Language labs) needed to have the software drivers manually installed, but thanks to Krstan, this was achieved in time also.

OpenSource software in labs: pilot progress

This pilot project over in the new Digital Media Centre labs at iC is going very well. Ably supported by lab support technician Glenn Alexander, research into tweaking the lab setup is underway to ensure that when students logoff in the labs their software is re-set to an appropriate “clean-slate settings” state on the shared lab machines, and their data is saved on their USB or portable hard-drives.
I visited the class yesterday in person, and saw the colour animated graphics that the students were creating in the Ubuntu/Linux operating system using the Scala programming language. Look forward to seeing how the student projects develop.

Helping your Community of Users

Some great things are happening with the Edublogs pilot. We can now see great communities breaking out.

One particular Administrator of these communities has made a quick little video to help their users.

Adding comments and posts

What else are you doing to help develop your community of users?

digital voice recorder

olympus dvr CC Hickey 08obviously not a ‘new’ technology, but if I had to name the one techi thing that changed life in my corner  it was the nifty usb recorder I started using five years ago…. what it means in practice is that the linguistically vulnerable student seeking advice about their writing (those using English as an additional language, for example) can instantly get a copy of the consultation (no cables, just pull it apart, stick it in their laptop) which they can listen to repeatedly at their own pace, and thereby  learn so much more than from a single exposure which they may or may not well recall when back at their desk trying to put into practice the pearls of linguistic wisdom showered upon them… their feedback assures me this was the best investment for teaching I ever made…

Articulate – an alternative to Adobe Creative Suite?

I met with Rob Wright from HB&s/Nursing on 29th March and he told me of the success he had been having with creating rich media teaching resources by building on PPT with products from Articulate, see

Rob said that he can integrate quizzes and output the lot as Flash files (swf) and import these into Equella collection (under development) for sharing and re-use. He said he is starting with some Science Education modules, with the aim of moving from lecture based resources to self-paced online learning materials. He also notes that the product has a strong user support community from both industry training and education sectors with regular blog postings around educational process and practical ‘how to…’ posts.

A screen shot from the Articulate website showing their products

I will contact Rob again and see if he can post some screen shots of the Flash modules that he has been able to output with this software. I am also talking to staff at ITS about the similarities and differences between this suite of products and that being offered by Adobe for media creation.