Blogs for MOOCs, blogs for ePortfolios

As the 2015 academic year rolls around, our use of blogging at UOW continues to grow.

After negotiations flowing from a report to the Learning Platform Steering group regarding sustainable support models, we have handed over the reigns for the blog-create process to Robert Robinson and his team at IMTS, and Learning Teaching and Curriculum will continue to support the teachings-specific usages of blogs. In particular, we are seeing a spike of usage in our Maths MOOC (delivered in a blog) and we are working with colleagues in Workplace Health and Safety to create a Maths MOOC that is specific to the needs of the calculations in the new Masters of Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) program. Below is the intro video clip that explains why WHS students and working professionals need to keep up their Maths skills. And in exciting news, we are working with edublogs (our service provider) to come up with a batch/bulk blog create process that will allow us to create 650 new blogs-as-eportfolios in a large first year LHA subject.

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 –