Blogs for Learning

The Higher Ed Blog Conference is is full swing now. Last week, Monday looked at podcasting and screencasting. Tuesday had two sessions: one on integrating blogs and blackboard, and another on using blogs to bring Chinese and American marketing students together.

Wednesday had empirical blog studies. One compared blogging to traditional paper writing, coming up with mixed results. Another Ethan Watrall and Nicole Ellison, professors at Michigan State University, screencast their "Blogs for Learning: Case Study." They assert that the main barriers to implementing blogs are technical. However, they also note four other challenges, as perceived by students:

1. Felt like "busy work" or a "chore" for many at times

2. Too overwhelming to read all the posts and comments

3. Felt uncomfortable posting on the posts of other students; had trouble locating interesting content in others' posts.

These findings are not limited to blogs. Students generally complain of too much work and that much work is not necessary. So do teachers, and just about most people in general.

Students also saw benefits:

1. Gives all students a chance to express themselves ...

2. Many students preferred blogging over hard copy papers.

3. Some participants enjoyed the exposure to new materials and the ideas of their peers, but did not feel that it enhanced their understanding of course content.

4. Were not concerned about privacy implications of blogging

The authors were surprised by #4, but I'm not quite sure why. It seems to be fairly common knowledge in the press, and I'm also not sure why it would be considered a benefit.

Watrall and Ellison also plan to set up a "Blogs for Learning" ( website beginning in the fall, a website that will be a resource for teachers, researchers, and all.