Blogs and VLEs

Ric Jensen has presented a paper at a Blogs in Education conference about using Blogger based blogs to complement his delivery of a distance learning course in Blackboard.

In his ‘screencast’, Ric states that he is new to education and the tools that he is using. Ric’s take on VLE functions is interesting from the perspective of a professional person who has been introduced to teaching recently. The range of tools we use now to engage students must seem confusing without solid guidance and a strong institutional support function.

It seems to me that there are two ways of proceeding here…

  • Use a blog as a ‘gateway’ to a VLE based repository of information and interaction for students
  • Use a VLE that contains a blog function and make the blog function the primary interface for the students
We are looking at the first approach at our College: the blog holds reminders, key web links, and summaries of each week’s work. This material is available to anyone who knows the blog address. Students can then log-in to a VLE based course with forums and handouts that are protected from prying eyes – the students generally feel more able to interact and post material then. The point here is that the blog contains a basic summary with a few links – it does not duplicate the richer material in the VLE, so no confusion should arise in the minds of students as to which site is ‘authoritative’ on assignment and assessment issues. Most of my colleagues are using the VLE as a filing cabinet to store handouts and guides, but some are venturing into activities that require the students to post summaries of research topics and so on.

The second approach has the students logging in first then finding a blog item about a topic, with the ability to add comments and possibly do ‘guest’ posts. This would result in a strong focus around that week’s topic – blog comments operate almost like a non threaded or linear discussion where the tutor starts the topic and students can comment. I have used linear discussion forums (like Discus) and I have found that topics stay on target more than they do with threaded mode discussions. Add to this the ability for students to upload attachments with the comments and I think you might have a useful course structure.

Any views…? I’m opening comments on this one (rare on Bodmas!!). I use comment moderation, so your comments won’t become public immediately, although you will be able to see the text.

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