This is really the nub of the issue for many of us. How can blogs be used to help learning and teaching? Last year I tried to use my discussion board on Web CT to stimulate discussion among my first-year students. Each week I would post up a question such as 'What do you think seminars are for?', 'How do you take lecture notes?' or 'What do you think makes a good essay?', and encouraged the students to post up answers. My hope was that thinking through answers to questions like these would help them to make the adjustment from school to university expectations and norms. It worked to some extent, but I was rather disappointed that the students tended to direct their answers towards me, rather than getting into debate with one another. I was still pleased enough with the experience to try again this year; but the problems with Web CT at the beginning of October were such that I just gave up and haven't tried again.
I still think that something like this could work, but I increasingly feel that the rigid and clunky structure of Web CT doesn't facilitate good discussion. (And here's one benefit of this course already for me: I hadn't realised quite how clunky Web CT was until I saw how much more straightforward and user-friendly a blog can be.) So perhaps it would be easier on a blog. But encouraging student participation would still be a challenge.
Two Years Later...
6 months ago