Blogs are one of the most popular ways of incorporating technology in higher education courses. However, using blogs in college courses requires some deep thinking and soul searching. In order to help you decide if blogging is right for your course, think about the pros and cons of blogs.
Blogs are great if you like to create a sense of community in your class. The thing that sets blogs apart from personal websites is the commenting feature. To make the most of blogs in your class, ask your students to read each other's blogs and comment on them to spark online discussions.
The discussion aspect can benefit students in large lecture classes who might feel overwhelmed and disconnected by the number of students in the room. These classes usually don't offer many opportunities for pedagogical interaction, so blogging can help students who need to learn content in ways other than lecture notes.
Many students are familiar with the blog concept and probably already have their own blogs. The informal tone of blogging can help students relax and talk about class content in a down-to-earth, non-threatening way.
The main challenge when assigning blogs is overseeing the students' completion of the blog post assignments. Even a small class of twenty or fewer students can produce a large amount of blog content. This content must be read and assessed; if not, then, students will begin to slack and the educational benefit of the blog will suffer.
Reading dozens of blog posts can be very time-consuming. If you have teaching assistants, they can take on the job of reading and commenting. If you don't have any assistance, then think deeply about the amount of work involved.
Another point to keep in mind is that you'll have to post topics or prompts for your students. Coming up with these mini-assignments can become tedious over time. While it's possible to provide the students with a list of prompts at the start of the semester, if the class veers away from those topics, then the list will be irrelevant.
Unfortunately, most students will not write thoughtful or relevant blogs without prompts. They need your guidance in order to keep their posts flowing and stay on track.
Blogs are not only a way to take advantage of technology in higher education. They are mini-writing assignments that have the potential to improve students' content comprehension and writing skills in a fun way.