Course blogs or subject blogs?

Thinking about some of the issues I raised about the WHAT of blogs, and thinking about how blogs might be best used in journalism education, specifically how they might be used in our course at UTS, I am becoming increasingly convinced that blogs used across classes over the duration of a degree course may provide a very interesting way forward.

If students were encouraged to establish a blog at the beginning of their course and continued to use it to post research notes, stories and reflections throughout their three year degree this would become a unique and powerful teaching and learning tool. The blog would evolve together with (and record) the student’s learning and practice experience. Then both the WHAT and the HOW of blogs becomes easier to analyse.

* Students grow into blogging and gradually figure out WHAT it is best for them to blog and how;
* Connections in the course blogsphere develop organically over time;
* It becomes a metalearning tool that allows students to make connections across subjects;
* It has the potential to contribute to a department wide sense of learning community.

For journalism students this approach has particular advantages:

* It encourages the habit of writing;
* It provides a personal publication space over which they have journalistic control;
* It provides an immediate portfolio of work for future job hunting;
* It provides a single space which links the practice based elements of the course and the theory based units

One of the particular advantages of an ongoing course blog, as opposed to a time specific subject blog, is that it takes better advantage of the blog form – a form of research and publication that is episodic, cumulative and open-ended. But it can also provide a place to house certain projects and more “finished” pieces of work. Thus it offers unique opportunities that are not usually provided by traditional forms of essay writing and other assessed work.

If conceived in this way, as a personal course archive, then other differences with traditional CMS tools such as threaded discussions also come into focus. The discussion that occurs on a class discussion board has no permanent archival value, it is by nature ephemeral and is perhaps valued by students as such. However if they conceive of their posts as part of a permanent archive which interacts with the permanent archive of other students perhaps this will lead to their valuing the discussion in new and different ways. What the effect of this might be, of course, is unknown but it seems reasonable to hypothesise that this may well lead to a greater sense of ownership and involvement in the generation of ideas.

There are a whole range of interface issues that would need to be worked out – how permanent individual blogs might be linked in to aggregating class front pages for example – but I am sure there are nifty technical solutions.

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