Renegade Blogging

I’ve had some difficulty with the separation between weblog and discussion board, and the new desire that Collette talked about at the first e-learning lecture, for students to want to self-publish, self-criticise, and receive feedback from the whole world. While the discussion board isn’t assessed, it still seems a very valuable mechanism to explore ideas, as in a tutorial, to then take back and formalise in a blog entry. This is a duplication of data and can make the blog feel a little introverted; is there a sense that students are ‘saving the best stuff’ for the blog, which fellow learners never get to see?

What would have been the reaction, both from assessors and tutors, if a student had shunned the WebCT weblog entirely, set up their own blog on an external website (from the many available packages) which allowed full open access, and full commenting from students on the course and the world at large? In effect, the student’s only official blog entry then being a URL pointer to the real one?

Does this create a conflict in its rebellion, or is it an acceptable enhancement in the use of technology to support their learning experience?

Is it beneficial for the student themselves to be able to define the audience parameters, so that depending on their attitude toward VLEs, they could choose (per the whole blog, or perhaps even per post) whether only they and tutors see; only students on the same course see; only UofE students/staff see; or the entire world sees?
It seems to me that the writing style and depth of meaning would change dramatically depending on how far the horizon extends. A closed blog might confidently consist of very short entries, with no real structure but a fluid and frequent posting style; a global blog might likely turn posts into essays, and adopt a formal approach of inviting comments to reuse in future posts.

Feasibly the student could start their own discussion boards too! One powerful feature of currently blogging tools is the concept of multiple users: extending this into a course context, with group blogs of 3/4 people, could be another viable form of assessment, and might provide a more restrained posting style in order to prevent division between the group…?

Once the course content has been downloaded, it is effectively possible, from a technical stance, to do without WebCT entirely, creating your own environment elsewhere on the web, stylised and flavoured to your tastes. Conceivably other students could be ‘poached’ from WebCT and you end up with a very real and difficult division; as though one group of students refuses to be taught with the others. What would the strategy of the tutors need to be? Trying to close down the offending website could be a serious PR disaster and cause lasting damage to the course and institution. It’s likely that this situation would only arise if the student(s) felt that the VL environment was lacking significantly in some way, and so would it then be time to accede the decline in effectiveness of that VLE and evolve into something new?
How do you provide quality assurance for something which changes every year, ostensibly for the better? Does it matter, so long as the students are happy?

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