Using Blogs Networks in the Classroom

The last couple semesters I have been experimenting with using blogs in my classroom to enhance the class discussion.  My most successful experiment is this current semester.  In the capstone class for Information Systems degree, I have set up a blog where every student is an author.  I required each student to write 1 blog post every week on a topic of their choice, but something related to what is going on in class.  They could write about their confusions with class topics, about examples of class topics, about solutions to programming problems they encounter, about tools to use in class, and so on.  I require each blog post to be at least 3 paragraphs long (along with a few other content items), which naturally encourages students to put a bit of thought into their posts.  I also require that each student comment on at least 3 other student blog posts each week to facilitate knowledge transfer.  Then, during class, I review the blog posts to add to the discussion.

My findings: 
The students have on average posted outstanding material, well beyond my initial expectations.  Many posts are 4-6 paragraphs long and very well thought out.  While a few students struggled with writing blog posts on a regular basis, most of the class maintained the schedule with some exceptional performers posting well more than the minimum.  Take a look at the class blog and judge for yourself.

My understanding of why it was a success:
It allowed students to voice their concerns, to show pride in their work, to show their excitement about new technologies, to commiserate with other students (for those that were struggling a bit), and to build a knowledge network such that students quickly learned who had what expertise and who to go to for specific problems.  Whatever the occasion may be, students had a topic to write about.  I also suspect that students put time and effort to write intelligent posts because they knew other students would be reading their work, not just me.

The benefit to students:
The short nature of the blog posts allowed students to digest small nuggets of information at a time.  A blog network cannot replace a term paper or class project, as they have different purposes.  Term papers and class projects requires an in-depth analysis of a particular topic.  A blog network, on the other hand, encourages comprehension of a particular subject, without the in-depth synthesis that papers and projects require.  Ideally, both should be used.  Before students can synthesis and make meaningful evaluations of topics, they need to comprehend the concepts being discussed.  By formalizing the process of comprehension, the students are better prepared to make solid evaluations.  By making the process public, more ground can be covered since each student tackles different topics or variations of the same topic.  By requiring comments, the students make an effort to read and understand other posts.  In essence, the blog network acts as a class wide study-partner system.  Everyone in the class is a study partner with everyone else.  My interaction was largely unnecessary.

This technology is an effective tool that should be applicable to many disciplines.  While I have direct experience with only the Blogger platform, Dr. Bud Gibson, who inspired me with the blog network idea, has used various other platforms with various degrees of success.  This spring, I plan on performing a workshop on this topic at EMU's SOTL academy.  If you're in the area, stop by. 


  1. Thanks for sharing your experience with your students - which sounds wonderful! Your analysis is interesting, too. Did you talk to students about their experience, or was this what you surmised from what they wrote?

  2. Glad you liked it. My analysis was based on both verbal feedback and my observations of what they wrote. I would additionally overhear students talking to each other in class about their blog posts, especially sharing solutions to common problems.

    I'm considering a research project to gather more feedback from students on their blogging experiences.