Friday, 2 August 2013

Breaking Down Assumptions

I wanted to keep up this blog but I wanted it to be larger than web design. It took me a while to break through the assumption that this blog doesn't have to be only about web design. With a name like Learning & Design, why not talk about creating learning design, course design, learning about course design, learning from course design, etc.? That sounds like a plan.

I've been receiving Faculty Focus – an e-magazine of sorts about “higher ed teaching strategies from Magna Publications”. Although written for college and university teachers, many of the issues and topics relate to the larger world of adult education outside of these specific institutions. What I love about the publication is that the articles may reference scholarly publications, but the topics and the writing is very practical.

Here is a great technique for engaging students and encouraging them to participate.

Today’s article is Using a Blog to Enhance Student Participation by Maryellen Weimer, PhD. The article, about using a blog assignment to enhance student participation within an in-class course, appealed to me because this is similar to what I just experienced in my Visual Design and Display of Information course. I agree that a blog is a great forum to reflect on the course’s ideas.

Dr. Weimer has some great ideas about how to use the blog. Here are the highlights:

  • The blog assignment was used throughout the course to respond to that week’s readings and to connect it to current events. They had to write a minimum of 300 words to address that week’s topic and also reflect on the ideas of at least one other blogger from their class.
  • The student bloggers remained anonymous by using user-names that were only known by the teacher.
  • The teacher reviewed the blogs the evening before the class to help her gauge the students’ understanding of the subject.
  • In class, she uses the printed blog posts to highlight insightful responses, good questions and exchanges, and correct inaccuracies.
It turns out that several of the students who did not participate in class did participate well in the blog discussions. This isn't surprising since many introverts need to think things through before talking (and of course, some of them are shy). This assignment would give them time to think of their responses without standing out in the class. A great combination for many introverts!

Although I enjoyed creating the blog for my course, I think that having an anonymous component as well as at least a little bit of a requirement to respond to another student’s blog could have added to the course. We were encouraged to share our blog addresses with our fellow students, but most did not. This might have helped students feel safer about sharing.

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