Using LMS blogs to scaffold learning
Dr. Timothy Laurie teaches in the School of Culture and Communication within the Faculty of Arts. In his 2nd year undergraduate subject, “Television, Lifestyle and Consumer Culture”, he extends student learning and engagement with peers via the LMS Blog tool. Tim wanted to activate interest in key course themes early on, both to encourage communication between students about shared interests, and to develop an informal and ongoing sense of how lecture, tutorial and reading materials were being understood.
Students are asked to produce 9 blog posts between week 2 and week 12. They are provided with different weekly blog prompts that guide them on how to engage with the content and create their blog posts. Having prompts has led to more interesting blog posts and more insight into what the students actually know.
Blog posts are assessed on the student’s ability to demonstrate understanding of the weekly concepts and their creativity and originality of their response. Marks are weighted towards the latter. Marks and feedback for blog posts are provided after week 2, in the mid-semester break and at the end of semester so students have a sense if they are on track with the activity.
The blogs are conversational in nature and imagery is encouraged. The focus is not on academic writing but on engagement with the content and creativity. With the production of 1,325 blog posts, and 90% of the 148 students completing 9 or more posts, this represents substantial engagement.
Over a third of students commented on their peers’ posts and this has been a key feature of the activity. This activity has encouraged community building, developing identity within the group and shared learning. Providing peer comments was not enforced but encouraged as optional method to demonstrate the aims of the activity. The possibility of receiving positive comment further draws students into the tool. Next year in week 9, Tim is planning a solely commenting week with guidance to expand this peer feedback activity.
It is difficult to quantify the impact of students commenting and viewing on each other’s posts on student outcomes. It is noted that when students push the boundaries of what was included in a blog, in particular the visual conventions, others followed suit. The data shows students’ view each other’s work with 90% of students viewing the blog tool over 20 times (see graph).
Tim feels the deeper engagement with each week’s topic has resulted in students being in a better position to choose their final essay topics.
LMS workshops on Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts http://lms.unimelb.edu.au/support/events/
LMS Blogs guides http://www.lms.unimelb.edu.au/teaching/communication/blikis/