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Poster and Abstract - The Who, Why, What and How of the OU blog

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Tuesday, 14 Jan 2020, 20:18




The value of reflection and collaboration is broadly accepted within learning and education. Reflective journaling and collaborative work have long been part of ordinary and common learning and studying practice. As with so many aspects of pedagogy the advent of the internet has offered new technological enhancements to augment traditional activities – extending their reach, convenience of use, functionality and a network of examples of good practice. 

In this presentation the way in which OU students use the provided blog tool to reflect and collaborate will be described and insight into how further such activity can be encouraged will be given. 

The blog is potentially, and reportedly, a valuable tool for both reflection and collaboration – the main two aspects considered within this paper (Mohamed 2013, Byington 2011).  The blog can provide a learning journal which cannot be lost, within which there is a search function and which can, if the writer desires, provide support and encouragement to numerous other learners.  The blog could enhance and extend the capacity for collaboration to be less bound by geographical and synchronicity constraints.

Including a blog function within a VLE is a way which institutions can offer access to these benefits to their learners at little expense or effort. However – provision of a tool is not, on its own, enough to guarantee effective use, or indeed any use. A blog tool is not an example of a feature where ‘build it and they will come’ seems have much validity! (Shana, 2015)

There are many reasons learners may not perceive the value of blogging: they may perceive it as an additional and unwelcome chore; they may lack confidence with the technology; or they may simply feel that they have little to contribute. Unless students use the tool neither party gains any benefit.

Yet blogging cannot become a ‘requirement’ and remain useful. Collaboration and reflection cannot be truly effective unless undertaken voluntarily and formulaic reflection or mechanical collaboration will not confer any benefit and may be counterproductive (Chang 2019, Fernsten 2005, Musanti 2010). Institutions can encourage learners to reflect and collaborate (using a blog) in the hope that benefits become obvious and habits form, and for some learners this will be enough to begin their blogging journey with all the associated benefits. For others it won’t be - and those learners may benefit from other tools to facilitate reflection and collaboration.

In this paper there is

  • an analysis of a sample of public blog posts on the Open University VLE.
  • results of a survey asking OU students if, how and why they use the blog tool provided
  • details of deeper conversations about how individuals have benefited from, or not, using the blog tool
  • a literature search detailing blog use in reflective practice and collaboration within learning
  • applications for learners, educators, institutions and within wider extra-learning contexts.

This presentation may be of interest to VLE developers, online learning designers, students and tutors.

Key Words: Blogs, Reflection, Collaboration, Learning Design, Virtual Learning Environment

 

Byington, T. A. (2011) ‘Communities of practice: Using blogs to increase collaboration’, Intervention in School and Clinic, 46(5), pp. 280–291. doi: 10.1177/1053451210395384.

Chang, B. (2019) ‘Reflection in learning’, Online Learning Journal, 23(1), pp. 95–110. doi: 10.24059/olj.v23i1.1447.

Fernsten, L. and Fernsten, J. (2005) ‘Portfolio assessment and reflection: enhancing learning through effective practice’, Reflective Practice, 6(2), pp. 303–309. doi: 10.1080/14623940500106542.

Mohamad, S. K. et al. (2013) ‘Pattern of reflection in learning Authoring System through blogging’, Computers and Education. Elsevier Ltd, 69, pp. 356–368. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2013.07.031.

Musanti, S. I. and Pence, L. P. (2010) ‘and Navigating Identities Collaboration and Teacher Development ’:, Teacher Education Quarterly, 37(1), pp. 73–90. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ872650&site=ehost-live.

Shana, Z. A. and Abulibdehb, E. S. (2015) “Engaging students through blogs: Using blogs to boost a course experience”, International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, 10(’, International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, 10(1), pp. 30–38. doi: 10.3991/ijet.v10i1.4240.


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Questions from the conference

Hi Anna

Here are the questions and comments from your conference presentation - please respond in whatever way you wish!

Best wishes
Simon

  • I found blogging really scary. How do you overcome that Anna?
  • I didn't think of it as an online filing cabinet. That's interesting. 
  • Did you look at whether bloggers used PCs, laptops, tablets or phones and whether that's shifted?
  • There are already loads of channels for online discussions (discussion rooms, etc.). Is there anything about blogs which you think make them more effective than other channels (you might be about to answer this!)
  • I have found myself not blogging as have felt it needs consistency in terms of frequency of posts etc - lacking inspiration to do this has stopped me engaging fully. I wonder if this is another reason for lack of engagement.
  • That's one of my concerns too - if I started I feel I'd have to post regularly to maintain continuity and 'presence'.
  • I wonder if there is a link with people using the blog privately? I did this for a while when I lacked confidence.
  • good recommendations Anna - I think the OU blog tool could be improved.
  • I use pen and paper. I've kept a journal for years; I guess the difference is that I don't share them. I wonder how many blogs that are shared are actually read by anyone else?
  • Oh wow. How do you keep the files you have stored if you lose it when you leave? Do you lose it immediately? 
  • I agree - I don't think students are necessarily 'aware' of it. Wouldn't say it's flagged up at all on any of the (UG STEM) modules I tutor.
  • the question of whether to oblige (or very heavily encourage) students to use blog posts is really interesting - I remember this question coming up in H800 with 'making' students use discussion boards by it being part of assessment. Do you  think the benefits would  justify  making it part of assessment?
  • DO you think an OU Blog is a training tool before considering a tool like Wordpress?
  • How often did bloggers look back over their -- or others -- blogs?




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H818 Presentation Star

Congratulations Anna!
Your presentation at the H818 Online Conference 2020 has been voted by audience members as one of the most effective presentations, and you are one of the winners of this year's Presentation Star awards!
You may download your award certificate from https://drive.google.com/file/d/1sGsp3JY9W66M7HN2xbekGQPTEZwvWHsH

Well done and many Congratulations!

Simon Ball
H818 Conference Organiser

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New comment

Thank you so much Simon!

And thank you to all my H818 colleagues for being so supportive!