Sharing What I Find

Instructional Design and Technology in Education

Blackboard Blogs

Our installation of Blackboard has three new tools that can be incorporated into your online course:

Echo Site

This is the first of a three-part series of information about these features. The first feature will be the blog.

What is a blog?
A blog is a series of individual posts that appear in reverse-chronological order as they are posted. Most blogs have archiving capabilities as well as some kind of commenting feature so that individuals may comment on the original post. Blogs can be set up so that there is only one author or many authors. Most blogs can contain text, images, video, audio and links to files or other websites. You can have a public blog that is open to the world or you can have a blog that is only viewable by a certain group of users.

To find out more about blogs watch this short presentation created by commoncraft.

Why use a blog in a class?
A blog is a place for students to work on their writing skills by expressing ideas. It provides space to use as an online forum, exercise in critical thinking, display of constructive feedback, peer review, or as diary, journal or reflection of student’s ideas or progress they are making throughout a course. It can be used as a place for discussion or classroom communication, as well as an e-portfolio for a class or for a program. Using a blog in a class also helps develop online skills, gives the opportunity to talk about intellectual property rights, and provides opportunities for peer-to-peer learning.

Why use the Blog in Blackboard?
The blackboard blog is a nice step towards giving students the experience of using a tool that has blog-like features. Using the blog within the blackboard framework gives students the opportunity to share between the members of the class and the instructor. Because the blog is protected behind the blackboard login and password, it provides a safe place for students to share their work and thoughts either as a class, group, or privately with the instructor. And since you are already logged into blackboard there isn’t need for an additional userid/password in order to add posts.

The downsides of using this tool should be considered when choosing a blogging platform. The blackboard blog is tied specifically to the class. When a student leaves the class their contributions to the blog are no longer available to use as resources or in their continued education. Being open to the public can also give the student the opportunity to be responsible for their writing and give them cause to write more clearly. Receiving comments from someone other than your classmates or instructor can be very constructive. You never know when a student might hear from the public to give encouragement, feedback, or to listen to a different point of view.

Other Examples: replace announcements area with blog – this allows more flexibility in what you say and what you can add. It also keeps all the announcements you make so they can be accessed easily.

What other Blog platforms are available?

While there are many free blogging platformsavailable, current CDE can help support the following:

Blogger: a google product, however, not part of the UA google application series. Use will require a google registration (separate userid and password). Registration with google also allows you do use google reader (RSS feed reader), picasa (photo editing), and other google products. Easy to set up and customize.

WordPress: CDE has its own installation that is maintained by CDE. We are able to create multi-user blogs (more than 1 author) for courses. WordPress is open source, which means that anyone can program and create themes, plug-ins and features that can be added to your blog. Highly customizable and full of features that create totally unique websites that is often used to create entire websites (like a basic content management system). Sound complicated? It doesn’t have to be! WordPress can be simple or complicated — your choice!

This is the short list of available resources. Blogger and WordPress are two platforms that we have used in previous CDE classes with success.

Formatting the Blackboard Blog

You can create a class blog, individual students blogs, or group blogs.
For example, you might want to have a single blog for the entire class where students can post relevant issues, comments, or thoughts about the class. It would be something that you would have students particupate in throughout the course.

For individual student’s blogs you might use it like a journal for individual students (private only between student and instructor or class-wide). Group blogs might be used for projects or for keeping a cohort of students together. Maybe in your class of 20 you have 5 teachers, 6 Liberal Arts majors, 4 Math majors, and 5 misc. You might break them into groups since they share a common interest and have their assignments customized to fit more towards their interests.

You can create an overall course blog or individual assignment blogs. Individual Assignment blogs would be like mini-blogs that student’s might only use for a short period of time. If you choose to use assignment blogs you can set up an automatic entry in the gradebook much like you can for the discussion board.

How to create a course blog
Before you can add any type of blog to your course you have to Configure it. In blackboard go to the control panel to Configure Blog Tool under the Course Tools section.

Here you will see options that you are able to choose from for your blog. This will be the default setting for any blogs that you create in your course if you have more than one (individual, group, assignment, etc.).

You are also able to set edit and display dates in case you want to put these types of restrictions on a blog. Note: be sure to put a checkmark in both display after AND display until. We have found that if you only have one of these boxes checked that it can cause problems when the course is copied.

Suggested settings ——Just say YES!

We suggest you say YES to all of the blog configuration options.

Do you want to allow students to create blog entries?   Yes

Unless you are using the blog as a place for you to add course commentary, you should allow students to create entries of their own.

Do you want to allow users to view posts by other users?   Yes

Unless you want to use the blog for individual use or for a group of people

Do you want to enable a public (unauthenticated) RSS feed?   Yes

This doesn’t mean that the pubic can get access to the blog   – it just allows those of us who use a RSS feed (Google Reader, Bloglines, FeedDemon) to keep informed of new entries that are posted without having to go into Blackboard and check. The link is not indexed in google so it can’t be found if you just do a google search. In order to make comments to the blog you would be asked to log in to Blackboard.

Do you want to allow students to permanently delete blog entries?   Yes

This only allows the user to delete that which he or she creates — not other people’s entries.

Do you want to allow students to export the blog?   Yes

Since the blog in Blackboard is not public, once the student leaves the course they can’t access the content. Exporting so that students can take the content with them after the class is over.

Do you want to allow students to view comments on blog entries?   Yes

Comments will come from those in the class

Do you want to allow students to add comments to blog entries? Yes

Allowing comments tells you they are reading the content and thinking about how it relates to the course

How shall public references to students be displayed? User Name or Person Name

Both user name and the person’s name are available in the class roster.

Click ok and your blog has been configured.

To access this blog go to Course Tools under the Tools panel on the menu bar and click on Blog Tool.

You can also add a direct link to the blog that will appear in the menu list.This will make it easier for students to find.

Add a direct link by going to Control Panel -> Manage Course Menu -> Add Tool Link -> and select Blog Tool from the type pull down menu. Give it a short name and click ok.

Assignment Blogs

If you choose to create an assignment blog the process if a bit different to set it up. In your content area. look for the dropdown menu on the right side of the page and select Blog from the items, then press go.

This will pop up a blog information screen that is similar to the page where you set up the configuration. Give your blog a name and complete the rest of the details. At the bottom of this page is a place to Create a Gradebook Entry. This can be very handy for giving a grade for this blog assignment.

After you have made your selections, click OK to submit. Right now there isn’t an easy way to grade blog posts like there is for individual students posts discussion board. You’ll have to review each blog separately.

If you’re interested in adding a blog to your class give one of us on the Design Team a call to talk about why you want to set one up and to help you get it started.

Author: Heidi Olson

Heidi enjoys working with content experts in developing eCampus courses to provide alternatives for students. Her other interests include faculty training in best practices for eCampus and researching eCampus tools to help fulfill learning outcomes. Having worked in the distance education arena for over 20 years, she has a wide range of experiences in supporting students and faculty as technology and pedagogy evolve.

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