by MU Instructional Designers
November 3, 2022
7-10 min read
Assigning a blog project for a class can be an engaging way for students to share ideas as they develop a deeper understanding of a topic. Blogs offer an excellent opportunity for students to reflect on what they are learning and make connections between concepts. It’s a chance to “pause” and integrate new knowledge with what they already understand.
Make blog projects meaningful/authentic.
Give students agency to write about a topic that is meaningful to them but also connects directly to a learning objective in your course. How can you connect the blog project to their chosen career path or the discipline they are studying? Scaffold the project so that students are able to move beyond simply presenting information toward application and/or analysis so that students can engage with and extend the conversation.
Blogs also allow you to consider expanding the audience beyond the classroom to help students make connections between classroom activities and real world application. A blog assignment could be a great way to engage a larger audience, and students can also support one another in the comments of each other’s blogs.
Provide opportunities for student voice and choice.
Not only does allowing students to choose a topic that interests them make the project more meaningful, it also supports inclusion and student engagement. Students are more interested in a topic when they have an emotional connection, which promotes a deeper learning experience.
When you give student agency and options, they are able to share their own perspective, culture, and history in the context of course content, which increases their understanding of both the course content and their relationship to it. It introduces others to a different point of view, as well, creating a more inclusive learning environment.
Other opportunities for student voice and choice can be in how they construct their blog. What tools do they use? What style of language? How often will they post or comment on posts? Will they use text, visuals, etc.? Not all of these can be up to the student, but examine your assignment parameters to determine where you can build in flexibility and options.
Set clear expectations.
Like any activity/assessment, first establish the goal(s) of the project. Make sure students are clear on the purpose and audience of their blog as well as the learning objectives. If the blog has potential use beyond the classroom, such as in internships or on social media, communicate that at the beginning.
Next, consider your project parameters. Here are some questions to consider:
- How many posts will students be publishing? How often will they publish posts?
- Should they incorporate research? If so, how many sources? How will citations be managed?
- What constitutes a meaningful post? Are there wordcount considerations? Required visuals? External links?
- How will they engage with each other’s blogs? Will they make comments on others’ posts? If so, how many and when?
Be clear about how projects will be assessed. Students are more familiar with grading expectations for traditional papers but not to less traditional projects like blogs. What are the expectations for the “mechanics” of the blog (grammar, spelling, layout, etc), and how much of the final grade is assessing those mechanics? Using a rubric will help students understand your expectations. A single point rubric that lists the expectations, has room for comments, and includes a points column is a natural fit for a project like this.
Provide options for feedback and reflection.
Mastery-oriented feedback is essential for writing assignments, including blog writing (UDL checkpoint 8.4). In particular, feedback opportunities throughout the writing process scaffold student learning effectively. This can take the form of teacher or peer feedback on blog outlines, rough drafts of posts, published posts (to inform future ones), etc. Once again, rubrics can come in handy here (UDL checkpoint 9.4).
In addition to feedback from others, it’s important for students to give themselves feedback on their writing process in the form of reflections and/or self-evaluations. A formalized approach to this would be to pair blog post submissions with reflection or self-assessment assignments in Canvas. Less formally, surveys or brief written reflections can prompt students to develop those metacognitive skills when it comes to writing (UDL checkpoint 9.3).
One way that blogs are unique when it comes to feedback and reflection is that it is a project that grows over time, reflecting new learning and improved skills. Students can compare early posts with later ones to reflect on their own growth as writers.
Scaffold ethical behavior.
When we consider scaffolding the ethical behavior of our students, we think of our University’s mission statement:
Our mission is to educate men and women toward maturity of intellect, character and Christian faith in preparation for lives of service, leadership and reconciliation in church and society.
With our mission in mind, all stages of the blog project should have opportunities for considering how students’ created content reflects these values. When students consider topics, remind them that as they grow to live out their Christian vocation, they will want to make a positive contribution to the media landscape. When they engage with each other’s content, support them in communicating respectfully and constructively.
As students think more carefully about how others may interact with or use their content, it’s also important to remind them about privacy and data security. Are they sharing information that should not be broadly publicized (e.g. safety issues related to location or identity)? In their posts, have students referenced other people who may not wish to have their information or likeness shared?
As part of that positive contribution, students will often reference, use, and remix ideas and digital media from others. This makes information literacy/validation very important; students need to be mindful of how they find, share, and comment on content. Are they critically evaluating sources? Are they ensuring that the information they distribute is valid (not misinformation)?
When it comes to using others’ ideas, it’s not only important to ensure they are valid but also to give them credit appropriately. Students will need to follow some form of citing convention, both for information they collect as well as media, like images and videos.
Once students have drafted content ethically, they need to learn how to communicate it accessibly. In the case of blogs, this means learning key digital accessibility principles like headings, alt text, and descriptive links. This improves students’ ability to continue making a positive contribution to the media landscape in a way that is inclusive to diverse audiences.