The combined use of blogs and online communities for assessment
I would like to share some images that demonstrate how we use blogs in combination with online communities to capture and assess students’ learning within our undergraduate ITT computing modules. As you can see, these screenshots are excerpts from student blogs posted onto the community space so that students can share and respond.
We began to use blogs as assignments four years ago, thinking that they would provide good evidence of students’ understanding and ability to use technology, and also develop a transferable skill that would be useful when applying for jobs and when in post. We wanted to give our students a first-hand taste of the powerful motivation that can stem from writing for a live and responsive audience, rather than simply preparing work to submit to a tutor, and we hoped it would inspire them to celebrate their future pupils͛ learning in a similar way.
The blogs are graded using a marking rubric covering four main areas. The online community is an important aspect for the fourth strand as we take it as evidence of contribution towards group outcomes.
The first marking strand focuses on the use of the blog format to communicate.
We look at how students used the medium to communicate effectively through words and
media. They can upload images, video and documents, add hyperlinks, and embed all kinds
of online tools such as Scratch games, Wordles, mindmaps, slideshows, Thinglinks and
Padlets. These visual features combine to give individual blogs their own distinctive look and
The second marking strand focuses on students͛ understanding of computing concepts and
Here we are looking for evidence of understanding the module themes and of students’
further browsing and reading through posts containing relevant discussion, links and related
resources. As one student said, “There is more of a purpose for writing the blog as others
can read it…we are able to share them and learn from each other͛s experiences.”
The third marking strand focuses on students͛ reflection on the development of personal skills.
Here we look for a fluent commentary with evidence of original ideas. In a good set of posts, description of personal skills development is threaded with lively discussion around issues such as pedagogy, differentiation, classroom organisation, assessment and eSafety. Students learn that blog writing is a genre with its own conventions and techniques; concise, clear writing is important.
And in the final marking strand we look for evidence of students taking responsibility for the nature and quality of group outcomes.
This final assessment strand considers how well students work together in pairs and groups to create classroom-ready resources, and how they interact with each other within the google community. As you can see, within the community they post excerpts from their blogs to stimulate online discussion related to the module themes and they also post links to resources that they had found or created. Class discussions are captured and posted on the community so that it becomes a record of the learning that takes place before, during and after the face-to-face sessions. One student sums up the value of this collaborative approach by saying, “The impact of teamwork is invaluable…it allows us to come up with more ideas and bounce off each other.”
It is clear that the presence of a commenting audience provides an incentive to write and facilitates informal peer-to-peer learning. One student said, ͞”Ifeel that other students on the course provided me with effective feedback that helped me to improve…I liked that people could comment; it made me more aware of my audience…being able to see what
other people think can be very thought-provoking.”
From the tutors’ perspective, the option to tap into student blogs in progress provides a potent source of teaching feedback, giving us a chance to adjust and review content as we go, as well as offering new opportunities to track progress.
For tutors and students alike, then, the combination of blogs and online communities can provide greater scope for learning together, and for sharing resources and ideas. At the same time they allow students to create online spaces that reflect their own personalities. As one student put it, “blogging has provided me with a communication link to my colleagues’ ideas and thoughts…I was always on task, which is rare for me!”