Blogging enters the classroom

Can a blog post replace an exam paper? Well, it’s worth trying.

Since 2010 Anna Ebbesen and I have taught a class at a Master at Roskilde University. The topic is strategically communication and social media, so we wanted to test the student and the teaching format by making the examination form more digital and closer to a real job situation than an academic paper. The students have to write and post a blog post and a Facebook update as part of the exam. In addition they have to write a short academic paper, to make sure the exam form meets the academic standards.

It’s time to shake up the traditional learning methods and bring them up to speed with the communication methods and technologies that most of us use on a daily basis. Why not let them into the classroom too?

We ask the students to be creative and to put themselves in the shoes of a larger company that wants to upscale their digital communication. We give them a press release and ask them to express the same overall stratgeical goal in a blog and on Facebook. For some it comes very natural to come up with a persona and write the blog post, whereas others find it easier to explain the theories of Pierre Bourdieu and Niklas Luhman.

Being forced to blog at the course the students get a sense of what it takes to write a good and interesting blog, which they wouldn’t get from reading about it. It also becomes clear that you need some basic technical skills in order to be a good communications professional today.

As a teacher it is much more fun to read 30 very different blogposts with humor, pictures, personality and a connection to the real world out there rather than the traditional exam paper, that is usually written by the student only to be read by the teacher. With a blog, the students write to each other and are also asked to comment on each other’s blogs. If you’re not used to blogging and commenting on the public internet (as compared to Facebook), it can be a scaring or liberating thing to do.

An article Education Needs a Digital-Age Upgrade in New York Times shows how blogging heightens the quality of the students’ writing. Teacher Ms. Davidson concludes:

“Online blogs directed at peers exhibit fewer typographical and factual errors, less plagiarism, and generally better, more elegant and persuasive prose than classroom assignments by the same writers.”

Another article in GOOD also suggest that digital teaching methods brings the best out in school children. Even students with lesser writing skills were motivated by blogging. Teacher John Schwartz says:

”their creativity and productivity skyrocketed because they knew that their work had the potential to be viewed quickly by an authentic audience that mattered to them.”

Social media like Twitter can also be used out bring out the more shy students in the classroom and even has a positive social impact, a Los Angeles experiment suggests.

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