OK so I did something slightly naughty and created a password protected blog for a course and had students post responses as comments in the blog. So how did that go?
Not too bad. The worst part was the initial set up. As I noted (extensively) in a staff meeting earlier, the set to connect a blog to a UMG class roster is not so user friendly. In the end I added (and updated) the list of students who could access that directory. It was a good thing that this was a small class. As I also commented then, I hope the UMG situation improves – just this week, Jason and I were talking about potential roster issues for an EGC Game…
But once it was set up, I placed a link in ANGEL, so navigation was transparent for the students. Since I am using ANGEL for other functions such as uploading assignments and lecture notes, it makes sense to just funnel them through ANGEL to other PSU services. Whether or not we keep ANGEL or any other centralized LMS, I do hope we maintain the functionality of an automatically generated online portal for individual courses. That roster function was truly something that sold ANGEL back in 2001.
As far as comments, I thought it worked well and I was confident that the other students could see it. Last round, when students were on their own blogs (before PSU Voices), students were constantly asking how to access the other blogs. For community building, it is important to make sure that blog assignments are gathered together.
The one regret I have was that I couldn’t figure out a way to easily bump up students to a level where they could post original entries. I think I would have gotten contributions if I had (especially if extra credit is involved). I know it can be done and I did try once, but it was such a crazed semester, I never had the time to devote to figure it out.
I think my usability lesson is that something that seems trivial to an ID sitting at the office with a little debugging time and access to a support staff will seem much harder to a stressed instructor trying to fit in tech between classes and research proposals. It’s a shame because a few times, I forgot to post an “entry” for a homework assignment and the students were flummoxed at not being able to post. Students worried about doing homework are also not in the optimal state for tech problem solving (trust me).
Would I do this again? Actually yes and I would probably find a way to add and bump students up to author at the beginning of the semester. I think the one thing I like about adding the password protected blogging option is that it can accommodate
I have nothing against student blogging in public in their own space if the learning objectives make it a good fit. In fact, two of my students just created blogs and posted URL in the comments (works for me). I just like having the safety net option.
I password protect my Facebook, my Twitter and other “non-public” spaces, and according to danah boyd, so do modern teens. While my class can be a public space, I like being able to make it more private. Sometimes, the point of college is that we can say and do stupid things, then learn in semi-seclusion that they are too stupid to repeat in public….Been there, done that.