Creating an Open and Social Learning Network using Blogs

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Information about Creating an Open and Social Learning Network using Blogs

Published on April 4, 2013

Author: jgzheng




Creating an Open and SocialLearning Network using Blogs University System of Georgia Teaching and Learning Conference 2013 Jack Zheng, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Information Technology Department School of Computing and Software Engineering

Change of Learning Environment Closed learning environment Open learning environment • Classroom • Learner centered • Instructor centered • Open and public learning resources • Learning materials designated by • A greater level of interactions and instructors: textbook, lab, etc. broader perspectives • Traditional LMS: course based, • A comprehensive and continuing registration required, access limited, experience time limited Enabler: Web 2.0

Social Learning Network (SLN) – A social network created specifically for the purpose of learning – An open online learning community for resource sharing, collaboration and discussion• Major features – Open – Recognized contribution and learning – Organize and keep all learning experience and materials with users – Keep in touch with people who have common interests – Increased exposure to distinct point of views

Blog• A major Web 2.0 tool • Used widely by that facilitates people professionals for participation in online information and knowledge content generation and sharing publication • One of the major resources of problem solving and• Easy online writing learning and instant publishing • With the help of search with little technical skill engines, these contents are required publicly available and relatively easy to access. As of 4/1/2013

The Educational Affordances of Blogs Create a sense of community andFacilitate student encourage students toengagement and participate in peeractive learning learning.• Deng, L. and Yuen, A. H. K. (2011). Towards a framework for educational affordances of blogs, Computers & Education 56(2): 441–451.

Blog Use in Teaching Create a sense of community Facilitate student engagement and encourage students to and active learning participate in peer learning• useful for students to reflect • providing a convenient and and publish their understanding effective way for sustained and and opinions informal discussion - simpler• requires students to actively and easier to follow than explore and organize their emails or discussion forums thoughts • providing opportunities for• helps students identify what diverse perspectives they have learned and what • writing for a bigger audience they need to improve and leaves digital footprints• promotes continuous learning • potentially developing an online presence and getting recognition.

Blog Advancement• Two features of blog have been advanced – Social networking – Blog site development framework• Blog has been meshed into a bigger system together with other tools to help create a learner centered social learning environment.

Course Information• Information systems integration in organizations – How to enable different computing systems and software applications to work together? – Concepts, principles, strategies, methods, technologies, tools, management practices• Context – a graduate level course – part of an information systems degree program in a business college – one of the required foundation courses to prepare graduate students for a general understanding of the information systems domain• Features – a topic survey course with some hands-on experience – a wide range of concepts, practices, and technologies to cover

Project Setting 31 students A network of team blog 11 teams websites 2 presentations 2 specific topics in class and a for each team team blog site.

Student Work and Grading …• Three major aspects of the student work in this project – Blogging (informal writing) 40% – Social interaction 25% – Blog website development 25%• Blogging – Focus on the two selected topics. – Everyone in the group needed to contribute. – Each group was required to post at least 2 blog entries per month and at least 10 entries for the whole semester. – The Blogger of the Class was voted and rewarded at the end of the project.• Example blog content – Introducing concepts, practices, and technologies. – Sharing personal or professional real life experiences. – Presenting questions and seeking other people’s comment. – Reviewing and recommending websites, books, articles, or blogs. – Summarizing class presentations and posting presentation files.

Student Work and Grading ContinuedSocial connection and interaction • All contributors’ names were listed on the team blog site. • A public profile page for each blogger. • Follow others using a tool provided by the platform. • Use RSS gadget to dynamically display live posts from other sites in and outside the network. • Read blogs on all member sites and write relevant comments. • At least 10 meaningful comments from each student. • Sign-in was required for making a comment, so student contributions can be tracked. • The blog owner was encouraged to respond to comments promptly.

Student Work and Grading ContinuedBlog website development • is a leading blog website building platform and provides comprehensive features and tools for website development and hosting. • Many useful mashup gadgets are provided. • Custom scripts are accepted to integrate external applications and resources. • Students would gain some hands-on experience of web-based integration and mash-up. • The best blog website was voted and rewarded at the end of the project.

Results• 11 student team blog websites had generated a total of 195 blog entries, about 18 per team, and numerous comments.• A survey – Used a 5-point scale to evaluate how much they agree to a set of statements, ranging from “1 - Strongly Disagree” to “5 - Strongly Agree”. – 31 survey forms (out of 31) were returned.

Survey Results Survey item (statement) Average Active learning (self-expression) Writing blogs helps do my own research and organize my thoughts. 3.7 The blogging network encourages student participation. 3.7 Peer learning (social connection) I got a lot of good information and resources from reading other groups’ 3.8 blogs. The blogging network expands the learning by incorporating and 3.5 appreciating student contributions. Sense of community (social interaction) Commenting on other blogs is a good way of discussion and idea sharing. 3.7 I enjoy reading comments as well as blogs. 3.9 The blog network facilitates communication and information exchange 3.7 outside the classroom. Overall Overall, I like blogging as part of an educational experience. 3.9

Discussion - Purpose Blogging (writing and Hands-on integration commenting) practices • to engage students in the • the development of the learning process by blog website enabled active student student to have hands-on contribution and practices on integration interaction with peers. technologies and tools.

Learning Approaches Promoted Active learning Collaborative Peer learning learning

Challenges/Lessons• Majority of the students did not have blogging experience. – did not know what to blog about and how to blog. – It was a slow start to get them into a habit of public and informal writing.• Diverse feelings about the concept of peer learning – On one hand, some students welcomed this project and thought it brought new perspectives, experiences, and skills. • excited to read other’s blog and make public comments. – On the other hand, some students felt frustrated as readings were not structured, and they were not comfortable at learning from peers. • The project focused more on student participation and experience, but less on learning efficiency. • some posts were of low quality and did not contribute much to the class learning.

Future Improvements Provide more blogging guidance and examples Narrow down topic scope to be more related to course content Offer more blog quality guidance. Connect blogs to classroom activities, e.g., used for in-class discussion.

Best for These Courses Graduate Online classes classes The hands-on exercise part Subject survey applies to some classes technology oriented courses

Conclusion Web 2.0 has brought us many useful technologies that extend the learning beyond the classroom and courses. A blog project is not only a way to engage students in active and collaborative learning, but also to bring students to the world of open knowledge publishing and sharing. Open Social Learning

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