Using a course blog to encourage critical reflection by students — HEA annual conference

hea-logo.gifMore on this theme — notes from my session at the Higher Education Academy annual conference in Harrogate are available here (PDF file).

If you’re reading this post without having seen anything previously about the project, you might find it useful to read the following outline (the abstract for my conference session). Then the notes from my presentation will probably make more sense. Either way, please add a comment to let me know what you make of the project — click on ‘add a comment’ above (under the title for this post) or, if you’re looking at this post on its own, use the comment box beneath it.

To encourage students on a postgraduate journalism programme to engage with their own learning, they were asked to contribute to a blog on three main themes: their own experiences as journalists; published articles/broadcasts etc, particularly to highlight what they were learning and putting in to practice; and contemporary developments in journalism.

The guidelines and assessment criteria explicitly encouraged students to reflect critically in their posts to the blog; to ‘add value’; and to make connections, particularly with their own experience, assignments and ideas.

This session will discuss the main findings of an evaluation of the blog, using an analysis of students’ contributions (more than 400) drawing on the literature of reflective journals and e-learning, and the results of a questionnaire to gauge students’ experience of using the blog as learners. Initial findings suggest the initiative has highlighted valuable potential for reflective learning, with some recommendations for improving its future application.

Readers who have read my previous post (and notes) on this project, based on my WJEC session, will note similarities! It’s mainly a shift of emphasis for the different participants: journalism educators at WJEC; lecturers from across disciplines, with a serious interest in the scholarship of teaching and learning at the HEA.

Using a blog to encourage critical reflection

This is the theme of my presentation to a Best Practices in Teaching workshop at the World Journalism Education Congress (WJEC).

The project has involved using a blog not for students to publish their journalistic work but for them to reflect on their practical journalism — primarily as a tool for enhancing their learning.

Notes from my presentation are available as a PDF here — intended particularly for those at the WJEC teaching workshop. I’d be particularly interested in having your comments, whether you came to the WJEC session or not — please add them below.

Learning gets personal — but always has been?

Go easy on the hype about personalised learning environments (PLEs) as something new, advises elearning expert Chris Yapp. His hypothesis is that learning always has been personal(ised) and always will be.

It’s the organisation of education that hasn’t been so personal, he suggested at a lecture last week.

He put his finger on something here. I suspect that student satisfaction is determined partly by the level of individual attention they receive from lecturers, tutors, support staff and the rest. How much is hard to say… as, too, is how much that level of individual attention in turn affects students’ learning.

Yapp, former head of public sector innovation with Microsoft, focused more on economic scaleability — and the hope that technology could make personalised learning (more) possible on a larger scale. He reckons it would take 30 years for elearning to transform the experience of education in this way, in a widespread and ‘embedded’ fashion. If so, I might be around to see it happen…

One example of research on PLEs (sometimes characterised as another step on from VLEs, virtual learning environments) is the PLE project at Bolton University.