My brother wrote recently in his blog a response to a student who apparently had some concerns about the apparent futility of writing blogs as a regular (weekly) assignment. That had me thinking about sharing here the ways I have of helping students “engage” more directly.
I have been assigning blogs for my “Service Operations” class for several years now. The purpose of the blog is to have the MBA students reflect on a service experience they have recently had and then directly analyze the experience in light of the topics recently covered in the course. The challenge is quite like the one my brother pointed out–the writing dropped off when they began to feel that no one (least of all, the professor–me) was reading. My first response was to mandate commenting, similar to what he mentioned–a sort of stick to the carrot. Of course, that is difficult to enforce, and leads too often to a quick “nice blog–thanks.” type of analysis.
I have attacked that in four specific ways this semester.
First, I have created a Google Reader bundle which I distributed to the class (and now to you! ) This addresses the issue of me not getting to all of the blogs–I simply work down the full list every week and find some amazing blog entries! In addition, by giving them the bundle, I have directly connected the students with one another and their writings. That has led to more direct initial engagement. But I suspect that this will not be the “fix” that I hope it to be if there is no way to encourage engagement.
Third, while I treat the responses as confidential information, I share the summary information with the class regularly. In this way I remind them that others are reading their blogs. For instance, one of the questions is whether the blog entry covered a positive or a negative service experience. I used this as a question specifically to encourage a more reasonable balance in the class, since we are more likely to remember (and write about) negative experiences. As you can see, the balance, at least so far, has shifted to positive experiences. 1
Finally, I directly reference their blogs in class, asking the author to perhaps lend more backstory, and then weave their narrative and lessons learned into the content of the course. This works even better when other students are encouraged to share their views on what they took away from reading that blog.
Have any of you found ways to encourage commenting and engagement on blogs? Share it here (seems sort of META doesn’t it?)
- Of course, this allows for another interesting bit of analysis. I am asking the teammates to assess the experience as being positive or negative. It is possible that two team mates might read the experience differently. I view that as another opportunity for discussion. ↩