29 August 02003

Blogging and E-learning

Having recently started my own blog site (the one you're reading now!), perhaps I should be expected to be enthusiastic about the prospects of using blogs for e-learning.

The Learn to Blog, Blog to Learn article suggests blogs' informality means they can be good learning resources and "the best [of the resources out there] rises to the top." Links between blogs enable the building of learning communities, the article argues.

These arguments seem to me to be at best partial, and at worst tendentious.

As learning resources, blogs share many of the strengths and weaknesses that have characterised 'unmediated' use of web since its invention. Informality can mean sloppiness, as well as accessibility. The best information may propagate widely across many blogs, but so too can unwarranted rumours.

Most importantly it takes time and a degree of experience on the part of the learner to be able firstly to unpick a blog's facts from its attitude, and secondly to establish means of measuring the trustworthiness of many different sources.

Learning communities bind together best when they have fairly clear boundaries of membership and the members communicate together over an extended period of time. Blog communities don't have clear bounds in the same way that, say, email lists or web forums often do. The latter are more powerful tools to put at the centre of building learning communities (which is not to say that blogs could not complement these tools).

Blogs may support learning when

  • learners already have a certain degree of proficiency in a field, sufficient to enable judgments on reliability of varying sources;
  • the focus of learning is continuous professional development rather than 'beginner instruction';
  • the domain is central enough to the learners' interests to warrant them spending time regularly reviewing resources.

At the end of the day, the organisation of material in blogs is driven by (a) date order of input and (b) the author's interests and categorisation. This places the onus on learners to sift and make sense of the resources. For instances where the above conditions do not apply, the onus needs to be put on instructors and tutors to organise resources with clear routes — creating a more programmed learning experience.

A recent article on Campus Communications & the Wisdom of Blogging points more constructively to the use of blogging tools by the learners themselves, as a means of keeping project journals and the like.

One of the great advantages of blogging tools is that they make the process of creating web content quick, cheap and easy for non-expert users. And if these tools are put in the hands of a group of learners it's a safe bet that what they produce will still end up in similar formats (date order, categorisation and layout), making it easy for fellow learners and tutors to compare what has been produced.

Blogging may have more to offer to e-learning when learners are creating their own blogs than when they are reading other people's.

I culled the links in this post from the Infobits newsletter — thanks to them!

Posted by David Jennings in section(s) E-learning on 29 August 02003 | TrackBack
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