Support for staff building online or blended courses
Blogs, wikis and forums were not designed as educational tools, but they can be very useful in a teaching and learning context for supporting dialogue between students, providing a space for collaboration and chronicling student reflections. But which is most suitable to your needs, in your course?
Consider these three tools the way you would consider any teaching strategy. First ask yourself, what are the outcomes you want to achieve in your teaching? Then ask, what do the tools offer, and how do they differ from each other? The following table gives a short summary of each tool's functioning. It should help you decide the answer to a third question: which tool can best help your students achieve the desired outcomes?
|Definition||An online journal (web log), diary or news column with posts in reverse-chronological order (latest first) and options for readers to comment||An easily-edited set of one or more linked web pages that readers can add to or modify. Facilitates collaborative content creation.||A noticeboard or message board where people can start new topics or discussions and respond to existing ones|
|Updating||Updated as regularly as the author desires.||Anyone can update in real time.||Asynchronous—users can post at any time.|
|Ownership, authors||A blog is owned by an individual. It can have a single author or multiple contributors.||Multiple authors: owned and edited by a group. A wiki is updated by many people, from a local group or remotely diverse locations.||Owned by administrator/s who may moderate content. Multiple authors contribute to their own or others discussion threads.|
|Timeline||The timeline of blog posts and comments is more important.||In a wiki, an article's publication date matters less, because articles are updated as new information becomes available. It is always a work in progress.||Forum posts can be presented in chronological order of posting to the forum, or chronologically within a thread, which makes it easier to follow a conversation.|
|Content||Author posts, reader comments. A blog post is usually one person's opinion, followed optionally by comments. Tends towards the sharing of news, knowledge or expertise.||Wiki articles represent consensus, but can have an associated discussion page.||User-generated content initiated and facilitated by the instructor; exchange of ideas and views.|
|Links||Can contain links to other blog posts or comments, or toweb pages.||Links are important, helping build connections, usually to other wikis or web pages.||Can link to other web-based materials but less likely than in blogs and wikis.|
|Development||Ongoing recording or reporting||Continually growing and developing, sometimes quite quickly.||Users shape the direction and speed of the discussion's development, according to their interests.|
|Communication||One-to-many communication (posts), many-to-one responses (comments)||Many-to-many communication||Many-to-many communication|
|Structure||Reverse-chronological-ordered posts, each followed by threaded comments.||The most up-to-date content displays, but the page's history can be viewed and reverted to.||Threaded discussion flowing chronologically from the original topic post.|
|Media||Usually text, but can contain images, video, sound files (e.g. podcast).||Usually text, but can contain images, video, sound files (e.g. podcast).||Text driven. Not usually possible to embed media. Some forums allow the use of avatars to make the conversations more personable.|
|Levels of access||Different levels of access can be set, but the initial post can only be edited by the blog owner.||
Different levels of access can be set
||Normally limited to members of a designated group.|
|Attribution of contributors||Attribution of comments is important as they are usually voicing an opinion or reflection.||Editing can be anonymous as the product is the focus, not necessarily the contributor.||Attribution is a key feature, as posts often leads to direct conversations.|
|Uses||Publishing of work, associated reflection and seeking external opinions / comments; analytical writing and reflection; discussion with experts; networking.||Peer editing of a document e.g. report, essay, paper; creating glossary of terms or collection of resources e.g. bibliography, reading list; brainstorming for a project; shared knowledge base on a topic.||Help facility; online asynchronous tutorials; analytical writing and reflection; student feedback on a course; exploration of views/opinions on a topic or idea.|
|Associated Graduate Capabilities with examples and learning outcomes||
|Relevant pedagogical pages||Assessing with Blogs|
|Relevant LMS support pages|
With thanks to Macquarie University for permission to adapt their iLearn resources.