James Farmer gives a presentation from the HigherEd Conference. He makes several good points, starting with the current situation that many users are in, they have WebCT or Blackboard as an existing system. One point he raises, which is often overlooked I think when people compare WebCT etc., with Blogs & a more personal setting. When they were launched, most VLEs were at the “cutting edge”. Forums were new, they were making the most of that. Now things have moved on, but many VLEs have yet to really encompass that.

One thing that I really feel is the problem of “caging in”. Information can’t get out of the VLE. The student has to go there to see if there is new information. Now, students are getting increasingly used to RSS feeds etc, to bring the information to them. If more tools such as WebCT were to introduce that, and to have blogs that allowed students to have audiences outside their immediate cohort, then I think they have a future. At present, they tend to concentrate on the very small user group of the class. Which, while useful, especially when studnets are getting to grips with blogs, probably isn’t that useful long term.

5 thoughts on “Blogs as PLEs

  1. Hi,

    I couldn’t agree more with your assessment of the problems of ‘caging in’ with VLE’s. I am also wary of forcing students into these closed environments and then pulling the plug when they finish their studies. Personally I think we should be encouraging students to use commercially available tools (blog apps ,bookmark sites etc) and interacting using things like RSS and agregation tools.

    Have you any experience of teaching using this kind of thing?

  2. Hi Alex
    I have got students to use Elgg (now Eduspaces) in the past – and before that Blogger.

    One of the reasons that I chose Elgg, over Blogger, was that if they happened to have had an existing blog, and wanted to incorporate it, then it’s possible to feed an Eduspaces blog from an external RSS feed.

    The long term issues are difficult; I can see that there are advantages in having a system that they all use (e.g. providing support for less able students – especially when they’re trying to explain to you what they’re doing!), there are, however, other drawbacks – in particular if there are students with Special needs and they have found a system that particularly suits their needs.

    However, if we’re going to require students to use a blog, and to mark work done in it, then I think that we have to consider the need to install something, as problems could arise if the (external) system went down just before handin.

    Up till now, I’ve not got students to select their own blogging system, (and, this year, when I got them to use Elgg, those that had had blogs in other places said how much more flexible they found Elgg!). Who knows what I’ll do in the future.

  3. Lately, I’ve been doing informal polls in my classes, and have noticed the majority of students have no idea what RSS is – although they’re probably using it in one form or another (facebook) they don’t seem to know what it’s called.

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