Thursday, September 11, 2014

Anatomy of an Online Course: Weekly Blog Comments

I just added a new post to my evolving Anatomy of an Online Course blog, and the new post is especially relevant to the themes of Connected Courses: it's about Weekly Blog Comments. Throughout the semester, students are commenting on each other's blogs and also on their Storybook projects. The blog comments start already in the first week and run all semester long, while the Storybook comments will start up in a few weeks as students get their websites online.

I have worked hard on this aspect of the class — and because feedback is such an important part of any learning process, I am always tinkering with the feedback process, trying to make improvements. I'm hoping I will get lots of new ideas from Connected Courses in the coming weeks to help me do a better job next semester.

We all need feedback! Why?
The GrammarCatz know why! :-)


  1. So happy to be joining you here in #ccourses, Laura! I spend most of my time in Twitter rather than G+, but you are one of the reasons that I find Google+ so valuable -- you're always trying to learn and push your open practices further, and so generous with sharing what you are doing with your students, and what you are learning. Looking forward to some #ccourses fun :)

  2. In the wild, comments on blog posts or anything in an open, distributed network can and do end up anywhere, all over the place -- and more likely to be on social media than on the blog itself. The blogger may not even know where on the street.

    That was a problem (or perceived by some as such) in earlier large connected courses (I'm making a conscious effort to use that name). I recall the not much used discussion feature on grasshoppr. Facebook was charged (prematurely) with killing blogging. Tagging and even Twitter have been antidotes.

    Anyway, it looks like your arrangement tackles participation over diffusion without locking the class up in an LMS (a feature that reminds me of Morgan's Kingdom of the Ants). I find myself thinking about not-a-course adaptations, although in the open will always be more scattered. I preach tagging a lot.

  3. And here's what's crazy: you'd think this would be one thing the LMS would get right, but it doesn't! At least not D2L. If I did agree to do all the blogging (or discussion forums) inside the closed system, it would have some nifty algorithms that I could set to encourage good distribution of interaction. But nada, nothing. Nothing at all! Over time, I've experimented with different distribution strategies, all of which would be easy to automate with a computer, and I can imagine even better, more sophisticated distribution strategies that would be easy for a computer but which are impossible for me to do manually... but does D2L even acknowledge that such a thing is needed? Nope. Very sad.

  4. Laura, the blog randomizer took me here (BTW I think this random link is a powerful tool to support student comments).

    Update: I tried to encourage commenting. I haven't gotten much. I just instituted a minimum level of participation (I hate that). I haven't gone as far as introduce a rubric (I did with the blogs tsk...tsk..)

    I think this maybe a good approach. I have been just trying to model different kids of posts and introduce students to the social practices and writing strategies of bloggers.

    Maybe now I can use the comments.

    I stole your idea of building an rss feed for comments. I am building one out so my entire class can see the comment feed as well as the blog feed. Many are drawn to the authority of the instructor and gravitate to discussions that involve me. That and I want to model how we leave comments and interact with an audience.

    I also wonder if commenting on individual blogs has moved more to the places where we share our blogs. I have students share new posts in a G+ community (though I like the connected courses system better) but most dialogue on a pst happens there and not on blogs.

    I find this true in my own writing. I do more discussions around my post on Twitter and G+ then I do on the blog itself.

  5. Thanks for your comment here, Greg: the power of random! I love it! I use a randomizer both for the Storybook/Portfolio comments AND for the weekly blog comments. Given the varying levels of participation, randomizing is the perfect way to get things to even out over time.
    One thing I have noticed for me this semester with Blogger as opposed to Ning is that the comments are so much better - and I think it is because when people arrive at a blog that has a very distinctive look-and-feel, it is more like encountering a distinct person, a real person. In the Ning, everything looked the same (originally when I started using Ning, individual users could customize their blogs, but that went away when Ning started premium-izing things, and mini-Nings did not have that option). So, I am really happy now with how the commenting is going. I keep an eye on the comments with Feedly and I always just feel GOOD after reading through a bunch of student comments. So, while I had not expected to get this boost from switching to Blogger, it is a big boost. I am really happy with it!
    I comment on the blogs occasionally, and I probably need to be more systematic about that. The problem is I want to comment on all of them, and I don't have time for that. So I might need to build a randomizer just for me, ha ha, and use that to make a certain number of comments every day.
    Actual dialogue via blog comments is hard, but my Comment Wall solution is working pretty well - have you seen that? It does not have the VERY nice threaded comment from one wall to another like Ning did (I loved that about Ning), but still, it's working well enough. I haven't written up any documentation of the Comment Wall thing yet, so I will make that my thing to document this weekend! :-)


If the comment form misbehaves, you can also find me at Twitter: @OnlineCrsLady.