Friday, March 16, 2012

Blogs or Discussion Boards?

Repost by By Rob Kelly

Blogs and discussion boards both provide opportunities for interaction in online courses, but there are instances when one is  more appropriate than the other, says Matt Crosslin, instructional designer

at the University of Texas at Arlington’s Center for Distance Education. Blogs are typically organized in reverse-chronological order and focus on the most recent input, whereas discussion boards focus on the

feedback to an initial prompt. Blog entries are typically longer than discussion board prompts and can include multimedia. These blog entries are excellent places to complement the content in the rest of the

course by providing current information on a topic culled from the Web. “When you’ve got five, six, or ten paragraphs of initial stuff to comment on versus one question, it does give the students a lot more to base their response on,” Crosslin says.

Often the prompt for commenting on blogs is simply a comment button. With discussion boards, since there is usually just a short introduction, the prompts tend to be more specific. “A discussion board can have a broader range of questions, more than just ‘what are your comments?’” Crosslin   says.

Pros and cons of blogs

As with all tools, there are positive and negative aspects; according to Crosslin, blogs have the following pros:

• Blogs generally have an interface that is intuitive to use.

• Blogs present content in reverse chronological order, which makes it easy to follow.

• Blogs enable instructors to add current content to their courses.

• Blog platforms have tools that enable live chat and the viewing of content by date or topic.


Crosslin cites the following cons:

• Most course management systems do not feature blogs, and so blogs are often hosted by external websites, which brings up the issue of support and ownership.

• One downside of keeping one’s course up to date is that there are fewer opportunities to proofread this content before posting it.

Advice for using blogs

Crosslin offers the following advice for those considering using blogs in their online courses:

• Use blogs for a specific pedagogical purpose.

• Don’t duplicate content from the main part of the course.

• Provide a rubric to help students know what is expected of them.

• If possible, host the blog within the course management system so you won’t have to depend on an external host.

Uses for discussion boards

Discussion boards will continue to have a place in the online classroom, Crosslin says. “Some instructors just want the questions up there and the student responses. That’s their focus.

I still think there’s a great use for discussion boards, especially for feedback forums, to ask questions. If you don’t have a news or announcement function, a discussion board

can be a great place to put news and announcements, and students can ask questions if they need clarification.”

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