Blogs as assessed coursework – two case studies

In 2014 I decided to introduce a ‘blog’ as a summative assignment in two of the modules I was teaching in the Department of History during the 2014-15 academic year.

One of these modules, on the subject of ‘Nations, Nationalism and National Identity’, was delivered to eighteen, year-0 undergraduate students enrolled on the university’s Integrated Degree Programme (IDP). The blog was undertaken during the last five weeks of the module and made up 50% of the overall grade, the other 50% being an essay.

The IDP provides entry into higher education for people returning to study after a period of work or caring responsibilities, or those who have experienced an interrupted education, perhaps as a result of particularly challenging life circumstances. There are no formal entry requirements and admission is based upon clear evidence of the skills and abilities to read and understand complex texts, to communicate effectively in written and oral form and to engage with history as an academic subject. Students who pass year 0 automatically progress into year one of the standard undergraduate degree and students are graded against exactly the same assessment criteria (albeit differentiated).

The other module, on the subject of ‘Social Movements and Public Protest in London, 1830-2003’, was delivered to fifty undergraduates, a mix of year two and year three students, mostly single-honours history but some combined honours. In this case, the blog was completed throughout the whole ten weeks of the module and made up 40% of the overall grade, the other 60% being an essay.

In advance of both modules, I provided full details of the task via our Virtual Learning Environment and created a ten-page booklet with full step-by-step instructions for setting up and editing a WordPress blog. I also scheduled a two-hour training session in an IT suite which provided an opportunity for me to deliver live step-by-step tuition and ensure that all students attending had created their own blog prior to the start of the module. In both modules I opted for solo student blogs rather than collaborative efforts (see previous post for discussion on different options).

Students in both modules appeared to readily embrace this new form of assessment and seemed to engage well with it. However, the results of introducing blogs into the modules, and the grades achieved by students, could not have been more contrasting; as will be revealed in the next two posts.

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