Student blogs as assessments: case study 1, year-0 students

In the previous post I outlined two case studies of introducing blogs as summative assignments for students at different levels of an undergraduate degree in history. In this post I want to discuss and examine the outcome of the exercise at year-0 level

So, at year-0, thirteen of the eighteen students (72%) failed the blogging assignment, attaining less than the grade of 50 or above required (at that level) to pass that 50% of the assessment. The vast majority of fail grades were just under the pass mark threshold and, because it represented just 50% of the overall grade, no student failed the module overall as a result of their blog mark. Nevertheless, the first impression was that, in many ways, this appeared to represent a significant and fairly catastrophic failure of blogging as a form of summative assessment.

However, it was interesting that all the year-0 students had managed to create, edit and publish their blog without too much difficulty and it was actually the content of the posts and their ability to analyse the subject matter where the weaknesses occurred. This seemed to suggest that blogging itself was not specifically the issue and that the practicalities of the task had been attainable and, indeed, attained. Each of the students had successfully navigated the process of creating their blog, adding an additional page for a bibliography, posting the required number of posts and adding things like pictures and hyperlink; they had clearly understood how to blog; it was analysing the subject that they had struggled with.

As part of the submission process, students were given the opportunity to complete a very rudimentary twelve-question feedback form in which they rated a series of statements about the blog assignment. Students were asked to provide a rating of between 1 and 5, 1 being the lowest or least positive and 5 being the highest or most positive. Questions were worded in the following manner: How much experience of using blogs did you have before the module? In terms of learning about the module subject, how would you rate blogging as a form of assessment? In terms of practicalities and ease of use, how would you rate blogging as a form of assessment? The survey was voluntary but sixteen of the eighteen year-0 students completed it and, generally speaking, the results of the survey concurred with the grades.

As the chart below shows, most of the students had not blogged before but felt that they had received high level of tuition and support on how to do it, which was reflected in their ability to undertake the blog itself. Furthermore, the areas where students felt the blog had not been especially useful to them or where they felt it was less suitable as a means of assessment were in terms of ‘learning about the module subject’ and ‘fulfilling the learning objectives’; again, both of these were reflected in the results, with in-depth knowledge and understanding of the subject being a weakness.

NNNI Chart

The feedback form also gave students the option to comment on the assignment and, interestingly, the comments were mixed and polarised:

‘Most enjoyable piece of work I have ever done and I really enjoyed this. I hope this catches on as it is great fun and a good motivator’.

‘I really enjoyed doing the blog, however I’m not very good with technology in general so at times it was quite frustrating; I do prefer writing essays, in the sense that it’s a lot more straightforward, although the freedom of the blogs and the idea of blogging are very appealing’.

‘I disliked the idea of blogging and was uncertain as to how to approach this assessment, ending up essentially writing an informal essay and dividing it up into posts. I don’t feel like I have written an academic piece of work’.

‘I would have much preferred to have written an essay. After spending the year getting to grips with referencing correctly I found it almost like taking a step backwards’.

The results and feedback certainly gave me a great deal to think about and to re-evaluate in relation to blogging with year-0 students. In a later post I will be discussing my reflections on the exercise and the adjustments I have made to the assignment which I am running again in the 2015-16 academic year, albeit in a slightly different way.

Before doing that, though, what of the year two and three students who also undertook blogging as a form of assessment; did they fare any better…

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