Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Blogs vs. Blackboard for Courses

One of my projects for the summer is to figure out how to create better on-line resources for my courses. One step will be to create a course page for my course on Law and War in 20th Century America. Ideally, the page could help students figure out whether this elective is of interest to them before classes start, and without registering and accessing a Blackboard page. And it could serve as a resource page for the class after that. This should be fairly easy to do, using the free software I use for my personal homepage.

For ongoing course use, I've thought about creating a class blog. That would be an easy way to organize course announcements and updates, and it would be more interactive, so that students could continue to discuss course-related issues outside of class. Blackboard now has a Blog Tool, but I haven't tried it out yet.

The issue of blogs vs. Blackboard is taken up today in the Chronicle of Higher Education. A scholar is quoted as urging the use of blogs rather than Blackboard as a way to open up access to course content. Blogs are potentially open to anyone on the web who wants to read them. But this is not a good thing if you want to restrict access only to course members, so that students can post comments more freely without having to worry about making a public record of their untested ideas. But blog software, at least the program I use, enables you to limit access. If I use Blogger rather than Blackboard to bring more interactivity to a course site, I will set it up so that it can only be viewed by members of the class. One advantage to a blog is that I could post via email when I don't have either the time or computer access for a Blackboard post post (e.g. while traveling).

I would be so interested to know about ways others are bringing web 2.0 into the classroom. Creating on-line resources and discussion opportunities strikes me as especially useful in legal history classes. There is only so much we can cover during a class period, and a website or blog enables students to go beyond that, and explore on their own, following links to on-line resources. The biggest barrier to doing this is no longer the technology, since it is now so easy to use. It is the usual one: having the time to do the initial work to pull something together.