Blogs as a Knowledge Management Tool in the Classroom

Nice article by Delaney J. Kirk and Timothy L. Johnson on Blogs As A Knowledge Management Tool In The Classroom (via).

Based on their experiences in a combined 22 business courses over the past three years, the authors believe that weblogs (blogs) can be used as an effective pedagogical tool to increase efficiency by the professor, enhance participation and engagement in the course by the students, and create a learning community both within and outside the classroom. In this paper they discuss their decision to use blogs as an integral part of their course design to contribute to both explicit and tacit knowledge. In addition, suggestions and cautions for using this new technology are presented.

The article definitely repays a close reading. I'll hit a few of the high points here.

Reasons to use a class blog:

  • "using a class blog allowed us to be more effective and efficient in communicating with our students"
  • "We also believed it important for all of our students to participate in class discussions but, despite our best efforts, on many days only a small percentage of the students ever had anything to say."
  • "And finally, and most importantly, we wanted to see our students take greater ownership of their own learning, not only for our classes but in their future lives."

The three main types of blogs they highlight were instructor focused, student focused and community focused:

  • Instructor-focused blogs. "The simplest way to use a blog is as a one-stop source where the professor posts syllabi, announcements, assignments, and links to articles and websites for the students to read. Faculty retain ownership of the site and students are expected to access the blog on a regular basis to obtain class information."
  • Learner-focused blogs. "In this approach, the professor would expect the students to be more active participants in the blog. Learning can occur peer-to-peer in addition to teacher-to-student."
  • Community-focused blogs. "A third approach to using blogs is to involve participants from outside the class itself. Students could be required to find, read, and evaluate blogs from "experts" outside class on assigned topics and then to share this information with their classmates."

The section on nettiquette for students is very good:

Another consideration is respect and privacy for others. In one of our classes, students were assigned a consulting project with local small businesses and not-for-profits. If a student writes disparaging comments on his or her blog, it can have an adverse impact on that organization. In addition, it makes it difficult for the professor to convince other businesses to be involved with projects for future classes. This instructor now advises students to speak of these companies (and their management) in general terms which would not specifically identify them.

Two of the overriding themes that students need to understand when expressing themselves on blogs (or other social media) are common sense and common courtesy. One of our students wrote about a variety of psychological disorders and personal problems which she was experiencing. While this information put into context some of her other classroom performance issues, it was not relevant to the assignment and was certainly more information than she needed to provide.

Some of the things they learned:

  • Blogging invites more students into the conversation
  • Blogging extends the conversation
  • Classroom blogging provides a "safe" mechanism for introducing students to social media
  • Blogging makes the students into subject matter experts
  • Blogging helps students take ownership of their own learning

Some selected advantages:

  • Allows "quiet" students a forum for expressing themselves
  • Promotes learning community between and among students and gives them a feeling of ownership
  • Students may put more effort toward their writing knowing it will be read by their peers as well as the professor

And selected disadvantages:

  • Can create more work for the instructor (developing content, reading student blogs and comments)
  • Students may be uncomfortable sharing information through this medium
  • Student writing might be more casual and sloppy compared to turning in hard copies

4 responses so far

  • Tony P says:

    They more want a CMS (Content Management System) than a blog. You can tightly control who sees a CMS with granular security. Not so on a blog.

  • John Dupuis says:

    Sure, and systems such as Moodle are also pretty popular. But blogs really are just mini-CMSs, especially some of the thinks you can do with WordPress.

  • Delaney Kirk says:

    I find blogs much easier to manage and control than a CMS, perhaps because I have both my class blogs and my professional blogs hosted by Typepad. I can password protect each class blog separately to control access.

    Thanks for sharing our research article with others!

  • I've never used LMS seriously, because I believe in the openness of blog. However, I'm planning to migrate to LMS next year... I'll compare the experience.

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