Student Journal or Blog Feature

(5)
In the past, I designed courses that allowed individual students to keep their own blogs as a journal/log assignment. Is there a way to include a blog feature for individual students (like a journal assignment). This could be set to allow only instructors to see the students' individual blogs OR allow all students to see the blogs but each student can only edit their own. I thought of using "pages" but those can only be made editable by all students or none. Perhaps a slight modification to allow teachers to select individual students to enable editing would suffice.

 

Ideally, this feature would also allow for multi-part assignments, where the student is graded at certain "checkpoints" as they compose and edit portions of a cumulative assignment.

 

Originally posted by Robert Anderson: Student Journal or Blog Feature : Help Center

 

  Response from Instructure
October 2016 update from Chris Ward
There are a lot of blogging solutions out there that have excellent solutions in this space. Because of this, we'll be archiving this feature idea. Thanks for voting and participating in the community!
71 Comments
anthonem
Community Contributor

Thanks  @annmarie_johnso ​, I appreciate your feedback.

frankel
Community Champion

Although this solution may not work in large classes (and it may not work at all), I'm setting up a summer class and have created Group Set with a group for each student.  For their journal assignment, I will tell them to use the discussion board in their group.

anthonem
Community Contributor

Thanks frankel​ -- you have yet another inventive workaround! Do you use separate gradebook entries for scores/feedback on student "blog/journal" posts? Or perhaps do you leave feedback for students inside their own group discussion? I'm guessing this is more of a journal type assignment?

frankel
Community Champion

 @anthonem ​, I'm trying this idea in a class this summer.  My intent is to comment in their individual discussion boards (the same way I would if they handed in a paper journal).  I made it a group assignment with no submission, so there is a column in the gradebook -- but I will have to tally the grades separately and then record them.

anthonem
Community Contributor

Thanks frankel​ for your input, appreciated. It sounds like this assignment should work reasonably well for you this summer.

c_t_coltman
Community Contributor

I agree with you regarding having a blog as a feature of the eportfolio.  In the eportfolio I use for my own personal development, I have the ability to create a blog or any number of blogs.  I found this to be very useful when I was a student as I had to maintain a blog for one of my postgraduate courses. 

macaulayl
Community Member

I actually like that there isn't a built in blog tool or journal tool in Canvas.  We are migrating from Blackboard, though, so we are also seeing faculty up in arms that this is gone.  First, what I tell them:

1. If you liked a journal, just make an assignment that is a text entry submission and have students submit their thoughts to you for comment.  The commenting feature in the right sidebar is just between you and the other student on EVERY assignment, so no need for a special tool to journal.

2. If you liked to blog, let students REALLY blog with a real blog tool of their choice that is accessible to the world and not just the students in the course.  Just have them submit the URL link to each new blog post that you need to grade.

Now for a suggestion: The one issue with #2 above is that it is a pain for other students in the class to know when new content is posted on other student blogs and to be able to comment on them....Canvas suggests adding the student blogs to the Announcement RSS feed.  I would prefer if we coudl add those RSS feeds to another area...I want Announcements to be JUST announcements.  I want the blog posts of the students to be JUST blog posts...

So, maybe it isn't a new tool, per se, but add the Announcement RSS feed functionality to a new button in the Canvas Interface where we can add RSS feeds.  That way, my announcements stay announcements only and other rich blog content I want to share (from my student's blogs or other blogs out there) all stay in one place.

anthonem
Community Contributor

Hi macaulayl​ thanks for adding another perspective.

I wonder, what is your suggestion for #1 when faculty complain that they don't want 10+ assignments in their Canvas course to track and leave feedback for individual "blog" posts, and they also want students to have a cumulative document with all posts collected. I've suggested using one assignment, and having students submit multiple times. The feedback I've gotten is that this is problematic because students can't view previous posts. I've suggested students keep a ongoing Word document and post that multiple times to an assignment, but suggestion was also not adopted by the various faculty I've talked with. Also, grading is problematic with one assignment because student appear to be penalized with they have finished assignment #1 and only have 10/100 points awarded.

There are various inventive suggestions on this thread such as create discussion board for each student (blog) or create a group for each student where they can use a discussion board (journal). Students could also be asked to submit a Canvas ePortfolio URL to an assignment. There's also the idea of using Canvas Collaborations in a similar way to the Word doc idea I described above. Our faculty wouldn't go for any of these options because there isn't a built-in way to create a multi-part assignment that has multiple "checkpoints" for grading and feedback. I usually enjoy the task of finding inventive workarounds that faculty are willing to adopt, but for blogs/journals I'm at a loss!

peytoncraighill
Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

Great discussion! Jumping in with a couple questions:

Per product documentation, ePortfolios exist firstly to “Create an online educational journal for reflection.” It also sounds like the setup process is too cumbersome. What other blockers are there to using ePortfolio?

There seem to be a lot of other potential options available, from linking to a Google Doc to creating Discussions to setting up a WordPress server. In combination with these other options, you could set up an assignment group and create multiple assignments within it as the checkpoints for grading and comments. What need(s) are we missing with these options?

Thanks for the feedback!

anthonem
Community Contributor

Hi Peyton, thanks for chiming in. I agree there's a lot of workarounds. None of them are ideal from my perspective, and from the faculty I work with because 1) they are cumbersome or clunky to set up and post into from the student perspective -- mainly the ePortfolio option, and more importantly 2) they are clunky from the instructor perspective. As you described, instructors could create a bunch of assignments for each blog post -- this would result in a bloated gradebook.

The solution I'm hearing from faculty is clear, there needs to be one cumulative assignment with multiple submission "checkpoints" for grading and feedback. Does this make sense? I'm starting to feel like a broken record on this discussion...

buellj
Community Contributor

Hi Peyton,

I met with Mark and the faculty member who requested the functionality; I have also heard the ask from other faculty members and have done similar assignments as a student in my masters program.

For me, the key piece is a multi-part reflection that the student creates, is graded in phases by week for example, and that can be a private conversation between the student and instructor, or a group of students and instructor. There would need to be a way for students and instructors, and if a group multiple students and instructor to have a conversation through annotations, comments, etc.

So a specific example might look like the following:

I am taking a multicultural perspectives course that lasts 12 weeks. Each week I have a requirement to reflect on the weeks discussions and readings. Due to the sensitivity of the material and the need for expert facilitation, the reflection needs to be done in a safe space that does not include the rest of the class. Unlike a regular assignment that is submitted and not subsequently referenced, the reflection is additive; I would need to keep returning to themes and respond to the feedback from the instructor. In some cases, I may need to return to previously edited material and add new thoughts.

I can see a few ways that this could be accomplished within Canvas. If assignments are updated so that you can create one overall assignment with gradable parts and multiple submissions that students could go back and review feedback, that might work. Another alternative would be having a course-based portfolio assignment that again has multiple gradable parts but doesn't actually consist of separate assignments.

I hope this helps,

John

snarej
Community Novice

Our faculty frequently ask for this feature and although there are lots of workarounds, they don't quite hit the mark. Instructure could use the functionality of the discussion but have the item visible only to the individual student and instructor (with an option to open it for classmate viewing).

sharris
Community Participant

Why should Canvas try and build something that is already done so well with wordpress ? Couldn't this be accomplished via the ePortfolio & the text entry feature built in ?

BKINNEY
Community Contributor

I just revisited the ePortfolio tool, and I can see why people would not want to use it for blogging. For one thing, the editing tools are not intuitive. It is strange to me that you have to edit html and text in separate containers. Also, the ePortfolio seems to lack a way to import/embed anything other than images. So, if students want to incorporate a pdf or video into their portfolio, and that artifact was NOT also an assignment submission elsewhere in Canvas, they are on their own to figure out where to host that content. Is that correct?

I think if I were an instructor assigning a blog, and I didn't want to force students to leave Canvas to do it, I'd make a Canvas Group Set with 1 student per group (is that even allowed?) rather than point them towards the ePortfolio. At least that way, students can take advantage of everything the wiki editor has to offer, including whatever LTI Editor Buttons I may have installed in my course.

The other thing that I think would scare people away from ePortfolios is that there is no truly private option. Anyone with the link can see the portfolio. It's what my friend John calls 'security by obscurity'. Personally, I have no problem with it, but I can easily imagine faculty members who want to be able to see their students' blogs, but not without first logging into Canvas. That reassures them that they are not violating their students' right to privacy by forcing them to blog out in the open.

c_t_coltman
Community Contributor

You can add files such as a PDF to the ePortfolio see How do I upload a file or image to my ePortfolio page?  You can upload directly from your PC or from your personal files in Canvas (Settings | Files) and it works fine.

I agree with you that I wouldn't want to force students to find an external blog; I would prefer them to blog within Canvas.

BKINNEY
Community Contributor

Thanks, that helps, and I had missed it. Unfortunately, when I upload

anything other than an image ( I only tried swf and mp4), all my viewer can

do with the file is download it. No one wants to download my video, they

just want to see it on my blog page. I tried putting the mp4 into a video

player by copy/pasting the download link, but that didn't work either. Same

tag works fine when I use the original address of the video on another

server, so this is not a problem except for people who want to upload their

content to Canvas and nowhere else.

Becky Kinney

Academic Technology Services

Project Blog <http://sites.udel.edu/bkinney/>

On Fri, Jun 5, 2015 at 4:44 AM, c.t.coltman@bham.ac.uk <

tom_gibbons
Community Contributor

I've done this, with a separate discussion assignment for each week of the course. I use it to scaffold up to longer writing assignments. Still, a blog function would be great.

ehenry
Community Novice

I, too, would like to get feedback on best practices and/or see a dedicated blog function within canvas.  For my courses, it would be a "course blog" to which all class members could contribute images, clips and text (complete with tracking/ID functions as per Wordpress, other course delivery software, etc.) as others above have mentioned.  It seems the only thing  missing from the elegantly designed Canvas.

vrs07nl
Community Contributor

yes yes yes!

arovner
Community Contributor

Hi John,

You explained this so well - thank you!   Our nursing students have to keep journals of their practical experiences and the nursing faculty have asked for functionality just as you described! 

Amy