Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Course Blogs vs Wikis

If you're a professor or TA for a course and want to use online technology for the betterment of your students, which is superior: a course wiki or a course blog? I've been using the latter for the course I'm TA'ing this term, but think the real answer depends on exactly what you hope to get out of it.


The blog I've been running this term is for the third year graphics course offered to the game development stream students.  One of the reasons I started it is that the only other ways to communicate with students would be to ask the professor to post things to his course website (which would limit me in what I could actually say), or to hope that students actually checked WebCT once in a while (computer science students don't much like WebCT).

Some of the things I post about include:
  • Updates on my progress grading various assignments and tests.
  • General summarized feedback on assignments.
  • Numbered comments for tests that I can refer to when marking so I don't have to write the same explanations over and over again on paper.
  • Detailed explanations of topics students seem to be struggling with.
  • Links to applets on fundamental topics I've made in the past that might help students.
  • Links to other resources that might be helpful.
So far the blog has been very much a one-way form of communication, even though students could be posting questions or comments on the posts if they wanted to.  It's not totally clear how many students look at the blog, but I do know that those who come see me for help use it.

A course wiki would look a lot different from the blog.  For instance, instead of a stream of posts that capture what happened during a particular term chronologically, a wiki would likely end up being a more structured documentation of the course that could evolve over time.  It is more of a living document that students, TA's, and professors could contribute to.  It might even be able to combine the ideas of the traditional course webpage with some of what I put on my blog (some of the resources on my blog might be better suited to a wiki).  A wiki might be more difficult to use as a form of feedback to students in a particular term since it's not as obvious when new content is posted.

So, if choosing between a wiki or a blog, I would consider whether I want to develop a resource that will evolve each time the course is taught (wiki), or if communication and feedback to students is my priority (blog).  I don't think one is superior to the other, and the ambitious might even be able to effectively offer both.

Have you used either for your own course? What type of content did you include, and how successful was your approach?


Anonymous said...
We used the above for a class. I liked the form and content.

Anonymous said...

I've never used a blog for a course—I can always just put stuff on the web page (as can TAs, when I have them).

I have used a Wiki, mainly for student work:

Gail Carmichael said...

One thing I also like about blogs is having an RSS feed so students can have updates pushed to them. Of course this is possible with a webpage as well, but our course pages are rarely set up for that I find.

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