Your online participation is evaluated mostly by your portfolio — a collection of your best blog entries, that represent your developing intellectual engagement with the literary works we have studied.
—Framework for a Weblog Portfolio (Jerz’s Literacy Weblog)
I’m using weblogs in my American Lit course. I thought the experiment went well when I did it last year, but students were a little anxious about how they would be evaluated. Some dreaded not being told what to blog about, while others hated being assigned topics (we called that “forced blogging”).
This year, I am posting occasional “recommended blog topics,” for those who need to kick-start their critical thinking apparatus. But more important, I feel, is the adjustment in the way I evaluate weblogs.
The very fact that blogging is on the syllabus will of course affect the kind of blogging that students will do; many who would never blog voluntarily are being forced to do so in order to earn a grade. Of course, many students would never otherwise read the books we assign, or write the research papers we assign, so there’s nothing really new about that.
I resist forcing students to blog, say, three times a week, or to write entries that are 200 words long. Those guidelines are fine for traditional journaling exercises, but they kill the creativity and spontaneity of blogs.
I do want students to feel that their blogs are “theirs,” but at the same time I am asking them to move beyond the personal writing with which they may already feel comfortable, and instead use their blogs to develop their critical thinking and writing ability.
I have posted a general outline for the blogging portfolio, which asks students to submit blog entries under several different categories: “Coverage” “Depth,” “Interaction,” “Discussion,” “Xenoblogging,” and “Wildcard”.