Thinking about setting up a course blog?
Benefits of Blogging:
- Blogging technology offers a highly customizable space for course collaboration. In recent years, blogging software has evolved, becoming more sophisticated, yet remaining easy to use.
- Course blogs allow you to extend coursework beyond the classroom, engaging students in a different manner, while encouraging interaction with a wider audience.
- Course blogs reside where students often are: online. In addition, many students are already familiar with this type of self-publishing.
“I supplemented this with more traditionally structured academic writing, and when I had both samples in front of me, I discovered something curious. Their writing online, at least in their blogs, was incomparably better than in the traditional term papers they wrote for class.[…] I was shocked that elegant bloggers often turned out to be the clunkiest and most pretentious of research paper writers.” 
 Cathy N. Davidson, Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn (Viking Press, 2011), 101.
You will need to decide whether it makes best sense to keep your course blog private (password protected) or public (open to search engine indexing). The following may impact your decision:
- Legal considerations: will you be sharing copyrighted material?
- Privacy considerations: will private student information like grades or email addresses be visible?
- Practical considerations: the public can (and will) comment.
- Security considerations: open blogs get spammed and blogs can be hacked.[…] “I had made no effort to restrict the site or the discussion to students in my class or my university. On several occasions, I have had students from other courses, and from other universities, virtually “sitting in” on the course blog because they found the content or the discussion interesting. In a surprisingly large number of cases, we have heard responses from the authors of the work we are reading who step in and respond to the discussion uninvited. This can be a bit of a shock to students who tend not to think of these scholars as real people, or at least as people who would be interested in students’ ideas. […]
Finally, and in large part because of the outcomes above, the comments themselves become an important part of the text of a course, worthy of continuing discussion and commentary.” 
 Alex Halavais, “Blogging Course Texts: Enhancing Our Traditional Use of Textual Materials.” Learning Through Digital Media Experiments in Technology and Pedagogy. 2011. Web. 1 November 2011. <http://learningthroughdigitalmedia.net/blogging-course-texts-enhancing-our-traditional-use-of-textual-materials#more-281>.
- Teach with a single, central course blog, instead of having students set up and maintain individual blogs (the hub model).
- Keep the blog open/public, if no confidential student data (grades, email addresses) or copyrighted content will be shared.
- Ask students to create accounts using pseudonyms (they would then share their account names with you.) This helps circumvent any privacy concerns that students may have about posting to a public site and may also embolden some students to write less self-consciously.
- Use the blog consistently; minimally, require weekly posts and require peer feedback to maintain the discussion’s momentum.
- Summarize key points made via the blog during class time.
- Realize that if this blog if open to search engines, it may get unanticipated attention (news, authors, random visitors, and sadly, spam).
Do-it-Yourself or work with IT?
- PRO: You will have more control over when, where and how the blog is set up.
- CON: If you run into trouble with the blog (say, your blog gets hacked or an installed plug-in breaks the page), IT will be less likely to be able to help you, especially if your blog is with a third-party/hosted solution.
- CON: you will have to ensure that your blog site is archived once the course ends.
Work with IT:
Currently, requests for a locally hosted (Bard managed) WordPress blog can be made through Academic Technology.**
- PRO: We are able to recommend themes and plugins that are known to be stable, reducing your need to research and test.
- CON: most customizations will need to be made by our team vs. the convenience of making such modifications on your own.
** Academic Technology Services took over the support of academic/course blogs beginning FALL 2014.