What Can Blogs Do For You… and Your Learners? A Social Learning Case Study Review

by Renee Robbins on December 8, 2009

During my Google searches over the past few days I have found a few interesting studies on the use of social media in education.  Some of the studies are light on conclusive data, but they provide great evidence of building trends in learning and the possible outcomes.  One such study I found was The Use of Blogs in English Classes for Medicine-Related Majors.  The study focused on the use of blogs in teaching English to Chinese med-students. While the study group is specifically focused the lessons learned can be applied broadly. 


The study found the following advantages in the use of blogging:

  • Simplicity: The class used a ready-made blogging solution (Blogger) the students did not need any education on coding or programming.  Additionally, the software provided them a semi-professional template with which to start blogging. 
  • Facilitated Discussion: The teacher used their blog to post questions prior to class to prepare students for classroom discussions.  Also, the educators found that the student’s blog posts were a great way to continue classroom discussions outside of the confines of the school.  This is an important aspect to blogging.  Allowing learners to continue the conversation in “the real world” provides them with the ability to build their personal learning network.  In addition since the learners are outside of the traditional classroom setting they are not looking to the instructor for guidance.  They are left to their own merits to argue and defend their points, but in a safe environment.
  • Record:The blogs became a central point for information.  All the teacher’s lecture notes were available on the teacher’s blog along with homework, the syllabus, etc.  Students also posted all of their assignments to their blogs.  By the end of the semester students had a full portfolio the work they completed for the class. 

Disadvantages & Lessons Learned

The study found the following disadvantages in the use of blogging:

  • Teacher Workload:Instructors struggled to keep up with the amount of content generated through blogging (including the initial blog and the follow up comments).  In the end, students expressed that they wanted more feedback on their content.  This isn’t surprising as the increased need for feedback is in line with the Net Generation findings of Don Tapscott in Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World.  To ensure that you provide enough feedback to your learners you may want to ask another trainer for assistance and/or stress the importance of peer correction/feedback to the learners. 
  • Privacy: The blogs were located on the Internet therefore open to the entire world.  Privacy features on various blogging platforms can provide you with password controlled blogs or you can place your blogs on an Intranet behind secure firewalls to hide them from public view.
  • Time Investment:  Although students liked the medium, they found it difficult to dedicate the time to creating the blog postings.  The study cites another study by Wiebrands in 2006 that states many blogs fail because authors find it difficult to update their blogs everyday.  I don’t think a daily update is needed for most blogs, but your expectations should be clear from the onset.  On average, students in this study posted an entry to their blog roughly 14 times during the three month class.
  • Plagiarism:The accessibility of the World Wide Web has its advantages and disadvantages.  In this case it seems that the ability to copy and paste content (including graphics, text, audio, video, etc) lends its self to copyright infringement.  Make sure to inform your learners about copyright.  Not sure about the subject – here’s a good overview.


While this case study had a limited sample size, the findings are still important.  One finding that was statistically significant was that students liked the teacher’s blog more than their own.  Therefore, if you are unsure how to start begin with incorporating a teacher’s blog.  Post all of the documents for your training programs, questions to get your learners minds moving, and provide a place for your learners to post comments.  Soon they will be itching for a blog of their own.  



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