What’s a Blog?
A blog is a series of web pages. Blogs are immediate. While they can deal with things historical in nature, each blog post is date stamped and created in chronological order. This creates a unique group of web pages that can be sorted or searched by category or tag designations, but also always remain ordered sequentially. Old blog posts are kept and archived. This makes blogs very useful for many different purposes.
Blogs can and should be ever-changing. If you are looking to create a website where content rarely if ever changes, then a blog might not be your best tool. Blogs are best when they are created to share ideas and collaborate with others, allow a place for personal and/or public reflection, contribute to the larger educational conversation and when they inspire others to share ideas and broaden their own perspectives.
Blogs, Wikis, Discussion Boards, Oh My!
At UAS we have a rich palette to communicate with our educational community. This includes blogs, wikis, and discussion boards and other tools. While these can often be used to accomplish the same result, they really have some different attributes that might make one tool more appropriate for your educational purpose over another. Let’s highlight some of the strengths of each tool:
Blogs: Simply put, a blog may be described as one person (or a group of people) broadcasting or communicating while encouraging or allowing many people to read and comment on what’s been written. A blog is great for an author or group of authors to create a webpage or group of webpages. Each post is created in sequence and its order cannot easily be modified. In other words, where you can move the slides around in a PPT, the blog posts are created and the order is locked by the timestamp of the entry. Blogs entries can be categories, tagged for easy sorting. Blogs are very visual. It is easy to upload images and videos and other graphics to posts. Students can author a post or comment on each others’ posts. Blogs are perfect for sharing ideas, concepts, reflections, creating community, and collaborating on resources or projects.
Wikis: Wikis are at their best when you want groups of collaborators to create a single project or finished product. They are great for group projects (like the Wikipedia) or other projects where you want students to share their work and be able to receive comments from other students. Wiki pages can be created based on topics, on teams or groups of contributors, on weeks of the semester, or any number of different ideas. Wiki pages and posts are not sequential. Contributors can either add to a wiki page as an author or comment on the page.
Discussion Boards: Discussion boards are excellent for creating deeper discussions between contributors. Discussion forums, like the other tools mentioned, are versatile. You can post images, video clips etc. inside a discussion forum, very much like you can add media to blogs or wikis. Discussion forums are great for posting questions and having students respond to each other or share ideas in an asynchronous back and forth. You can post an assignment to the discussion board if you want students to comment on their classmate’s work.
There are many blogs available to educators. We chose WordPress for our community blog tool for many reasons. First, we evaluated a number of products and reviewed the choice that many other universities made (including UAF and UAA). We like the features that WordPress has to offer. In making our decision we also looked at the responsiveness of the provider to keep up with innovations, the ease of use, support documentation, and the ability to customize our blogs.
WordPress has become a community leader in blogging solutions. The WordPress user community is huge and the developer community is equally large. For WordPress to remain competitive and a blogging leader, it must be very responsive to its users. There’s a vast collection of plug-ins, templates, widgets available. The WordPress user community has posted how-to instructions, or YouTube videos instructing you to do just about anything you need. Community support is extensive.
Other Blogging Options
There are still many reasons to use Blackboard’s blog tool and stay within the Blackboard environment. However, if you are wanting to blog outside of Blackboard, LearningSpaces@alaska.edu might be just the tool you are looking for!
And, if you are looking to explore other blogging platforms, here are a few notable options:
- Blogger.com Blogger started as an independent blogging tool until it was purchased by Google and now a part of the Google suite
- Tumblr. Tumblelogs are the equivalent of a post or a Twitter tweet. They do not require a written post. Tumblr. has created an environment where it is very easy to upload images, video or text, to share and to link to other blogs. It has created a social media micro-blogging environment.
- SquareSpace is a commercial blogging platform. Pricing for SquareSpace is based on volume, providing cool features for all of its users, smallest volume users to highest. The blog’s templates are artistic and pieces ‘snap’ together easily to create visually appealing blogs.