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Blogs as a Method of Undergraduate Health Care Education: Benefits to everyone (Examples of Student Webliographies)

November 13, 2009

Many undergraduate educators struggle with conveying two key concepts to their students: How to effectively communicate through written format and relevance of writing assignments. Likewise, many people who would benefit from access to students’ work cannot because access is restricted to the relationship between student and professor. Much of the hard work spent on undergraduate literature reviews, concept and theory overviews, evaluation of systems, case studies, community work, etc. is simply lost to the current formative and summative evaluation systems that higher learning has continued to use for centuries.

Blogs

Blogs offer a method for writing and critical thinking where students can begin to build portfolios of work, knowledge, and platforms that can benefit others through web connections. In a world where technology and information are changing rapidly, helping students to ‘publish’ without the constraints of time or the requirement of journal submission (many who won’t accept undergraduate work), blogs offer a way for students to disseminate what they know, ideas they have, or experiences in learning that might benefit the ones educating them. Not to forget that blogging expands their knowledge and use of social media.

Blogging also teaches students to write concisely (get to the point already) and clearly (a problem they often struggle with). One disadvantage to using blog assignments, as educators, is that ‘bleeding’ all over them with a red ink pin is difficult in web format. However, the resourceful instructor who edits can simply copy and paste and with the edition of track changes… and voila- you have feedback. Students also bear the disadvantage of their writing errors being accessible to the entire connected world, but this seems to be a motivator for good work. Below I offer a few tips, after piloting a class where I required the majority of journal writing to be in blog format.  I have learned much in utilizing blogs to help educate and evaluate student work, and will continue to revise blogging assignments.

Tips for Teaching Through Blogging

1. The instructor needs to be very familiar with blogging platforms, design, and free access for students. This first recommendation is the most difficult at times. Many faculty are not familiar with blogging, how to go about designing a blog, where to get a free blog, or the intricacies of blog tool bars, dashboards, and simple tasks like creating active links within posts.You don’t need to know HTML code to work free blog creators such as WordPress or Blogger

2. The instructor needs to create a time to work with students on developing an initial blog. Whether you teach online or in a traditional seated class you need to set aside some class time (not extra work time for the students) to help them create a blog. Take them to the computer lab and help them sign in and navigate design, telling them advantages of having widgets or three columns, etc… If you teach in an asynchronous online format I would suggest audio recording along with a visual presentation (maybe you want to use Screencast or Slideshare to accomplish this… if your university doesn’t have a great format like WIMBA or Elluminate… however,  Skype or TokBox work great as well).

3. Assign writing that is currently relevant to the student and the profession, but give them some freedom in choosing topics. If students find the writing assignment tedious, boring, or irrelevant to themselves they are not going to enjoy writing, nor will they continue blogging beyond your class; the idea is to help them create a medium that they can continue to write through long after your course is over.

4. Explain rules of etiquette in online communication, professionalism, and how taking up time and internet space with irrelevant words is irritating :). A gentle but clear discussion with students about how naming fellow students, co-workers, employers, teachers, without permission is not professional writing. Likewise, ranting is not ideal in a course or professional blog. Create a grading rubric that addresses this as part of the final grade. Further, the world is full of useless words and distractions. Remind students that their blog should not be an addition to the junk and noise on the web, but a clear and concise offering that will contribute to the knowledge-base of their profession or to others who will read their blog. Grade them based on this aspect as well.

5. Support  your students through promotion of their work. One of the best ways to spur on excellence is to support students work within other student circles, faculty, and professional groups of the students’ primary degree area. If you twitter, tout students’ work with links or shout outs. Present students’ work as part of accreditation visits, at conferences, and to other classes.When students know that others will be reading their work, with their name on it, they often are motivated to make corrections and to make their initial product of much higher quality.

Creating Webliographies

On a final topic note, blogs are a great way for sound webliographies on health care issues to be created. By creating webliographies students are forced to learn what are reliable and valid internet sources, creating knowledge they can transfer to others and their patients in a world full of incorrect information. They also create a single source for several reviewed internet resources on a single topic. Webliographies are great additions to student blogs and assist them in building sound knowledge on a single subject and begin their journey into being content experts or into specialization.

I have included some of my students’ blogs and webliographies below. Yes, typo’s grammatical errors, broken links, etc. are present, but for a first attempt at such an assignment and a pilot project (without them having the benefit of all the tips I have offered to you above) they have done fairly well. They have at the very least compiled valid resources for patients. Check them out and happy blogging!

Preventing Risks of Central Line Infections – http://stephaniern.wordpress.com/

Health Care DPOAs – http://mommycmsrn.wordpress.com/

Alzheimer’s Disease – http://movinonup09.wordpress.com/

Testosterone deficiency vs. Depression in men – http://scotchtwin18.wordpress.com/

Childhood Onset Schizophrenia – http://erjunky.wordpress.com/

Meningitis – http://rain029.wordpress.com/

Knee Replacement Recovery – http://orthonurse.wordpress.com/

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Nerdnurse permalink
    November 14, 2009 6:05 pm

    Terri, what your students have done is infinitely more exciting, interesting, and useful than the typical school paper that no one other than the teacher and the student ever sees. What a tremendous way to disseminate knowledge on a multitude of levels!

    • January 23, 2010 6:54 pm

      I agree 1,000% I’m starting to post notes/assignments myself to try to gain some additional half-life. I just hope there is no problem with any plagarism software that detects that I put this on my website.

      • January 25, 2010 8:38 pm

        Hey – for this class I am teaching, it is not a big deal because the students don’t turn in any paperwork. It is all done via blog, twitter, and slideshare. Also, nothing you write on the web should be an issue (unless you are not citing works) because it is all your writing. No issue unless you are turning in a blog post from previous as an assignment, then it is an issue (plagiarism). I am going to use blogging more and more as a method of writing for my students. Thanks for the comments Rob!

  2. Donna Petko permalink
    April 29, 2010 3:30 am

    Terri, this is really great info! I would like to teach in an online format and have never blogged myself. I will have to start blogging so I can better teach my future students! I wish something like this would have been offered when I was an undergrad –it is much more fun and interesting than traditional approaches. I find it more inspiring and allows one to create their best works for all to read. Way to go!

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