I have been experimenting this semester with a course blog in my Art 157 class, which is the basic Art Orientation here at MiraCosta. I changed to this format in Art 157 this semester after trying a discussion forum that was group-work based. Although that format has really worked in my Art 259, the Renaissance to Modern Art survey course, it totally bombed in Art 157. The idea of the group-based discussion forum is that the students are randomly organized into 7 groups, and these groups lead the discussion for each week that expands the in-class discussion, posting both images and questions, as well as responding to fellow students’ posts. I could not get either section of my 157 class to really lead the discussion or engage in the purpose of this, which is meant to further the learning in class. I also link, in the Blackboard classroom, a series of OER resources for them to use. These help with the research, and include Smarthistory through Khan Academy, Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive, and WikiCommons image database.
With the Blog, I gave the students prompts with images for each week, and they are required to respond to the prompts and post their own images. They make their initial posts by Wednesday of each week, and are supposed to respond to each other by Saturday of the week. As with the discussion forum, they get the links to the OER sites, and are expected to really get a discussion going with each other. Also, the point here is the same: further the learning begun in the lecture and the general reading for the week. I am finding, bearing in mind that we are only on Week 4, that I get not only more participation, but better responses. With the blog in Art 157, there seems to be more of a willingness to share, and to post their own opinions. Although I won’t really know their experience of it until the final post-mortem at the end of the semester, my initial impression is that this is a more successful option with this particular course.
I am not sure why one format works in one course, where another works better in the second. My feeling is that it has something to do with the more general nature of the Art 157 course as opposed to the specificity of the Art 259. I should also mention that both are face to face courses, in which we also do group work in class. I emphasis group work because I think that students teaching each other is often more effective than just me teaching. Also, my classrooms are pretty close to being completely flipped, as this is another thing I find to be more effective in my pedagogy. I will update my thoughts on this as the semester goes along.