In the field of training and development, Web 2.0 technologies have been on the front page of the training news for several years. However, blogs have received little attention in relation to e-learning, mobile, and video. If your organization is considering a blogging channel to increase learning efforts, to share information, and to help professionals engage in and retain content, the following information should help you get started.
What is it?
Derived from the phrase "web log," in its most elementary form, a blog is a commentary usually maintained by one person.
Blogging is not a new Web 2.0 medium. Blogs have been around since the early 90s. However, it may be one of the least celebrated of all the Web 2.0 technologies of today. Don't let their lack of celebrity fool you; as of February 2011, there were more than 156 million blogs in existence.
The many types of blogs vary in content type and delivery method:
- Personal blogs. These are the most common blogs and are written by an individual and similar to a diary.
- Corporate and organizational blogs. These are more commonly used for marketing and branding purposes externally, or utilized internally to disseminate information about the corporate culture.
- Genre. These blogs focus on a particular topic or subject area, such as travel, politics, or fashion.
- Type. Many believe that blogs are only written. However, there are many types of blogs, such as the video blog (vblog), link blog (comprised of links), or art blogs composed of sketches, photographs, and more.
- Device. There are also blogs by medium or device; for example, a mobile device blog (moblogs).
For training purposes, you will more than likely focus on only one or two of these types. Before you begin, however, ask yourself this: "Do my learning objectives include actions that can be absorbed through reading or writing a blog?"
Before incorporating blogging in your training strategy, first ask yourself if blogging is the right tool for the learning process in mind? If this is unclear, participants will fail to see the tool as a benefit to the learning experience. Learning goals that blogging may help facilitate include analyzing and synthesizing. When taken in conjunction with Bloom's Taxonomy (see Resources), those skill levels are high on the learning evaluation scale. Thus, blogging may help students to advance their learning much quicker than traditional learning methods.
For blogging to be effective, both the instructional designer and the instructor must be clear about the desired learning outcomes. For example, the learner summarizes what she has learned, while comparing and contrasting various ideas she has discovered. Blogging can also be used as a tool to give learners a way to express themselves by sharing insights. This goes beyond course objectives and delves into the participant's learning needs and objectives, as well as opportunities for future application.
The blog's effectiveness can be influenced greatly by the instructor's timely, relevant feedback. Instructor feedback should be within an identified time frame (for example 24 to 48 hours, depending on the situation). The feedback should also be constructive, to guide the learner to a deeper understanding or enlightenment over the course of the blogging period. Feedback is imperative, but not for the blog's organization or management of entries, but rather with the learning journey.
Measuring the effectiveness of the blog tool in training and development must be clear from the beginning. If a blog is going to be used as a tool, it must be clear on how to assess the blog. Offering a way in which participants may structure blog entries is key; for example, develop constructs that help bloggers to organize their entries, such as "new idea," application-related," or "reflective."
As you consider blogging as an elemental tool in coursework, ensure that the time needed for participants to complete blog entries is also considered in the course timeline and requirements.
Why it works
The use of blogs in the learning space promotes critical and analytical thinking. The structure of a blog affords writers a chance to take creative risks and apply that thinking to their business environment.
In addition to the individual growth provided by blogging opportunities, one of the main advantages of blogging is within the group construct. Blogging as a group allows for individual expression, while providing the opportunity to share comments, thoughts, and expression about another's blog. It is an excellent tool to support group work. Group blogging works well in courses that lend themselves to group work - for example, marketing assignments, brainstorming, case studies, or IT projects, in which students are to research, analyze, and offer their insight.
Finally, the flexibility of using an online medium such as blogs gives the participant a chance to add feedback on an "anytime/anywhere" basis. Some educators found that people post blog comments to assignments at various times of the day, and in some cases, while working or traveling. In many instances, the flexibility of Web 2.0 technologies, has replaced the need for face-to-face meetings and conference calls.
Though blogging is not a new social medium, it is just starting to gain momentum in the learning space. Research has shown that blogging within the learning space may enhance learners' experiences.
In 2008, Harvard researchers studied whether blogging enhanced the seminar learner experience. Their findings concluded that 60 percent of students found that blogging enriched their learning experience substantially. And when comparing the use of blogs versus speaking in class, 60 percent found the latter easier, and 65 percent felt that the skills attained by writing blogs were useful for current and future work.
Since a basic blog is free and can be created with relatively little IT intervention or skill, using them for teaching and learning is a low-cost, high-return investment.