This semester, my online Art Appreciation students were required to keep their own blogs in our class Ning network (a closed social network to which only my enrolled students have access). I'll be posting survey results about Ning soon (stay tuned!) but I wanted to reflect on a strategy I employ for motivating students to submit blog posts on time, use creativity and be reflective in their writing. I teach five classes each semester (a regular full-time load at my community college) and two of my online classes currently utilize Ning. So I have about 65 students who keep blogs. It's been quite an endeavor to develop a strategy for effectively ensuring the blogs are done on time and the posts fulfill the criteria of the prompts I assign in each learning unit. Here is what I do: I grade the blogs thoroughly twice a semester (at weeks eight and sixteen). In between, I randomly visit and read the blogs. I leave comments and when I find a blog that is "behind" or missing a post or two I will leave a "Nudge" comment. I track the number of "Nudges" each student receives throughout each blog grading period. At the end, when I grade the blogs, each "Nudge" results in a five point deduction from the max blog score. I then grade for completeness and effectiveness of meeting the prompt criteria.
The second element of my blog grading strategy employs a little friendly competition and a fun reward at the end of the semester. Beginning around week 12, when the students are running out of gas, I ask each of them to evaluate their fellow students' blogs and identify one blog that excels in "blogging excellence." I leave the criteria somewhat subjective but I do ask them to consider 1) completeness 2) creativity and 3) quality of posts as general evaluative categories. I secretly tabulate the nominations and all students who receive at least three nominations are awarded the Masterpiece Blog Award and receive 10 extra credit points which, by the way, are prestigious points because they may be awarded to students even if they've already reached the max extra credit in the class.
This strategy seems to work well and last semester I even had a student create a special icon for her blog that said, "Vote For Me!" In previous semesters I simply created a text announcement with the Masterpiece Blog Winners. This semester I tried something a little different. I took screen shots from the winning blogs and created a video on Animoto (which, by the way, now offers free All Access passes to educators!!!). Check it out! This is a fun way to reward great work, encourage students to go above and beyond the required expectations and building online community.
Masterpiece Blog Award Winners from Michelle Pacansky-Brock on Vimeo.