Educational Blogging: Course Blog or Student Blog?

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I'm in the midst of reading a great deal of blog literature to help me understand some of the data we analyzed from the PSU blog platform last summer.  A question many faculty ask when they are thinking about leveraging blogs in a course:

"Do I create a single course blog, and give my students access to write on the blog?  Or should each student create his or her own personal blog?"

Personally, I experimented with both of these methods and found that a course blog, where all my students have access to write entries and comments, typically generates more discussion.  If one of your goals is to generate a sense of community, I definitely recommend a single, unified course blog. 

Some of the research focused on engaging students in computer-mediated communication (CMC) indicates that a single, student blog is a better approach.  The reasons provided include a sense of ownership (Tolmie & Boyle, 2000) and reduction in anxiety when participating in an online communication environment (Pena-Shaff et al., 2005).  Personally, I don't know how much of an issue anxiety is, particularly with our current cohort of undergraduates that use, and update, Facebook multiple times a day and likely use other forms of social media.

Ownership, though, is worth thinking about.  Depending on your goal for the student blogs, you might want to use the blog platform differently.  If you're trying to generate discussion and a broad sense of community, the single blog with multiple authors is likely your best option.  But, if you're asking students to individually reflect or author specific articles around content, a single student blog might be the way to go. 

Remember, if a student wants to use his or her blog as evidence for potential employers to review, it's much easier if their writing is all in one place (their own personal blog) compared to scattered across multiple course blogs, where other students are also authoring content.  Make sure you think carefully about your goal for using blogs in your course, then decide what approach fits the best for you and your students.

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Can students link their blog comments for a course to their personal blogs? Is there a way to have their course blog contributions automatically show up as a link in their personal blogs, i.e. some sort of streaming, rss, or auto update function?

I assume there is a way, technically, to somehow tag a post in the course blog, and have it show up on your individual blog. Betty Harper is doing something similar with the Institutional Research Blog ( She posts in a student affairs blog, and through a specific tag the IR blog also pulls in the post. I have the directions somewhere in email if you have some ideas and about how we could leverage something like this.

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