Incorporating Blogging in a Free Speech Course: Lessons Learned

by David Reichard, California State University Monterey Bay



Instructor Name:

David A. Reichard

Course Title:

Free Speech and Responsibility


California State University Monterey Bay

What is the overall aim of the course?:

This course serves meets the Relational Communication outcome required for all Human Communication majors (an integrated humanities degree). It also fulfills concentrations in Pre-Law,Practical & Professional Ethics, and Journalism. The goal is for students to contend with ethical and effective ways to communicate through intensive study of free speech.

Course design and scope of the project:

Forty students take this semester-long course, meeting in four separate seminars. This allows them to work closely with the same group on a consistent basis. After seminar, the class reconvenes as a larger group, drawing connections among the discussions, and mapping our observations and questions on the board.

Incorporation of Technology:

At first, each seminar had its own weblog, or blog, using Moveable Type and hosted on a server. I was administrator of all blogs, students were authors. The next time I offered the course, students created individual blogs using Blog-City, a free commercial blogging host. I blogged too.

Lessons Learned:

Blogging should connect with course content and students should see that connection; otherwise it seems like busy work. Second, the more creative freedom students had, the more they embraced blogging. With less faculty “control,” student blogs became individualized, perfect for free speech, but perhaps not for other kinds of curricula.

References, links:

Free Speech and Responsibilty Course website, including course outline, materials, assignments and links to blogs.

I began this research as a 2003-2004 scholar with the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (or CASTL).  Here’s the project snapshot.

Professor Barbara Ganley’s blog about blogging in teaching and learning—she is one of the most insightful academic bloggers I have encountered.

Weblogs in Higher Education–a good portal to blogging in education.

Measured Results:

Blogs were important spaces for students to record notes, pose questions, and organize their ideas before and after seminar.  However, some students found blogging repetitive or a poor substitute for face-to-face interactions. These findings became clear from observation of seminars, reading student blogs, and reviewing mid-term and final assessments (which specifically addressed blogging). Most importantly, students wrote essays analyzing their own and other students’ blogs. These essays provided invaluable “meta” analysis of student learning in the course. Significantly, students described blogs as providing a public record of their own learning, making their process as learners visible to themselves and others.