With the spread of the internet, many universities began to offer online college classes, up to and including a degree in the field the student chooses. This came with a variety of educational tools; sound files, video files, electronic books and e-mail being only a few advantages. Communication became easier, schedules more flexible, and students more productive. The number and versatility of tools has increased over the years and now includes online mailing lists, forums and sometimes even chat rooms. Among the niftier of these tools is the blog.
The word ‘blog’ is short for ‘web log', and is mainly an online journal. People use it for private and public use, be it for recording their memories, posting articles or art, or even as a place to study with friends and post summaries. Nowadays, online college classes use blogs as a means to easily find out the deadlines for assignments, tests and where to get the newest material. It is usually maintained by the educator, but on occasion all the students have posting access. It can be either a forum or merely a page maintained by one person, perhaps even linking to the blogs of others.
As is the case with any new tool, blogs come with their own set of pros and cons. They are flexible and simple, and since they are very public it encourages thought before clicking the ‘send’ button. It is a good way to improve writing skills, both technical and creative, and encourages class discussions. It gives the shy students an opportunity to share their ideas without the fear of not being heard and it makes collaborations that much easier.
On the other hand, it takes time to keep a blog updated and maintained. Assignments done through blogs will not sound as professional as those received through other methods, and going off-topic in a class discussion happens more often than not. If a student requires a fast answer, an e-mail is much better than a comment on the professor's blog, and they certainly do not offer the confidentiality sometimes required. They are a double-edged knife and require a careful balance that can't be allowed to slip.
If the online college classes are taught by instructors who know how to keep everything organized, a blog can only be an asset to any course. However, it might be a good idea to teach all students who use a blog netiquette before starting.
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