Compulsory Blogging

This semester is my first using a weblog for a composition course. The
course is EN106; its course description promises this: “The
course teaches students to write effectively for various purposes and audiences.
It also helps to develop further skills in critical thinking and reading.
Special emphasis is given to information retrieval and writing a research
paper.” I decided to make one group blog and to make blog-writing
compulsory. It’s a lot like what takes shape in the online courses I’ve
developed where course requirements call for a kind of double-entry journal from which dialogue unfolds. I like the asynchronous interaction. The
compulsory element calls for a total of four entries each week: one
250-word entry must relate to our course concerns (the questions we’re taking up from the reading and related discussions), one 250-word entry must trace a
selected theme throughout the semester–for thirteen or fourteen weeks.
The other two entries can be about anything, any length, etc., including
comments on other entries. This is in addition to six essays and a few other
options, all of which allow the students to make choices about what work they
will do.

I went with compulsory posts because I wanted to ensure that the blog caught on. I also wanted to enable students to pursue their own interests in fullness and with sustained attention. In other words, I find the nature of many blogs bring about nuggeted writing–truncated blurbs about whatever notion strikes, a kind of Short Attention Span Theatre of sound bytes. Calling for a sustained theme will induce, I hope, a sense of coherence and continuity and will lead us toward ways of talking about and understanding ongoing research
pursuits (research isn’t all coherence and continuity, FWIW. It’s plenty of digging, sifting, discovery, misadventure and curiosity, too, I’d say).

After our first week of writing in the course weblog, I have the impression that it’s too much writing (right…never mind…there’s
no such thing. Is there?). For now, I think I’ll stick to the pre-cut
path. The rest is wilderness. Good thing we’re not alone.


  1. Derek,

    We seem to be on a parallel track. I’m requiring blogging in my English 1B (Honors), which began on January 5 and runs for a quarter until late March. This section is smaller, so I thought it a good way to start. My other section posts on a web discussion board, often during classtime in the computer lab. II have a kind of natural experiment here to see how the variant approaches work.

    We’ll be doing a research paper in this class, too. I’m not sure what the possibilities are, but at some point we might want to invite our classes to browse the other classes blog writing. Think about it.


  2. I’d really like to explore ways of mingling our class blogs, John. Right now I’m feeling the tug of formality–a sense that the writing in the course weblog should be more careful, more polished. We’ve been doing it for just one week, and I’ve found the students are considerably varied in the care with which they post. Some are posting a sort of IM hybrid or vernacular (using “lol” or lower case i’s in a sentence, for example).

    Do you establish formal standards for the student writing in the weblog? Or is it a free space–a space for exploratory writing-shared? Are there other models for multi-institutional cross-talk between student-writing blogs in higher ed?

    Let’s talk more about setting up a grand convergence, okay? -DM

  3. Hi Marie,

    I’m starting to learn more about wikis. I’ve never worked with one before, so it’s not easy to think through how they might fit with my aims in a FY writing course. I’ll check out the sites you provided. Thanks for recommending them. -DM

  4. There is an interesting meme, let me find the url…

    hold on.

    It’s called 5ive Minute Stories, and each week, he puts out a new word, and you are supposed to free write for 5 minutes, a story using that word.

    It might be a fun thing for students to do, gets them writing, gets them blogging, and oh joy of joy, teaches them about the blog phenom of memes.

  5. I’m only thinly familiar with memes, and now you have me wondering where that word comes from. Are memes more than generative prompts for writing? I’m aware of a few of the memes spreading among bloggers (list of 100 things, and so on). Thanks for suggesting this site, Rori. I’ll do look it over. -DM

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