Discussion Format
Blogging: The Leading Online Teaching Tool
A. Cochran Independent Study 2004 Research Project

[Research Main] [Discussion Format] [Flexibility of Content] [Blog Interaction][Concluding Remarks][Works Cited]

Blogs offer students a discussion format that is both simple in structure and reflective in content, “[promoting] ‘thoughtful and reflective commentary” (Schrum quoted in Lambe 353). 

Typically employing a fill-in-the-blank window with the most current comments at the bottom of the screen, the discussion format of a weblog gives students the opportunity to think about what they would like to say with “relatively little classmate…pressure” (Chen 58), with “the act of writing demand[ing] greater reflection than speaking’” (Schrum quoted in Lambe 353), before a physical classroom of students. 

The discussion format of other forms of online communication, such as course conferencing, rivals a blog’s format.  Like blogs, conferences are group-oriented; however, this forum environment does not permit students to comment on individual subjects, but rather the group’s concerns (Lambe 352). 

Weblogs enable visitors to decide which topic that one would like to specifically address with a comment.  When blogging on a Holocaust seminar at Seton Hill University, for example, two students posted entries about the same event with a day difference between the two—one student received three comments, and the other none (Jones, Onubogu). 

ChinazomOnubogu: Three Comments on Holocaust seminar

While this may be attributed to some factor involved in the student’s writing style or the exposure of the particular blog entry, “What matters isn't that readers actually take advantage of all or any of the possible interactions offered to them, only that the potential to produce that infinite number of texts is available in ways impossible to other forms” (Himmer).  The importance, then, is that the audience is given an option

In addition, blogs surpass the discussion formats of other online devices with the freedom of time (Himmer).  Because blogs are not read and commented upon in real time, students may comment at any time that is convenient for their scheduleChristopher Ulicne, Seton Hill University blogger, wrote,

"They [weblogs] take the pressure off of students to provide immediate, thoughtful responses to classroom material, too, because while sitting at a computer and blogging, students have plenty of time to organize their thoughts and make their points without worrying about that awkward silence so often "heard" in class…"(Kolberg).

According to Poole, this is a preference among students; his research indicates that “synchronous chats should be scheduled only when they are necessary to build social bonds” (Im 156).  Poole relates that there is a distinction between asynchronous and synchronous communication, and that they are scheduled.  Blogs, on the other hand, offer a discussion format that does not inhibit the student to comment about personal or academic matters in one exclusive medium or another, at any particular time. 

Blog discussions also offer “conversation of [complexity]” (Himmer).  In a Seton Hill blog, discussing post-partum depression in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, for example, several students posted comments concerning what symptoms of post-partum depression that the narrator does or does not demonstrate (Fondrk). 

In this series of comments, the students use the blog comments section as more than a “platform to exchange information between the members of the community” (Dorit 128).  Melissa Hagg, for example, comments, “We can now look back and state how ignorant it was for doctors to mistaken this disorder for a nervous condition”; later, Fondrk speculates that the narrator is “depressed, presumably from the hormonal fluctuations” (Fondrk). 

These comments demonstrate “reflective and more complex thinking” (Dorit 128), not the typical online interactions characteristic of other studies of students simply sharing and comparing information (Dorit 128).

Screenshot by Amanda Cochran.

Updated by Amanda Cochran on 12-07-04.