One of the teaching challenges in computer-based laboratory is tracking student progress and giving assistance on an individual basis in the lab classroom. Designing specific systems to serve this purpose can be tedious and take great efforts. In addition, traditional web-based tools that help administer a course often store student works in a class-centric fashion. Once the class is closed, student materials may not be accessible to the students themselves any more.
Blogs have been used on campus for vastly diverse purposes. They are often seen as web publishing tools and social networking vehicles. Postings, tracebacks, and comments in the blog computing model usually happen without timelines in mind. Blogs interact with each other in a loosely coupled fashion as relations among blogs are usually nothing more than URL links or RSS subscriptions.
As a solution to the teaching challenge that the author has been wrestling with for years, blogs have been used in a novel fashion for three consecutive semesters at two hands-on computer lab classes, namely Java and Internet Applications, respectively. Our approach sees blogs from a more responsive point of view, and has them serve as catalysts for in-classroom student-instructor interactions.
First of all, the instructor creates a blog for the lab class at the outset. Every student of the class is required to create a blog for the lab when the semester begins. Instructor blogs are for posting lab materials in the curriculum and making announcements to the class. So they deliver lab sheets and hand-outs in electronic version. When finishing a lab, students are asked to submit their results at their own blogs and make a notice by placing a link at the instructor's blog right under the lab. Pursuing the links and checking out students' blogs, the instructor can grasp better immediate understanding of student progress such as how many have finished labs, how good the quality of the results is and what problems may have occurred. The blog is so responsive that instructors can make quick judgments on which students to walk by and initiate further interactions with. Through blogs, this can be done without students leaving their seats or even raising their hands, reducing interferences to others who may be still busy working on the lab. Reading the student blogs, the instructor has better chances to get better prepared before approaching them.
In this study, student feedback is collected and behavior patterns analyzed. Using blogs is found to simplify the tasks of reducing piracy. The tactics to prevent students from pirating in our study is by time stamping the lab works and making them public on the web as soon as possible. Blogs by design serve such a purpose. Anyone that pirates risks being caught by the instructor as well as virtually every other student in the class. We also have success with seeing students learning from peers through blogs. Traditionally, students turn in their works to instructors and have no easy way to learn how their peers achieve on the same assignments. By browsing the comments made by instructors on students’ blogs and the selected peer works, students have better chances to stimulate new ideas to be different from each other. The study shows students who took the lab courses are satisfied with turning in lab results through blog posting, getting instructor's walk-by interactions, piracy reduction, and learning from peers.
Keywords: Teaching with Technology, Blog.