How blogging can help Biology Undergraduate Education?

The first thought about blogging is exciting! One reason is because I have been maintaining an active blog for over 7 years now and I really enjoy it.

However, this time, we were not talking about blogging by myself, but ask the students to start a blog for a specific class. For example, I am teaching General Microbiology Lab this  semester and how I am going to ask my students to write blog on this subject and improve their learning. I feel it is a great idea, but how we are going to put it in practice, especially in a science subject?

As we discussed in class, the person very possibly will be more motivated if he/she decide to start a blog or not. However, when it is required by the professor, it is more like an “writing assignment” instead of “blogging”. In this situation, whether the students will really dig into the subject and give some serious thoughts, will be out of our control.

Put the motivation aside. I am more concerned about how we can carry it out for Biology Undergraduate Education. As the second largest major on campus, Biological Science education seems a big responsibility for the whole biological science department. Most of the general fundamental classes are huge while we also carry lots of small classes focused on very specific research area.

One concern from me would be how many professors do have enough time to check their students’ blog on a weekly basis. For example, my supervisor teaches one class every fall semester. He told us more than once that teaching is stressful, especially grading. Though he only has two mid-term tests and one final. Also, most of his questions are multiple choice questions and 10 filling-up-blank questions. Since more than half of the professors who committed teaching responsibilities are also research faculties, I worried how many of them will really thinking about incorporating blogging into their teaching. It is hard to say I do not care about funding. We all know how important that means in a research university and how much work does that take.

Another concern would be how helpful it will be in Biology education. Biology does not equal pure memorization, but it does have lots and lots of facts and concepts you have to remember, especially for undergraduate classes. So, how to make each topic exciting and fun to promote the students to read more and learn dipper, I don’t know yet. Maybe that is why I am so eagerly expect Dr.Jill Sible’s talk in this class. Besides that, we also need to think about how much time blogging will take and how much the students are willing to spend on this part. I guess this would be a big challenge for those one credit lab classes. Currently, all my students loved this class, and most of them thought it was fun. However, this 3.7 out of 4 evaluation seems so pale with the reality that most of my students even wouldn’t read the textbook before they come to the class.

After all, so far, I feel I am more convinced to start a professional blog than asking my students to do it, to use it as a platform to offer more resources for my teaching. Suddenly, I realized that as a professor, Dr. Flowler does know much better than me about how to motivate students, because I just wrote my first post. Done!

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