Who owns a class blog post?

So after a lengthy discussion with Vince today I have decided to change my mind on a few of the things that I seemed so certain about just a day ago.

So here is the deal:

I wrote that we would allow professors who so wished to republish all of the student’s blogs into a class blog using wp-o-matic. I’m not sure if we should do that anymore. My reservations come from that fact that if it is republished in the Professor’s blog then I feel that the students loose ownership and that rings strange to my sense of morality.

Let’s consider a few hypothetical situations where a student writes for a class and his blog entries are republished in a class blog :

  • A year down the road the student realized that what he wrote does not represent him and he wants to get rid of it. He can delete the entries in his blog, but they will still be saved in the class blog. He could of course ask the professor to take his posts off, but what if it is 10 years down the line? What if there were a lot of other students who feel the same way?
  • The student decides to delete his blog. If the professor decides to publish the class posts (without attribution), the student has no way of claiming authorship over the post.

There are also hangups for the professor:

  • If the professor accidentally resets wp-o-matic It will recreate all of the entries. WordPress doesn’t have automatic mass deleting of entries (I mean we could write a plugin for it… but plugins take time).
  • If the student updates their blog then those updates are not automatically reflected on the class blog.
  • If a student adds a strange feed (one with say 150 items regarding unsavoury topics) then if those are republished, it is a nightmare to get rid of them. If we just use BDP RSS, all it takes to undo the damage is delete the feed in the BDP RSS options menu

There are probably many more reasons why actually republishing would not be a good idea.

So it comes down to figuring out why we wanted to republish the posts and finding alternatives.

  • Creating a repository: I don’t think at this point we are wanting to create a repository, this isn’t eduglu (as I may have wrongly alluded to in my previous post), it is a blog based course platform where student input is used. A repository of teacher resources should be done in an entirely a slightly different way.
  • Keeping examples of what students did previously: Why not just leave the blog active and create a new blog for every year that links back to previous years. Not only would this give the students an opportunity of pulling out if they don’t want their work published anymore, but it would also allow them to continually update what they have and allows the course to have a history. Using templates and import/export It would be much easier to create a new blog than to get rid of everything from the old blog.

I’m wondering does this make sense? Or are we missing something? We will probably change our minds a hundred times between now and October, but for now I think this model is the most sustainable and easy to implement approach, for us and for the professors.

8 thoughts on “Who owns a class blog post?

  1. You guys really have seen the traces of eduglu. The idea of ownership and re-publication is an interesting question, and one your fearless leader has an unbelievable amount of goods ideas about. But it is interesting to me to think about where sharing and ownership begin to be competing ideas. Re-publishing a blog post on a professor’s blog as an aggregated post is fine, and a student publishing a post on a group blog might be fine too, the only thing is each of them need to be within the students own space so that there work can both be shared bot central to their own online academic portfolio, as it were.

    Point being, to start defining ownership more generally with publishing might lead you down some strange paths if you frame it as such. Think of it as a students own work they control, but allow others to share, not as a compulsion, but as an enlightened notion of what it means to think, teach, and learn.

  2. I agree: a student should be able to do whatever he/she wants with his/her blog. And that includes editing posts later, or even deleting the whole blog.

    This is why I let my students use any blogging platform they want (so long as it supports RSS). The blog is theirs.

    But this is also why I’m among those who most anxiously is waiting for an aggregation system that is functional and stable!

  3. Jon,

    I remember last year at NV when you were talking about the fact that students should host their own stuff wherever they wanted — I was initially like what?! How could that happen? What would the implications be? How could we manage such a thing? It’s impossible.

    But in the end, that is the application D’Arcy and Brian (and more recently Bill and I) have been thinking through and imagining. And much of it premised on your work with Brian, so kudos.

    So for all the talk about university blogging systems, which if they are good can be extremely valuable, the real point is just how you make it welcoming to any and all feeds.

  4. Awesome that you guys get it. I tried the input RSS thing with a non-UBC feed and it worked great. What I love about the model is that it allows the students to input the feed they want (a bit of instruction on how they can set up categories and feeds for them will let them select what content gets passed on to the course blog) — and best of all, the heavy lifting doesn’t have to be done by an instructional tech person.

    BTW, Andre, the Jon commenting up above has been the professor at UBC who has been experimenting and pushing this stuff most aggressively. If we can make him happy, we will really have something.

  5. Another comment, but this time a technical point about the diagram above. How do we filter easily by class? Right now you have English 206-07, 206-08, and 206-09 feeding out to different spaces? How would I, if i were a student, be able to add a feed (whether by tag or category) that would take just that filtered set of items into a course blog that is aggregating the stuff with BDP RSS. If we all use Wp it is pretty easy, just use a version of the BDP RSS widegt you imagined and allow a sign-up in the sidebar. But, what if students had a different blog on blogger, movable type, etc. ? Can we filter there by tag or category so that all their work doesn’t get fed in?

    Going in the opposite way, it would be easy for a student to author on a course blog (let’s say the professor wants all of his or her students to write in one blog) and then tag theit work with a unique tag (like andremalan) which they can then grab the feed for and bring back into their own site. The functionality there is key, and it requires students and faculty to think a bit harder about how RSS is working here, and why it may be useful and easy all at once.

    Much of this is what the Drupal edglu example D’Arcy and Bill featured works well, and may be an additional space in the UBC cloud. But one of the things I like about what you are thinking about with this widget is it’s simplicity. Go to the course page, add the appropriate feed, and bam you’re gone. It is really a cinch, and the self-service element works quite nicely to reduce all overhead.

  6. Jim, Looking back at my diagram I realize that it isn’t that clear. It was simply to show that instead of clearing their blog every year, professors should just spawn new blogs and link back to old ones.

    It would then be easy to aggregate all of the course blogs into a mega-course-feed (because each BDP output creates its own feed). I’m not sure yet about extracting tags and categories from a BDP feed… it doesn’t do it by default, but after I have finished the “add-to-bdp” widget I will look into getting tags out (because then I’m almost up to speed with the Drupal guys).

    As for adding students to one blog as authors and feeding their entries out… it is viable, but there is an increased overhead of the professor adding them to the blog (and they would have to register before the professor did that). I think in order for faculty in general (I know there are awesome people like Jon who are on the cutting edge) to see the power of and to adopt blogging as a course platform it has to be super simply.

    As for going the other way, I think it is much more likely that a student’s blogging platform will be able to feed something out by category or tag than to be able to take a feed in and republish it in their own blog (think of how long it has taken us to find something reliable).

  7. As for adding students to one blog as authors and feeding their entries out… it is viable, but there is an increased overhead of the professor adding them to the blog (and they would have to register before the professor did that). I think in order for faculty in general (I know there are awesome people like Jon who are on the cutting edge) to see the power of and to adopt blogging as a course platform it has to be super simply.

    I agree with you here, at the same time the Add Sidebar Users makes this simple, and I found it makes life easier for professors who want a group blog and for students who may only want to get usernames and not blogs. That is the rub, when you open up a system like this, there are a number of ways of going at it, and having the ability to meet as many of them easily makes your life simpler.

    Will you allow students just to get username on the system so they don’t have the overhead of a blog if they don’t want it? Feeding out from a group blog by tag should be simple if necessary, but I imagine that there may be students who are not too concerned, for whatever reason.

    As to this comment “after I have finished the “add-to-bdp” widget I will look into getting tags out (because then I’m almost up to speed with the Drupal guys),” well, that just makes me warm inside. This is amazing work you are doing Andre, and the writing it up and dialoging about is something I have wanted to do for a long while. You just don;t get people who want to blog about designing such a system and thinking about the technical architecture, which I find exciting. And unfortunately for me, Drupal is just so damn ugly I can;t bare to be in it for extended periods of time. 🙂

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