Pragmatic students have always made judgements about exactly how they are going to engage with the activities teachers set them. I know I made decisions not to attend lectures (especially those at 8am on cold winter mornings). At times I’ve focused on just the assignments without engaging completely in the various intended learning activities. I made those decisions in a context nowhere near as constrained as many of my current students find themselves in terms of trying to balance work (often full-time), family (often very complex), and study.
So it’s no great surprise to see students “corrupting” the intent of learning activities designed into the course I teach. It’s happened before and I assume that there are a whole range of different forms of task corruption going on. Over the weekend, however, I became aware of a different type task corruption going on. It appears that at least some students are simply “reblogging” the posts of others without making additional comments.
The use of re-blogging has arisen for the first time this year due to changes in the advice given to students. This year I was much more specific in advising them to use WordPress.com for their individual blog and apparently many of them have noticed the WordPress “re-blog” feature. I’m not a big fan of reblogging. I don’t use it as I’m comfortable with creating links (something which a fair portion of my students appear to struggle with), I also like more control over what appears on my blog, and the “re-blog” functionality doesn’t really appear in my blogging process. That said, I don’t mind students using re-blogging as part of their reflective process and for the course.
The course’s use of student blogs is aimed more at getting participation than at “right” answers. Students have to write a number of posts each week, a portion of those have to contain links to online resources, and a number of them have to have links to the posts of other students. The aim is to encourage the students to engage with a different tool and to develop some reflective practice without worrying too much about providing the answers I want. Re-blogging is an easy way to include a link to someone else’s post and to use that as a spark for reflective thinking. I have no problem with that.
The issue that has arisen is that at least some of the students appear to have just re-blogging. They haven’t added any comments of their own. So no reflection of their own. The aim of the following is to
- Explore how much re-blogging has gone on amongst the current cohort.
- Give some thought to whether this is a problem and what should be done.
How much re-blogging?
So how much is going on?
Handily I have a copy of all the students’ posts and the WordPress.com re-blog feature uses a specific set of tags to indicate the different parts of a re-blog. This makes it very easy to analyse. The process here will seek to answer the following questions
- What percentage of all posts are based on a reblog?
There are 242 posts out of 5915 posts so far that contain a reblog. So about 4% of posts.
- What percentage of students have used the reblog facility?
There are 338 students who have posts in the system. 80 of those students have used reblog. About 24%.
- What percentage of each student’s total number of posts use reblog?
The figures above suggest that those students who are using reblog are averaging about 3 reblogs. With the average total number of posts per student at 17.5.
Somewhat alarmingly however, is the observation that the top two rebloggers have 25 and 18 reblogs respectively. Given that by this stage of semester 30 posts would be a good number of have written, this is a little worrying.
But the chart below suggests otherwise. It shows that the students who are reblogging lots are also posting lots. There are one or two who are getting close to a 50% split. Will need to explore those a bit more closely.
- What percentage of each reblog is original content?
Appears that the reblogs average about 33% of the content being original. In other words, the original post written by someone else (on average) makes up two-thirds of the post. There are 20 odd posts that have less than 10% of the post being original content. These appear to be examples of where “Great post” or similar is the original contribution.
The question is whether these students are getting any advantage in terms of marks through this practice?
For the second assignment there are 6 students who are getting some small benefit from reblogging. Of these 6 only 2 have multiple reblogs (4 and 2).
The simplified WordPress tag structure is
<div class='reblogger-note-content'>Comment made by person reblogging.</div> <div class="reblog-post">the post that was reblogged</div>
Some quick, initial conclusions based on the above
- There isn’t any evidence of widespread use of the reblogging feature to corrupt the task.
- The rise of this practice has only appeared this year as a result of slight changes in the tools used and perhaps a group of students who are more familiar with other social media than blogging (i.e more ready to adopt the retweet approach in blogging).
- Reblogging appears to challenge some of the more traditional notions of ownership held by some students.
e.g. the idea that by reblogging others are trying to steal their ideas, rather than providing an affirmation of those ideas and trying to spread them further.
- Though perhaps the major concern was students being seen as getting a free ride.
- I still have the tendency to assume students are seeking to corrupt the task, other than looking for other more relevant explanations.
- Exploring reasons and actions at the student level would likely reveal more interesting negotiations and understandings.
All of the above need to be thought about and explored some more. One of these days.