SELF-REPORTED PERCEPTIONS AND LEARNING STYLES OF UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS USING BLOGS IN AN ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE COURSE
Recent advances in Internet and Web 2.0 tools have dramatically changed the instructional and pedagogical approaches in all levels of education. Responding to the new environment instructors in higher education explored the potential of Web 2.0 applications, including blogging, in teaching and learning since about 2004. In this changing environment in higher education it is becoming increasingly important also to identify the learning style (LS) of students who are exposed to online environments. The purpose of the present study was to survey the perceptions of students enrolled in an undergraduate environmental studies course regarding their use of blogs and to correlate their blog performance to their LS.
Seventy students enrolled in an undergraduate introductory environmental science submitted weekly assignments via blogs during an academic semester. All assignments could be characterized as a mixture of informational posts and personal reflections related to the topic presented in class. Assessment of the students’ weekly works was based on a rubric which included: “preparation of blog entry” 20%, “quality of content” 20%, “personal reflection” 20%, “proper citations” 10%, “use of graphics and multimedia” 10%, and “comments on others’ entries” 20%. Students’ LS were identified and at the end of the semester they participated in an online survey examining their perception about interaction, reflective thinking, collaboration, self-understanding, engagement in discussions, student satisfaction, knowledge sharing, communication, and perceived learning. A 5-point Likert scale was used for all responses and the chi square was used to examine the relationship between LS and student performance in blogging.
The great percentage of students perceived favourably the use of blogs in an environmental science course. Eighty three per cent of the students strongly agreed or agreed that blogs overall contributed to their learning experience during the semester. Approximately 50% of the students felt that their interactivity was also increased during the semester because of blogging. Responses examining the reflection and collaboration effects of blogging revealed that high scores were obtained for these two important aspects of learning in online environments. An overwhelming majority of students (79%) strongly agreed or agreed that blogs encouraged them to draw on previous experiences, while 77% like to work with a partner for their post. Eighty per cent strongly agreed or agreed that blogs offer better opportunities for creativity for assignments, whereas high scores also obtained for questions dealing with expression of concepts, efficiency and convenience, rapid sharing of information, and unrestricted expression of views. In addition, 69 per cent strongly agreed or agreed that they enjoyed writing and presenting their work online. There were no preferred LS when someone judges that from the student’s blogging performance, a finding which agrees with the ones reported in the literature.
Some aspects of student blogging which could not be viewed as attractive to instructors are discussed. To our understanding that this is the first study exploring the undergraduate student perceptions towards blogs in Greece. In addition, this is the first attempt to report on Kolb’s LS and blogging behavior.