blog review assignment

I’ve had a few requests for the text and grading scheme for the blog review assigment I’m currently grading, so I’ve translated it into English, all the better to share it and hopefully contribute to this kind of assignment evolving further so I can improve it next time I teach this course. Here’s an English version of the PDF I handed out to the students. For those who don’t like PDFs, I’ve included the text below.

The grade descriptions follow the Norwegian standard, and I’ve tried to write more specific descriptions of each grade for this particular assignment. It’s not a very easy task but I find it useful, and the students seem to like it too. Some of the terms I’ve used are from the SOLO taxonomy of learning outcomes, which I found at RMIT.

The general advice I’ve given as to what students should think about while writing is almost completely taken from Scott Rettberg’s version of this assignment. I’d love to hear any comments – and you’re more than welcome to take this and use it in any way you like.

Blog assignment 2: Blog review

Learning goals: You will become familiar with the blog genre, gain experience in writing for a web audience and develop your skills in describing, contextualising, interpreting and assessing websites.

Deadline: midnight, Friday 27th February 2004.

  • 600-1000 words. Your grade will drop by a letter if you submit more than 10% less or more than these limits.
  • To be posted in your blog with a trackback to the main course blog within midnight of Friday 27 February
  • You can review a blog of your choice, so long as it doesnít belong to another student or employee at our department. The blog should be written by an individual or by a small, stable group (not Slashdot).
  • Include at least one screenshot and one quote from the blog youíre reviewing, and link to the pages you mention.
  • You should describe, contextualise and express an opinion about the blog youíre reviewing.
Grade General description For this assignment that means:
A
Excellent
An excellent performance, clearly outstanding. Shows a high degree of independence. Describes the blog well and explains its context. Interprets well and makes a convincing argument. Shows good knowledge of the blog genre and uses relevant vocabulary correctly. Demonstrates ability to theorise, generalise and develop new ideas as well as comparing, assessing, analysing and explaining. Excellent use of language, links and images. The text is very well organised. Original and/or independent approach.
B
Very good
A very good performance, above average. Shows a certain degree of independence. Describes the blog well and explains its context. Interprets well and makes a convincing argument. Shows good knowledge of the blog genre and uses relevant vocabulary correctly. Demonstrates ability to compare, assess, analyse and explain. Good use of language, links and images. The text is well organised. Somewhat original and/or independent approach.
C
Good
An average performance, satisfactory in most areas. Gives a sufficient impression of the blog and some information about its context. Has some knowledge of the blog genre and mostly uses concepts in a relevant and constructive manner, though there may be some misunderstandings. Shows some ability to interpret, compare, contrast and explain. Mostly good language and good organisation.

D
Fair
A performance below average, and with some significant shortcomings. Unclear description of the blog, uneven knowledge of the blog genre and related concepts. Few independent insights. A lot of description and very little interpretation or explanation. Uneven use of language.
E
Sufficient
A performance that meets the minimum criteria Minimal knowledge of the blog genre and related concepts. No independent insights. A lot of description and very little interpretation or explanation. Uneven use of language. Links broken.
F
Fail
A performance that does not meet the minimum criteria Does not meet the criteria stated above.

General advice about this assignment
Your target audience consists of Norwegian web surfers who are interested in finding new websites and want information and an honest, understandable opinion on the blog. Your readers will have some knowledge of blogs but they are not experts on the genre. Imagine that most of your readers will not have visited the blog youíre reviewing. Think about your reader as you write!

When you write a review you should describe, contextualise and express an opinion about the work. If you interpret aspects of the blog as well, thatís good.

Beneath Iíve collected some points to consider as you write. This is not an outline for the review, but a starting point as you study the blog and start to take notes. Not all these points will be relevant for all blogs, not all will be relevant to your review and I may have left out something that turns out to be important about the blog youíre reviewing. In practice you wonít want to separate these points as rigidly as I have, and you donít need subtitles in a review as brief as yours will be.

Describe the blog

  • Themes
  • Writing style
  • Organisation, use of archives, categories, information about the blogger
  • Visual design
  • Links, blogroll
  • Frequency: how often do the blogger post?
  • How long has the blog existed? Is there anything interesting in the first posts? Often the first post will explain the reason the blog was started.

Contextualise the blog

  • Who is the blogger? (who does the bloggers say he/she is?)
  • Is the blog part of a community? Nettdagbok.no, Livejournal, webrings, etc.
  • Does the blogger appear to take part in other communities, offline or online?
  • Does it seem likely that the blog might be fictional?
  • Who links to the blog? Are the many links? What kinds of people/websites? (Use Technorati, Google, etc)
  • Is discussion encouraged? Are comments enabled? Are there many comments? Are they all from the same people?
  • Is there a clear target audience for the blog.

Express an opinion about the blog; interpret it

  • Give a subjective but reasoned assessment that builds upon your discussion of the blog. Would you recommend it to other readers? Will you continue to read it? Perhaps youíd recommend it to some but not to everyone? A lot of your opinion will be implicit throughout, but your conclusion should include some kind of personal opinion.
  • How would you interpret elements of the blog? What seems to be the main point of the blog? Is the relationship between the graphical design and the style of writing harmonious or conflicted? What do you read between the lines?

Examples of blog reviews:

27. April 2004 by Jill
6 comments

Comments (6)

  1. A closer study of your grading table would probably tell me, but are you (perhaps by implication) awarding grades in accordance to how far you think the students progress along the SOLO hierachy? I had always regared SOLO as an orthogonal dimension to the quality of work at each stage. So one could write with high quality, but without Reflection. A given assignment could be entirely Declarative in nature, and so that could be entirely acceptable.

    These things (grade tables) are notorious! It is *soo* hard to avoid empty terms like “good standard of writing”. But this is still among the best I’ve seen! Cheers, Matt->

  2. Hm, yes, I probably am assuming that the higher up the SOLO hierarchy, the better the work, Matt. I suppose there *might* be assigments that simply require that students describe things, or list them, but I guess my basic idea is that university level essays however short should aim at doing more than that, and I find the SOLO taxonomy quite helpful in being explicit about what more than description I do expect.

    I’d love for you to give some examples…

  3. Writing these grade scales can spin the wheels, eh? Sometimes I’d like to go back to the old style I-will-know-a-good-one-when-I-see-one glibness (and some eminences I know still do, sadly).

    Orthogonality between a knowledge hierarchy like SOLO and quality judgment “e.g. writes well” can swing both ways. Examples:

    For my physics-type work the sort of knowledge, even later within uni courses, is Declarative or Procedural. So, “Do a telecoms Link Budget” won’t get further up the grade scale for being answered in a Critical manner *unless the question asks*. And in Science and Engineering, the question never asks, even more sadly.

    For my Management stuff I expect the full (SOLO) range, and the assignments are structured accordingly. Much of it relies on being able to demonstrate a skill “prepare a Gantt chart”. Where I expect interpretative discussions “explain why a WBS is useful” there will be very little credit, i.e. grade F, for mere description of one, even if it was beautifully done.

  4. Jill Walker’s Blog Review Assignment
    Jill Walker has shared ablog review assignment for her class of 50 blogging web design students at the University of Bergen. I’ve had a few requests for the text and grading scheme for the blog review assigment I’m currently grading,…

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