Intervention : Private reflections - Journals

Online Interventions 

Online tools can be used to provide students with a personal space for them to write and reflect, which is invisible to other students but visible to teaching staff.

This can provide you with a means to set reflective activities for students to complete that you can feedback upon. It can also provide a space for students to reflect on their learning as they progess through your module - a space which youi can review and 'drop-in' on (if relevant).

Accompanying this text you should see an embedded (43 seconds long) video that provides an example of how the VLE's reflective journals appear to the staff facilitating the Department of Health Sciences module on Coronary Heart Disease Prevention developed by Dr Ros Brownlow. This module has been successfully running since 2008.

A particularly notable aspect of the use of a reflective journal in this module is that staff encourage students to discuss their reflective ideas with their peers where a student has shown good insight or has postulated some interesting ideas.

Setting up an online reflective space and expecting that students will simply use it will almost certainly result in very little, if any, student activity (as is the case with most tools that facilitate student discursive contributions such as Forums or Blogs). To engage students be very clear in how their engagement benefits them and what the context of the activity is. If at all possible, tie reflective activity to specific and clearly defined tasks and be clear to students that, assuming it is relevant, you will be reading their reflections and providing feedback.

If you are intend to provide feedback be clear with how you intend to do this (either invidually or collectively for example) and how often. Also, if you can, make reference to the reflective activities in any face-to-face teaching you undertake.

Useful Guides
Journals - Creating Individual Journals Journal Interface walk-through video for staff
Student Video Guide - Basics of using a Yorkshare Blog (note that Journals work simiarly to Blogs in terms of making posts)  

Useful Tips

If you expect students to be making quite lengthy reflections then consider suggesting that they write these in an alternate application (say a Word document) or they at least copy their entry before submitting their post. All it takes is a blip in their connection for them to potentially lose text that they may have taken some time to compose.

Check out our video walk-through of the VLE's Journal interface noted above; you can easily filter the journal to see specific student's posts or step through posts student-by-student.

It's generally a good idea to use the VLE's Journal tool's commenting feature to respond to student's posts though you can Edit student's posts if required (which could be useful for adding in-line commenting on students writing for example).

The VLE's Journal tool isn't the only possibility for facilitating reflection, you might consider using other VLE tools or Google Apps for such purposes. To discuss your options, and what might work best for you, please don't hesitate to contact the E-Learning Development Team.

Case Study Title Department
Delivering PBL online Health Sciences
Student Logs and E-Portfolio using Google Sites Education