Although Canvas does not include a native blogging tool, there are several ways that instructors can achieve a blog-like functionality, both within and outside of Canvas.
Blogging Within Canvas
Blog with the class Discussion Board
One option is to use the class Discussion Board, which is viewable by the entire class. Instructors can create a thread for each student (using their name), and students can post inside that discussion thread. Other students can easily see unread posts, can subscribe, and can comment on posts. One potential problem is that other students can post at the top level of another student’s discussion – and this could cause some confusion. Some training / practice would be necessary.
A graded discussion could not be used as the assignment type, because a graded discussion thread would expect each student to post in the thread. Instructors would need to set up a separate Assignment (“Week 1 Blog,” e.g.) and check each student’s blog manually for the grade.
Blog with Group (single-student) Discussions
Group discussions are another option, and are advantageous because you can control who can post on the Blog more closely. Creating a group set with groups of 1 student per group would give each student access to the full set of Group tools, including their own Discussion Board.
Assigning the blog posts in this scenario is fairly simple. The instructor would create a Graded Discussion, and designate it a Group Discussion. Upon writing the prompt and creating the Discussion, it will automatically be dispersed to each group (1 student in this case). Grading is also easy – group discussions are graded based on each group’s completion of their own discussion. Since groups are only 1 student in this case, when the student responds to the prompt their work will be flagged as “Needs Grading” and show up in the SpeedGrader.
The only real downside is a relatively major one – visibility. Group discussions cannot be made visible to the rest of the class. The instructor could make content available to others in the class by reposting it elsewhere (a Page, class Discussion forum, etc.), but this is a lot of extra legwork.
Blog with ePortfolios
Another option within Canvas is to use ePortfolios, which can be configured with customizable content, including sections and pages. Students can also make the ePortfolio public, which gives access to anyone who has the link only (not searchable). ePortfolios are a bit more work to set up, but setup happens on the student side, and is comparatively less work than an outside tool. Commenting is possible on an ePortfolio. The ePortfolio itself is not tied into a course’s contents for archival by default, but there is a workaround available. Grading is also possible, by pasting a URL into a URL submission.
In this scenario, students would create an ePortfolio specifically for their blog (“Bio 101 Blog,” for instance), and make it public, allowing comments if desired. They would create sections (if they wish), but more importantly would create Pages for each post. Inside each page, they can add Rich Text, HTML, Image/File attachments, etc. Comments can (and generally should) be made public. Instructors can facilitate browsing of blogs by posting links to all student blogs on a Page somewhere in the course.
At the end of the course, for archival, instructors could require students to download their ePortfolio in ZIP format and submit it to Canvas. That way the ePortfolio is archived there, and the student can then delete it if quota space is a concern.
Blogging Outside of Canvas
Blog with an external blogging tool
To get the true “blog” experience, students could be directed to an external blog tool like Blogger or WordPress. (All UNCG students automatically have access to Blogger through their iSpartan accounts. Visit the Blogger documentation for more information.) Students could create true blogs with the flexibility to use all of the tools included with proven platforms. Assignments could be graded via URL Submissions – students post on their blog and then post a URL to the submission.
However, instructors give up a level of control when directing students to an outside tool. Edits and revisions can be made “invisibly,” so a student may be able to edit a post after it has been graded. (When grading, it is recommended to copy and paste the student’s post for reference.) Instructors have no statistics on usage or page access either, since the blog exists outside of the Canvas universe.
Visibility and commenting could be seen as a plus or a minus. Most blogs are open to the entire world, so visibility and commenting would definitely be open to the entire class…but would also be open to others as well. Most blog platforms do allow the user to adjust some settings to restrict search engines, and some platforms may even allow for access control, but these things need to be set up specifically.
One additional concern is the archival of the blog and its contents along with the course. Since the blog is hosted externally, it will be possible for students to change or remove the content even after the course ends. This makes archival of the blog nearly impossible without a significant amount of extra work from the instructor (copy/paste, print to PDF, etc.).
Blog with Google Docs
Though not a true blog experience, a Google Doc can be used to “simulate” one. Students can create a Google Doc, assign permissions appropriately (view / edit / comment / etc.), and write. Comments are possible via the Google Docs interface, although they don’t show up in the “traditional” message board format. The Google Docs could be submitted as Canvas assignments either by the built-in integration or via URL.
This solution does require extra setup, and students will need to take extra steps when posting. Unless you use one Google Doc for the entire blog, it would be difficult to make responses public and easily accessible, unless you used a graded Discussion wherein students posted the link to their Google Doc. (And in that case, why not just use Discussions?)
But Google Docs do offer superior access control – a way to allow only a subset of users to view the doc if desired.