A gentle nudge or a poke with a big stick? Automating reminders for non-participation in blogs

A query came my way yesterday which went a bit like this:

“I ask my students to complete a weekly blog activity in the VLE; can I automatically remind the ones who don’t participate by a given date that they need to add a post to the blog?”

While the VLE’s blog tool doesn’t have automated notices function, a combination of  the VLE’s blog tool, the Grade Centre and “Smart Views” in the grade centre, we should be able to achieve the result we are looking for.

The blog tool

When you set the blog tool up you can tell it to create an column in the Grade Centre which is primarily used to retrieve student work, store their marks and provide feedback. By adding the blog to the Grade Centre we can take advantage of the Grade Centre’s “Smart Views” in the next step which can dynamically generate lists of students who have not met certain criteria; for example students who have scored below a given mark on a test, or in this case, students who have not yet submitted a piece of work.

  1. Within a content area where you want the blog to appear; select Tools > Blogs
  2. Click Create New Blog and enter standard information for the blog (Name, Instructions etc.), making sure you select whether you want this to be an individual or course blog
  3. In the Grade Settings section of the blog set up page, select Grade and enter a number into the Points possible field.
  4. Make sure that Show participants in “needs grading” status is selected and set to after every 1 entry. (see illustration)
  5. Click Submit
  6. On the next screen, select the blog you have just created from the list of blogs available and click Next
  7. Provide details for the link to the blog that your students will see and click Submit
  8. A link to the blog will now be available to students in the VLE and you will have created a column for the blog within the Grade Centre
Grade Settings applied to a blog in the VLE

Grade Settings applied to a blog in the VLE

The Grade Centre and Smart Views

In general, the Grade Centre lists all students enrolled on your module and all “assessable items” (eg quizzes, assignment submission points etc) made available to them. Smart views can be used to provide instructors with a filtered view of the grade centre, showing only students who meet certain criteria.

  1. Go to Control Panel > Grade Centre > Full Grade Centre
  2. Click on Manage > Smart Views
  3. Click Create Smart View
  4. Give the Smart View a name that will mean something to you (eg “Not completed Blog”) and check the Add as Favourite box
  5. Within the Selection Criteria section, select the blog grade centre column from the User Criteria drop down list (this will have the name of the blog that you created)
  6. Select Status Equals from the Condition drop down list
  7. Select Not Attempted from the Value field
  8. Click Submit

Smart Views in the Control PanelTo access the list of students who have made no submission to the blog and then e-mail them a timely reminder;

  1. Go to Control Panel > Grade Centre > Select the name of the Smart view you have created
  2. This will take you to the list of students who meet the criteria of the Smart View; select them all by ticking the box at the very top of the list
  3. Select Email > Email Selected Users
  4. Compose your reminder e-mail and click Submit

Putting it together in the VLE

If you wanted students to complete a weekly blog activity and be able to send separate reminders based on that week’s performance, you would need to create a separate blog and Smart View for each week. You could also make a tool link in the main menu to all the blogs available on the site to allow students easy access to all their blog entries (select Add Tool Link > Blogs)

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