Blogtalk Downunder
   May 19-22, Sydney

Blogtalk Downunder

Lisa Wise: Blogs versus discussion forums in postgraduate online continuing medical education

Dr Lisa Wise is Head of the Online Learning Unit in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Melbourne. Her academic background is in cognitive neuroscience and in addition to introducing web-based teaching to her undergraduate psychology program in the early 1990s, she has extensive experience in web application development and in implementation of learning management systems

Blogs versus discussion forums in postgraduate online continuing medical education

[Read the complete paper (.pdf)]


The so-called “net generation”, those people who do not remember a time before the World Wide Web (e.g. Oblinger and Oblinger, 2005), are now beginning to enter tertiary institutions. In order to accommodate the perceived expectations of these students, there is strong institutional pressure to ensure that information and communication technology (ICT) is a standard component of tertiary teaching programs. Although some form of online delivery has become part of the mainstream teaching model, a major barrier to effective use of online tools is the need for academics to acquire the technical competence to author basic web content and use ICT (such as email, discussion forums, chat, instant messaging) within their comfort zone.

In this paper, I explore the reluctance of academics and institutions to embrace the use of blogs even when they understand the appropriateness of the tool to the communication model desired. I base my broader argument around data from the continuing medical education (CME) context in which I provide online learning support. As background to my thesis, I examine the rationale for embracing ICT in CME. I then propose that use of LMS to support online learning in fact is responsible for a subtle deskilling and disempowerment of academics in terms of ICT literacy which reinforces the inertia inherent in adopting new tools when existing ones can be made to serve the purpose, albeit in a clumsy or non-optimal manner. I argue, on the basis of data from 6 post-graduate CME courses, that much of the content of discussion forums would be better supported by blogging software than by forum
software. Based on ideas derived from Downes (2004), Watson (2003), Williams and Jacobs (2004) and various online commentators, I put forward the proposition that in addition to the overhead of learning to use a new piece of software, reluctance to use blogging software is evidence of a deeper issue in terms of the task of writing itself. Despite the pivotal role of writing as the core communication mode of academic discourse, many participants in CME
(both educators and students) have little intrinsic interest in the act of writing and are not driven to write beyond the need to fulfil course or specific professional requirements.

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