Journaling through E-Learning

Multiple choice, true or false response, matching, and completion type questions seem to be the norm in online class assignments. While traditional is great, are there different ways online students can express themselves in assignments, and express that they are learning the material?

What about online journal assignments?

The Inside Online Learning Blog hosts weekly twitter conversations on current issues in online learning. To join these awesome virtual get togethers use the hashtag: #IOLchat. This week’s topic was “Online Journal Assignments”.

What were some of the key takeaways of this chat?

You should include prompts


Students are already faced with transactional distance in online learning. Prompts, aka, cues and instructions given before a journal assignment is beneficial to get students motivated to write.

So what are some good prompt tips?

  • Pick a prompt that the students can connect to.
    •  The prompt should be relative to the material of the course, but should also be able to foster students creativity, and should be able to make them reflect on the actual topic.
  • Open-ended prompts are best.
    • Students should feel like there is no “right or wrong” response when writing. The more unrestricted, the more likely the student will be able to expand on their writing.
  • Have more than one
    • Not all students are alike, especially in writing. Multiple choices in prompts will help.


Yes, you need clear expectations

Ambiguity is no fun, especially in writing. Students need direction in every assignment, and definitely in writing assignments.

According to this article, students actually would prefer more difficult writing tasks when given explicit instructions rather than “easier” writing assignments with no guideline.

What are some good clear expectations?

  • Define the writing assignment.
  • Explain the grading rubric.
  • Outline what the student needs to include.
    • Does the journal need to be a certain length/certain number of words?
    • Should the journal include specific keywords?
  • Set deadlines

Should there be sharing?

Should students share their journals with each other?

Of course, sharing is a good way for students to learn from each other.

Another #iolchat member said it is good for accountability within students.

More benefits of sharing?

  • Provides the student with reflection and thought.
  • Can promote one-on-one student dialogue.
  • Elicits challenge with other students.
  • Helps expand perspectives.

All signs point to sharing is caring.

Overall, journals are an excellent form of a non-traditional online assessment assignment. Journal assignments can help online students reflect on course concepts, and material. Do you have journal assignments in your online class? Are there any other takeaways to add to these?