Thursday, October 09, 2008

Using Edublogs

I've been using a blog at Edublogs.org to supplement my Intro to Ethics class. I post the assignments so they're available electronically, I post interesting links or thoughts that didn't make it into the lecture, and students have posted comments to continue our in-class discussion. As a method, the course blog is a superb fit with my teaching style, the course content (timely environmental issues), and RIT students' predilections (lots of time online). 

As a platform, Edublogs.org has lost my support. The positive aspects are that it's free, that it's run on Wordpress (which provides many superior design options compared to Blogger), and (supposedly) it creates an educational community. I haven't seen much community, except for Brandon Watson's excellent ethics course blog.

Problems started a couple of weeks ago when I had trouble posting. The site posted an announcement that there would be an interruption of service for a couple of hours in the wee hours of Saturday morning. The interruption continued through the entire weekend, making it impossible for my students to access their assignment, the reading schedule, etc. From Monday through Wednesday, I was able to access the site only on occasion, with a lower than 10% success rate. At times, it was offline completely; at other times, I could view but not post.

I located the blog of the Edublogs.org founder, James Farmer (interestingly, not itself hosted on edublogs), which had a note about the extended outage issues. In a comment, I asked 
Can you give me a reason that I shouldn't migrate to Blogger? I like the wordpress design and the educational community, but reliability is everything.
The response I received was:
Good luck with migration issues.
Hard to imagine a clearer blow-off!

I was truly hoping to hear some good reasons that would save me the trouble of moving to another host (the sunk-cost fallacy had me in its hold), but now I'll be on my way as soon as this quarter winds down.

6 comments:

Brandon said...

I didn't really have any technical issues with Edublogs.org while I was using, but I've found that I vastly prefer Blogsome. It's also free and it's also Wordpress, and it seems to me that as a platform it's much less bloated with bells and whistles that don't really do anything and the odd, sometimes difficult-to-use way of organizing the admin pages of Edublogs.org. I'm pretty much only using it for occasional announcements and notes this term, but my current Intro course uses Blogsome. I've used Blogsome before (before Edublogs, in fact, which I detoured to try for a while precisely because of the explicit educational focus), and have never had technical problems. I'm inclined to think at this point, given my experience and now yours, that I'd only recommend Edublogs for someone who was (1) wholly and completely unfamiliar with blogging and so wanted a place to get their feet wet and (2) was only using it as a supplement rather than as a key part of the course.

Evelyn Brister said...

Thanks for the pointer to Blogsome. I may continue with Blogger, now that I realize that there are many well-designed templates offsite.

Edublogs was worth a try, but it's down again, and it's been nearly a week now. From what I've read in trying to get more info on the outage, it's preferred by middle and high schools where Blogger, Wordpress, etc. are blocked. Obviously not a problem at the university level.

Interesting Intro course!

Simon Robinson said...

The Edublogs outages have been a massive pain for me. I administer a number of accounts delivering many courses which have been out of action all week. Tough to communicate.
That said, I have to jump to James' defence a bit as I believe you have misread the comment stream on his blog. His response is as follows:
"Hi Evelyn and Franck, the new features will allow you to connect with other edubloggers in an entirely new way and also simply manage entire classes via edublogs, with a minimum of fuss.

They’re going to be amazing - and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your patience while we get this right." - James Farmer (http://incsub.org/blog/2008/notes-on-edublogsorg-maintenance#comments)

The quote you posted was from a comment by another Edublogs user who was (as I understand it anyway) wishing James and the Edublogs team luck with their migration issues (not yours).
Whichever system you choose I hope it works out.

Evelyn Brister said...

Yes, Simon, I see that now, though I didn't at first. So I wasn't blown off that directly, but I didn't get a straight response on what the problem is or when it would be fixed.

Although Edublogs is providing a free service, there are many to choose from--such as Blogger--and the benefits of being in an educational community are now grossly outweighed by the disadvantage of unreliability and lost time.

Susan said...

Has anyone figured out how to migrate from Edublogs to another blog site. I'd like to migrate to Wordpress. It simply has more features for my purposes, however, I have put so much time and effort into building my Edublogs blog, that I hate to lose all that and start over somewhere else. One of the reasons that I started noticing deficiencies is that I could not find the API key. I wanted to use Akismet and got this error: Akismet is not active. You must enter your WordPress.com API key for it to work.
So I went looking for the API key and found it on my Wordpress blog (which is not developed) but it was not anywhere on my Edublogs. I have spent a few hours trying to figure it out to no avail. Am I missing something?

Evelyn Brister said...

Susan,
I've been so disappointed with my experience at Edublogs. Now, when I go back to look at my blog, it is riddled with advertisements, some of them in direct conflict with the values expressed in the blog. There are google ads at the top of every post, plus advertisements embedded in fake links throughout the post, which make reading difficult.
I didn't figure out how to migrate, but I did copy a record of what I had written by saving the webpages as web archive files on my computer. I've reposted a couple of them by just copying and pasting. It's not efficient, it doesn't reproduce the blog as a whole, it doesn't save all the comments nor make the old blog easy to find or accessible.
I find this Blogger platform simpler to use than Wordpress, but Wordpress offers more options, especially for design. I'm thrilled I switched to Wordpress for my class blog. I don't have the issues of access that some people in primary and secondary schools do.