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The Art of Journaling in Blackboard

Out of the numerous content tools available in Blackboard, my personal favorite is the Journal tool. This tool is perfect for reflective journaling assignments without the need for other outside software or hardcopy to maintain.  

journaling1As an instructor for UNIV 1301 Introduction to Collegiate Studies, I have used Blackboard journals to facilitate student reflections and to introduce active learning. Reflective journals in Blackboard can be set to only be seen by the student and the professor, thereby lessening the pressure from peers.

Some of the benefits of journal writing are:

  • helping students reflect on new knowledge,
  • teaching them to consider new options and perspectives, and
  • creating a risk-free area to explore and practice new skills recently learned.

According to Tim K. Blake, “Journaling is a method frequently discussed in nursing literature and educational literature as an active learning technique that is meant to enhance reflective practice. Reflective practice is a means of self-examination that involves looking back over what has happened in practice in an effort to improve, or encourage professional growth.”

Students learn more when they use active learning because they engage with the material, participate more during class, and work with each other. Traditional styles of teaching where students are expected to sit through lectures, listening and hopefully remembering the information, have not always been effective for all students. As students feel more comfortable with the information, they begin to take more responsibility for their performance in their classes. They see the information presented and how it relates to their own educational goals.

Journal writing is used in many different teaching disciplines. Writing topics can range from reflecting on daily experiences to specific events.

Journal topics can enhance learning by asking specific questions such as:

  • what did you learn,
  • what would you do differently,
  • what would you continue to do,
  • and how do you feel about the experience?

journaling2As students write their journals for class, it helps them as well as their instructors. Instructors are able see growth through the semester, possible missed information, and increased participation.

When creating the prompts for journaling remember to be clear about the journal’s purpose. One class may consider journals a place to voice personal feelings, while another class may focus on applying critical thinking. To remove ambiguity, an example is a quick way to communicate to the students your expectations. Another way to focus on content is to evaluate journal content only and not count off for spelling, grammar, or form. A more relaxed format often keeps them on task because they are not continually editing for proper format. Our goal is to deepen the quality of learning by developing a questioning attitude. We want students to ask why. We want them to understand their own learning process and to take personal ownership of learning.

If you want to add journaling to your course, but are unsure where to start, Blackboard Help has many tutorials on how to use tools. To learn how to create journal entries, use journals and grade, see this link and contact your Instructional Designer with any questions or concerns you might have.


Reference Articles

Boud, David. “Using Journal Writing to Enhance Reflective Practice.” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 26 Feb. 2002,

K Blake, Tim. (2005). Journaling; An Active Learning Technique. International journal of nursing education scholarship. 2. Article 7. 10.2202/1548-923x.1116.

“Promoting Active Learning.” Undergrad Main Site,

Walker, Stacy E. “Journal Writing as a Teaching Technique to Promote Reflection.” Journal of Athletic Training, National Athletic Trainers Association, 2006,

Walraven, Charlotte. “The Benefits of Reflective Journal Writing.” Teaching for Learning @ McGill