Department for Curriculum and Quality Enhancement

What is a learning journal?

A learning journal (sometimes know as a learning log) is a place where students can record their personal thoughts and observations before, during and after, for example, a period of study. A student’s writing should focus on thoughts and feelings that have arisen from a learning experience, such as discussion in a seminar, involvement in practical work, research undertaken or attendance at a workshop.

Why use an online learning journal?

A learning journal enables students to actively engage in a reflective and critical thinking process about their learning experiences. By doing this, they are able to explore and question their thoughts and ideas to gain a deeper understanding of their subject.

This reflective process can also help students locate their strengths and weaknesses – thereby helping them to address areas they need to improve in their study or perhaps, by identifying points of confusion, pinpointing where additional revision is required.

Tips on setting up an online learning journal

When setting up an online learning journal you should consider the following points. This will provide students with the information and support required to help them fully engage in their reflective writing.

  • Introduction – Include:
    • What a learning journal is
    • Benefits of using a learning journal
    • Example reflection questions, such as ‘What did you do?’ / ‘Why did you do it?’ / ‘How was it useful?’ / ‘How did it make you feel – was it challenging?’ / ‘What did you learn?’ / ‘What will you do next?’
  • General instructions – Include:
    • What you are asking them to reflect on
    • How often would you like them to use the journal – daily, weekly, monthly?
    • How much content should be provided
    • Submission requirements – for example, how the learning journal will be assessed. Journals tend to be assessed / graded on engagement and a student’s commitment to updating their learning journal – not the actual content, as this is personal to the student and may discourage them in engaging with the process
  • Support – Include:

What tools can I use to deliver and manage an online learning journal?

One way to setup an online learning journal is to use Microsoft Word to create a learning journal (this can then be placed on your unit home page for students to download and populate). The Moodle assignment tool can then be used to facilitate submission and feedback.

By using Moodle assignment to facilitate online submission, students can upload their learning journal as many times as is required – which is essential, due to the ongoing nature of writing a learning journal. You can implement this by selecting ‘maximum attempts’ from the Moodle assignment submission settings. As the lecturer you will be able to view the latest uploads, make comments, and also monitor students who are not updating their learning journal.

Please note: you need to be aware of a potential issue if you use the method outlined above. Every time a student uploads the latest version of their learning journal, which should include their new entry, the previous version will be overwritten. You therefore won't be able to easily notice whether a student has amended / updated previous entries in their learning journal.

Conclusion

Online learning journals can help students to develop their reflective practice and become effective learners. Using Moodle to facilitate submission and management of an online learning journal is quick and easy to set up. For further support see our Moodle Staff Help pages or contact elearn@port.ac.uk

Resources

Reflective writing help sheet (students)

Learning journal template (Microsoft Word)