Thursday, February 4, 2021

Why a Student Logbook? A Personal reflection

Professionals working in academia, research, industry and government document their work. This is to protect their own intellectual property and that of their employers and clients. It is also a way to record what has been done, so they, or others can build on the work. It is a way to plan what might be done next, as well as what has been done. For students this is also a good way to learn, by reviewing what they have learned, and planning what they need to learn next. 

As with working professionals, students can use their logbook to provide evidence that their work is there own. It is much easier to defend a charge of plagiarism if you have a timestamped record of everything you did for a project, from the time it was conceived.

Records Keep Professionals Accountable

Title page, Lieutenant James Cook, Journal of the Proceedings of His Majesty's Bark Endeavour in a Voyage Round the World

Title page, Lieutenant James Cook, 
Journal of the Proceedings of His Majesty's 
Bark Endeavour 
in a Voyage Round the World

1768-1771. UK National Maritime Museum, CC BY-NC 3.0

Lieutenant James Cook wrote a detailed 354 page logbook as a "... trusted and coherently authored account with which to convince his backers in London" (Eóin Phillips, History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge). While the technology has changed, professionals still use logbooks to protect their own interests, as well as their employers and clients.

Student Logbook For Work Notes

'I found Robert Ackland's "Web Social Science: Concepts, Data and Tools for Social Scientists in the Digital Age" (SAGE Publications, 2013), on the new books stand at the ANU Library. This is very relevant  ... Ackland discusses how a "community" develops  "common beliefs, norms and shared understandings. ...' 

From Web Social Science: Concepts, Data and Tools for Social Scientists in the Digital Age, Posted by Tom Worthington on 19 January 2014, 9:31 PM

As an international online graduate student from 2013 to 2016, I kept a private electronic journal. This was stored on the university's electronic portfolio system. By the end of three years study, I had made 1,200 postings of about 100,000 words. This was useful to keep notes for later use in assessed work. Notes included a full reference to the source, so these could later be used in an assignment. Above is an early entry for my journal, which contains a note about a book, which I later used in an assignment. 

Student Logbook for Reflection

Vancouver from 17th floor, UBC Walter Gage Student Residence, Photo by Tom Worthington, CC-BY, 2014
Vancouver from 17th floor, UBC Walter Gage Student Residence, 
Photo by Tom Worthington, CC-BY, 2014.

"It is four days before I start as an on-line student ... So I am checking I have access to the course materials. So far everything looks very familiar...  The one worry is a group "presentation". I am worried about how I am going to work in a group on-line internationally (there appear to be no other Australian students). Also there are some syncronous (real-time) activities, which I will be unlikley to attend due to the time differece. These are listed under assesment as not complusory, but in that case why are they listed?" 

From Starting as a Student at University, Posted by Tom Worthington on 07 January 2014, 4:17 PM
Another use for the journals was to make notes about my reaction to the course. Being a student, and particularly an online student, can be a lonely, frustrating experience. Through the journals I could, in effect, have a conversation with myself, about what I was doing and why I was doing it. In the above excerpt from my journal, I expressed some frustrations and fears about being a student. 

Student Logbook as Evidence of Having Done the Work

"I  have not had a reply from the tutor about my selected paper, but another student replied saying it looked okay. The instructions said to post to the forum in preference to emailing the tutor, so I guess this is okay (otherwise the tutor would have said). So far I have 450 words, but these seem to be more about me than the paper. ;-)
Attached files ... Assignment1...doc - [22.5KB]" From: Assignment 1: First Attempt, Posted by Tom Worthington on 29 January 2014, 12:05 AM

Another reason to keep a journal was is a defense against plagiarism. At any time anyone, however senior, can be accused of using someone else's work without acknowledgment. If an examiner asked "where did this come from?", a logbook provides a day by day, draft by draft, timestamped audit trail of of work on the topic, back to the start. This can not only includes the what, but the why. As an international student this was particularly important, as the norms where I was studying were different. In this journal excerpt I not only wrote about the assignment submission process, but attached a draft of my assignment, in case I needed evidence later of when I wrote it.

What Technology to Use for an Electronic Student Logbook?

"It appears to me that students can "game" assignment deadlines by creating incomplete Journal entries before the assignment deadline, then editing them after the deadline, since the Journal entry time stamps don't update after editing..." 

Journal entry time stamps - not updated when edited...?, by Robert Lyon, Mahara Forums, 30 September 2014:

The best technology to use is whatever students are already using. Many universities which use the Mahara electronic portfolio system, teamed with the Moodle Learning Management System. Mahara was used for early offerings of the Techlauncer program. The system was updated to record both a "Posted on" and "Last updated" timestamp, so changes to student journal entries could be identified, making it suitable for a student logbook.

However, if students are not using Mahara, or another journalist system already, then asking them to do this is a burden. This is also a burden for the teacher who has to learn to use just another product.. Also Mahara is much more than the student needs for a simple logbook. 

Writing prompts

Dr Alisa James,
SUNY Brockport

  1. "Write a paragraph about a ... goal you would like to reach. Explain why you want to reach that goal.
  2. Write a paragraph about what you did today that helped you to be successful in today's activities.
  3. Write a paragraph about your ... behavior for the day. What things might you do to demonstrate more sporting behavior in the future?
  4. What was the hardest thing for you to do today? Why was it hard?
  5. Write a paragraph that includes the cues of striking that we learned today. What will you do outside of school to practice these cues?
  6. Write a paragraph that includes the main aspects one should consider when developing a fitness program. Hint: Remember the FIT principle
  7. Write a paragraph that describes activities that you can do in your community that promote cardiovascular endurance .
  8. Write a paragraph that explains the difference between verbal and nonverbal communication. Why is it important to use both in cooperative activities? Be sure to give specific examples of both verbal and nonverbal communication." 

    From p.43, James, Alisa, "Journaling as an Assessment Option" (2005). Kinesiology, Sport Studies and Physical Education Faculty Publications. 78. (numbering added)
There has been much written in the educational literature about the use of reflective e-portfolios for assessment. However this is something the STEM students and teachers find difficult. James (2005) sets out how to guide physical educations students through preparing an assessed journal. 

Writing prompts are more important for an e-journal used with an online course, than for the face to face classes James (2005) discusses. As the student will be mostly studying asynchronously, the teacher is not there to be saying "put a copy of that in your journal now". This has to be explicitly stated in course materials, ideally as part of a assessed task, so the student has an incentive. This can also mark a point in the course, an approach of synchronization of asynchronous learning (Worthington, 2013)

James' prompts are ordered from more to less reflective. The first four are about the individual student goals, success, behavior, difficulties. The next three are about future plans of the student to learn skills. The last is a more traditional study question about the course material. These questions are not that different to ones which might be asked as study aids in any course. One of my frustrations as a student was that my answers to such questions were never looked at by anyone, let alone count towards assessment. In theory they help with learning, but in practice, like any student, I would tend to focus on what got looked at and especially marked. The e-journal gets around this problem by having answers go somewhere, perhaps be looked at and help me at least pass the course.

Logbook Entries can be Visual

Tom Worthington taking part in Lego Serious Play session at the Australian National University, 20 October 2017
My teaching philosophy, expressed in Lego, 
Photo by Tom Worthington, CC-BY, 2017

Logbook entries need not be just text, there can be diagrams, photographs, and with an electronic journal, video.  Dr Stephen Dann, has adapted the Lego Serious Play technique for reflection workshops (2018). In 2017 Dr Dann ran a workshop for ANU staff working on their reflective e-portfolio for the Higher Education Academy Fellowship. In 2018 he ran a similar exercise for ANU Techlauncher students to consider their role in a group project. In each case the student is asked to make something with building blocks representing the topic and then talk about it. By talking about it, the students are encouraged to talk about themselves. They are also encouraged to take a photograph of their work. 

The photo shows my Lego interpretation of an approach to teaching. I did not include this in my formal application for fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. However, describing the build was useful in clarifying my thoughts about teaching and the success of my application.

Moodle Wiki for a Student Logbook

Moodle Wiki Logbook Template

An Moodle Wiki has been set up so each student gets their own, with a template pre-filled for a student logbook.There is just one page, with sections for the student to fill in each week. The student can create extra pages if they have a lot of content. But Ione page will do for a typical student. They just click on "edit" the heading for a week, and put in some content. 

The fill in the blanks sentences are adapted from James (p.43, 2005). The topics for each week are from the Australian National University's Techlauncher program (Awasthy, Flint, and Sankaranarayana, 2017). Questions for the Work Portfolio (Weeks 4 and 8) were suggested by Tempe ArcherANU Careers. The idea here is to provide a prompt for the student each week to start writing and avoid presenting then with a confronting blank page. The students are asked to write about the activity set for that week and a specific aspect of it.

Jacques, Ouahabi and Lequeu (2020) refer to the use of logbooks in Google Drive for French first year first year engineering students learning online,  but unfortunately give no more details. Kumar, Silva and Prelath, R. (2020) mention not having a project logbook as a problem for studio based learning in a Malaysian course, but again provide no more details. 

Blockchain to Stop Academic Plagiarism

Professor Rory McGreal,
Athabasca University

Rory McGrealhas proposed the use of blockchain for their dissemination (2021). While most OER are free and authors are happy to see their work widely, they still want to be acknowledged for their work. 

The Creative Commons licenses, commonly used for open materials, all have a "by attribution" requirement: "... the original creator (and any other nominated parties) must be credited and the source linked to". However, this is only a legal and moral requirement, the technology doesn't enforce it. Professor McGreal proposes to go a step further and use a blockchain to securely record who first created the work, and all the changes made and by whom. 

While technically feasible, using block chain would throw up some challenges. As an example, nothing can ever be deleted from the blockchain, so if there was something which was incorrect, or harmful, or illegal, it would be there in perpetuity.


Awasthy, R., Flint, S., & Sankaranarayana, R. (2017, April). Lifting the constraints—Closing the skills gap with authentic student projects. In 2017 IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference (EDUCON) (pp. 955-960). IEEE. URL

Dann, S. (2018). Facilitating co-creation experience in the classroom with Lego Serious Play. Australasian Marketing Journal, 26(2), 121-131.

James, Alisa, "Journaling as an Assessment Option" (2005). Kinesiology, Sport Studies and Physical Education Faculty Publications. 78.

Jacques, S., Ouahabi, A., & Lequeu, T. (2020). Remote Knowledge Acquisition and Assessment During the COVID-19 Pandemic. International Journal of Engineering Pedagogy (iJEP)10. URL

Kumar, J. A., Silva, P. A., & Prelath, R. (2020). Implementing studio-based learning for design education: a study on the perception and challenges of Malaysian undergraduates. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 1-21. URL

McGreal, Rory. (January 20, 2021) How blockchain could help the world meet the UN’s global goals in higher The Conversation. URL

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