COLLEGE BLOGS, SEEN AND UNSEEN
Though I still find most blogs to be the self-absorbed and largely uninteresting ramblings of their creators, I also happen to think the technology can be enormously useful, and nowhere more so than in academia.
Some faculty members I’ve met are using blogs to extend classroom discussions and encourage students to think more deeply about course work.
One professor I interviewed noted that the interactivity of his course blog made it easier for quieter, less self-confident, or less assertive students to enter discussions. And that gave him the opportunity to see a side of those students that he wouldn’t have otherwise seen. “When they get online, I find they’re some of the best students,” he said.
A blog’s interactive properties lend themselves well to collaborative projects, and not just within an institution. Faculty or students engaging in research projects use blogs to capture the history of a project as it unfolds, and to facilitate sharing and management of information.
As I worked with Ball State University in Indiana, for example, I learned that students in a “digital storytelling” class collaborated with students in Germany to compare industrial cities in their respective areas, documenting and sharing their findings through a blog.
Ball State is among the institutions mentioned in Karine Joly’s article in University Business on using blogs as a recruitment device. Each year the undergraduate admissions office selects a dozen students to create and maintain blogs on the institution’s main website. The online journals not only give prospects and their parents a reasonably unvarnished look at university life, but also enable exchanges on a personal, one-to-one level that help build relationships.
There is no shortage, of course, of students who have created their own blogs, unsponsored by (and often unbeknownst to) their colleges or universities. University administrators have also gotten into the act. A recent New York Times article reported that a handful of university presidents have embraced blogs as a way, in one president’s words, “to discourse on the issues of the day and connect with the campus community.”
While presidential blogging tends to ring alarm bells in university public relations or legal affairs offices, these early adopters have found that the strategy lets them stay on top of what people are thinking and keeps the lines of communication open.