Using blogs as a learning tool

This semester I am trialling the use of student blogs. I believe that using blogs will bring 3 (and a half) benefits to the post-graduate module that I am teaching this semester, Marketing eFutures.

The Class
The module – Marketing eFutures – is part of the MSc eMarketing course. It gives students the opportunity to explore one cutting-edge topic linking Strategic Marketing and web futures.

Participants develop specialist knowledge in a contemporary thematic area by choosing one specialism from a wide range of consumer behaviour, marketing management or industry specific topics.

The ultimate goal is for these future Digital Marketing managers to develop a futuristic scenario explaining why and how the chosen specialist area will evolve on the web.

This year, I have 6 students in the class – so, a fairly small group. I taught them earlier in the year and I am really impressed with their calibre: they are bright, they are sharp and have risen beautifully to all challenges I have set them so far. I can’t wait!

The (expected) benefits
There are three main reasons why I decided to use student blogs in this class.

Reason #1. I am particularly interested in the potential of blogs as a mechanism for reflection and self-appraisal – this skill is so important for senior management and, yet, it is too easy to sidestep in the education process, geared as it is towards external validation (i.e., the teacher telling the student how well s/he is doing and what should be done next).

Reason #2. I believe the blogs will help the students progress smoothly and confidently in their assignments. Specifically, I am hoping that the blogs will provide some gentle peer pressure among the students and, thus, will help them stay motivated in this largely individual effort. I will be commenting on their posts, too – I am confident that this will enable me to give feedback to each student in a more interactive way than through intermittent paper submissions.

Reason #3. Finally, I trust that these eMarketing students will find the blogging experience useful in their future careers as Digital Marketing managers. It is something specific to mention in their interviews, it is an entry for their CVs, and it is an opportunity to showcase their work and talent.

Ah… and there is another, very selfish, reason: I think that it will be much more fun for me to read and comment on these blog posts than on various paper reports.

How we will be using the student blogs
I have been reading a lot about the use of blogs, in general. I also asked on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn about people’s experiences and ideas regarding the use of blogs in learning [PS – I will also post a question on Quora, I think].

This is still ‘work in progress’ but, for the moment, this is my plan:
– We will star with a blog reading activity – This idea was suggested to me in the LinkedIn group ‘Higher Education Teaching and Learning’. This activity will inform a discussion of style, purpose and ettiquette. It could also turn into a first post for the students. It should aid with goals #1 and #3.
– I expect a minimum of one post per week – to aid with goal #2.
– I will give very general prompts for each weekly post – something like ‘describe your topic’. It should aid with goal #1.
– Despite the previous point, I will give students free-range regarding how long the post, the tone of voice, the materials used (e.g., text, photos, videos, …) – to aid with goal #3.
– I will use a public platform like wordpress, blogger or weebly – to aid with goal #3.

Moreover, I am organising a session on the practical aspects of blogging. Plus, I will be referring the students to Mark Schaefer’s brilliant – yet, free – eBook (available here). I am also investigating the creation of a wiki towards the end of the module, to collect all the blogs in the same place.

After I had drafted this posted, Derek Chirnside suggested on the mentioned LinkedIn group the use of 2 types of blogs. Namely:
– A private to course members personal blog
– A public group or module blog

This is an intriguing idea. I had not thought about it. I can clearly see the benefits, but I am wondering if it will become too taxing for the students. Anyway, I will definitely be giving this option a bit more thought over the coming days.

Once the blogs are set up, I’ll be sharing the links with you. I hope that you, too, will comment on my students’ posts. It should be fun.

Your turn…
Have you used blogs in teaching or learning? What is your experience?

I would really, really like to hear your suggestions on what else to do (or avoid) to make this a truly enriching experience for my class. Please share your comments, below. Thank you.

PS – If you are interested in Higher Education, I highly recommend joining the LinkedIn group ‘Higher Education Teaching and Learning’.

3 thoughts on “Using blogs as a learning tool

  1. Thank you, Paulo. I think it is part of the skills that today’s (digital) marketing managers need to have. And, i am hoping it will make for a really engaging teaching and learning experience, too.I’ll let you know how it goes.

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