Instructor blogs in post-secondary

Mon Sep 21 10:04:50 2009 EST (-0500 GMT)

At work a recently was E-Mail by a college at Brock University how was starting some research in to faculty blogs. She was interested in information or links I may have about faculty blogs at Brock University. I shared what I know about and but preference all that information with “I have my own feeling about faculty blogging/course blogging and learner focused teaching, but that aside.”

That lead to as to what those feelings might be. I was surprised to learn that I had a lot, and after banging out a few paragraphs in response I asked if I could share those thoughts in my own blog (it’s a busy time of year, and I want every keystroke working as hard as it can for me). So with that, here are my thoughts on faculty blogging/course blogging:

I don’t have a strong feeling, if I did it would impede my work, but that hasn’t stopped me from having a lot to say.

I do feel that something like an LMS (which I support at Brock University – so that’s my bias) which has an announcements tool for broadcasting messages to everyone, as messages tool for peer-to-peer private messages or cc’ everyone messages, and a forum/discussion board better servers the purposes of what most course blogs are used for. With the notable exception of a visually appealing appearance and having a strong public face. I also want to highlight that this is in the context of a class, which is a defined group of limited
size. When you don’t know who your audience is, or when they’ll be interested and where they’re from, a blog is great.

One reason I like having a blog is it keeps others updated on my goings on and contains a small spot for comments from readers. Anyone that wants to read it can, or choose not to.

In a course context I feel like a class blog strongly privileges the instructor over the learners. The instructor is the only one who can create a post and the responses of students are limited to the comments area. This precludes the students from introducing a topic, structurally, they can only respond to those of the instructor – and even then the comment would have to be “public internet” worthy. In that way I feel it creates a technical structure that replicates or re-invents the sage-on-the-stage format of a giant 500 seat lecture hall.

I think that the structural disparity in roles is what makes a blog worse as a teaching tool than just a simple web page with content. A two-way dialogue appears unwelcome compared to a discussion forum
which arranges information in a more egalitarian way.

Blogs also aren’t that great about notifying readers of new content that is important. At any moment important content could be posted, so students must keep checking the site, it’s like a captive audience
which again I think privileges the instructor over the student.

Outside of the structural issues, there’s the nature of blogs issue. I think a blog can be more about vanity than teaching, that and I’d hate for anyone to feel like they had to read all of my blog postings or fail.

To that end, I don’t see class blogs as great tool for course management issues nor do I see it being great tool for dialogue.

That said in k-12, it’s a great way to keep parents in the loop. Also I’ve always felt that the more the university sector can do on the public internet the better. That’s why I’m an advocate of wikis, etc – and a blog is certainly better than no asynchronous electronic information at all!

I was profiled in St. Catharines Standard, Feb 3 2006, issue in an article about me as a blogger titled “15 bytes of fame” — I mistakenly fed the journalist that line and she warned my it might become the title — but that doesn’t make me an expert. If instructors ask me where to setup a blog for their course I point them
to blogger.com or wordpress.com and move on.

That’s my take on it and probably Michel Foucault and Karl Marx’s or something. Thanks for asking, I apparently had a lot to share.

Those were my comments. I’d clarify, now that it’s in a public forum, that the nature of a blog can be less about vanity and more about teaching, but that would require a strong mental-editor inside that instructor/blogger. That’s enough back-peddling for now, I’ll save the rest for if I get a lot of comments.

  • There’s good info here. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog. Keep up the good work mate!