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Blogs at Elon: A tool for all types of learning

As the Internet’s prominence has grown throughout the years, blogging has grown in popularity, too. In the blogosphere, there are numerous platforms people can choose from and blogs can be used in a variety of different ways. You have may have read our post on getting started with blogs, but here are some examples of how Elon professors are using blogs in their classrooms.

Scott Windham – Blogs as a tool for reflection

For Scott Windham, an associate professor of German, the blogs provide a student-friendly platform in his writing intensive global studies courses.

“I use [blogs] to post assignments and also to post my thoughts on particular issues we’re discussing,” Windham says. “We occasionally use the comments feature but that’s pretty rare.”

His courses, which rely heavily on journaling on course subjects and themes, use blogs not only for writing activities, but also for student communication and collaboration.  Students can read each other’s posts on the blog and Windham says that on many of his course evaluations, students say that journaling on the blogs helps them achieve course objectives.

Scott Buechler – Blogs as a tool for sharing

Scott Buechler, assistant professor of business communications, also uses his blog to cover course content, but he has evolved his usage of it in his courses to better engage and prepare students for future classes. At the beginning, Buechler used the blog as a way to share information within the classroom. One of the major projects in Buechler’s class involves students analyzing different companies as prospects for investment, so Buechler utilized the blog to get the information from each student to the entire class quickly. Now, Buechler uses it for much more.

“The blog has become one of the communication products for the course,” Buechler says. “[I have] four different assignments [with the blog] to get them comfortable with blogging, help them establish a style of writing that is personal and professional, and allow them to take advantage of multimedia features digital media provides.”

Buechler feels there are still new ways to use blogging in the classroom, but thus far, he has been pleased with what it has brought to his courses.

“It has been fun,” Buechler says. “It is so much more engaging and it provides them with a more current and more up-to-date form of business communications.”

With Buechler’s introduction to blogging in the business school, he is preparing his students for Beth McAlhany’s course, “New Products in Branding,” which utilizes blogging in many ways that extend beyond the classroom.

Beth McAlhany – Blogs as a tool for the future

McAlhany’s course, which is all about the “ideas behind the strategies of product innovation and branding,” requires a lot of popular press reading, which takes place on blogs. Unlike Buechler and Windham whose students all contribute to a single course blog, McAlhany’s students each have their own professional blog. Students have the freedom to post what interests them in their professional blog and the content that is relevant to the course is fed into the course blog. Students can talk about readings pertinent to class, but have to make their case based on their own opinions and the theories they learn about in the classroom. To McAlhany, using blogs in her class goes beyond learning.

“My class is an applied class where the majority are seniors,” she says. “[I said,] ‘let’s make the work something they can turn around and apply and use in their job search.”

For example, one of her students, Caroline Scalici, made an impression at Omnicom Group Inc., an advertising and marketing agency. . After a tour of the agency, Scalici emailed a thank-you to the employee who led the tour. In the email, Scalici included her blog web address in her signature line. The employee read the blog and passed it along to other employees at the agency. McAlhany says this is only one example of how blogs can help students in the long run. Buechler and Windham seem to be in agreement: blogs have long-term benefits that make them useful for nearly any class.

Dan Reis from Teaching and Learning Technologies (TLT), worked with McAlhany, Buechler and Windham on their course blogs.

“The optional public nature of blogs offers another benefit,” says Reis. “Unlike most academic student writing only the instructor or fellow students see that, blogs can be available openly on the web. Writing that is available to the world raises the stakes for the students because their audience is no longer just the class.”

There are other considerations, including federal FERPA laws, that need to be considered before making student work publicly available. TLT can help explain those considerations. Overall, everyone has a good impression of blog’s presence in the classroom.

“Where [blogging is] going to go, I don’t know, but it’s there,” says Buechler. “It has such richness that you don’t find on a printed page.”

“They could be used in disciplines across campus, not just the humanities,” Windham says.

Whether you are in the sciences or the arts or business or education, there is a way for you to use blogs to engage and transform your classroom. It just depends on how you decide to use them.

If you are interested in using blogs in your teaching and want some assistance, contact Teaching and Learning Technologies at 336.278.5006 or tlt@elon.edu.

Casey Brown

Casey Brown

Casey Brown is the Writing Intern for Technology with Elon University's Teaching and Learning Technologies Department.

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