Blogging in the Academic Environment

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Information about Blogging in the Academic Environment

Published on October 23, 2013

Author: UniofYorkLibrary



A guide to blogging in academia: what blogs are, why you might want to create one, how you'd go about it, and tips to it well.

A workshop for the Learning & Teaching Forum at the University of York, delivered by Ned Potter and Simon Davis.

Blogging Blogs and In the academic environment Learning & Teaching Forum #EdTech Workshop Ned Potter Academic Liaison The Library

Aim of today: discuss why blogs are potentially useful, see some academic examples, actually set one up, and discuss blogging well.

Aim of today: discuss why blogs are potentially useful, see some academic examples, actually set one up, and discuss blogging well. What > Why > Examples > How > Tips

What are blogs?

Blogs are regularly updated webpages, consisting of posts (articles) on one or many themes. They can exist on their own or as part of a larger (static) site.

Blogs are classed as social media - in other words they're interactive and participatory. Readers can (usually) comment on the posts, engage in dialogue with the author, and easily share links to the blog via Twitter and other networks.

People can either read blogs online like any other website, or subscribe to the blog to receive regular and automatic updates, wherever they see this symbol: Blogs are (almost always) mobile-ready.

There can be individual blogs, group blogs, departmental blogs, project blogs. They're written via the VLE or using (normally) free online software, the most popular of which are:

Why Blog?

Why Blog? 1. Impact 2. Communication 3. Teaching

It is likely that a larger (and possibly more varied) audience will see your research if you or others blog about it. "...the content of a blog becomes available far faster than that of a journal article, and is accessible to a wider audience." Jenny Davis, Texas A&M University "Academic blogs are proven to increase dissemination of economic research and improve impact." World Bank Senior Economists, David McKenzie and Berk Özler

Adrian Miles, a senior lecturer in media and communications at RMIT… has 1,000 readers a week for his VLOG 4.0 blog and although he describes it as “a very small blog”, he contrasts it with being published in a major international journal where he says “maybe 100 people would read my article”.

Blogging communicates ideas and builds reputation. "Doctor Cleveland" has a nice analogy: What blogging never does is substitute for other academic writing. It doesn't get counted as scholarship. Blogging functions for today's academics much the way that poetry functioned for poets like Chaucer or Spenser, which is to say that you can't actually make a living at it but it can help you make connections for other jobs. Chaucer's poetry only served him economically or professionally by building his reputation at court while he looked for various civilservice gigs. If you are an academic blogger, the same is true of your blog. You write it for personal satisfaction and to express various interests and for the pure joy of making something. The exposure it brings might also help your career.

2. Communication Blogging allows you to greet the Googlers with your professional ideas, views and outputs.

2. Communication Blogging allows you to instigate collaboration, stimulate discussion, share information with your peers, engage a nonacademic community

2. Communication Blogging allows you to disseminate information in an informal way, and get immediate feedback on potential ideas.

2. Communication “Blogging forces me to write accessible content on a regular basis. From a writing point of view, blogging is like working out a few times a week. I also just plain like collecting my thoughts, presenting them well, and trying to see if I can persuade people to think differently after reading my posts than they were thinking before. I suppose that’s the teacher/scholar in me coming through.” Peter Enns, Harvard

3. Teaching

Ways to use blogs in teaching? Provide further assignments for students to work on Have students work in small groups to write and post summaries of content covered in class to build a compendium for content covered over a semester Use blogs for peer learning. Encourage students to post comments on each others postings Use blogs for projects where students need to include videos, clips, audio, text and images

Blogging in the VLE Simon Davis Over to E-Learning Adviser E-Learning Development Team, Academic Support Office

Blogging in the VLE? Considerations: Student motivation to participate Staff time to monitor Alignment with learning outcomes / assessment Privacy or audience?

Management and Gender – “Public” Blogging Linstead (TYMS) Prof Stephen “The course has a blog called Genderscan students can post responses to items on the blog, or send contributions to me for inclusion… It's open to anyone, not just the course members, and it's a good way to connect with and share topical resources”

Blogging in the VLE Why blog in the VLE? “Safe” place for students and staff Enrolments and availability already in place Easy to set up, customise privacy and observe Blogging activities can be contextualised with other teaching materials Familiar for staff and students know it Archiving policy Easy access for students to each other’s blog for peer review

Individual • Clearly defined parameters and instruction • Direction to appropriate resources • Clear direction to help and support • Structure / agreed milestones for larger projects • • • • Regular feedback Maintain individual motivation Clear instructions and rationale Short tasks for measurable skills development • Scaffold to greater autonomy Directed Autonomous • Consider group dynamics / roles • Common understanding of end product • Engagement with marking criteria • Explicit benefit from group element • Consider group dynamics • Feedback through social aspect Social

Examples of use • • • • Reflections pre / post seminars Support group work / collaboration / PBL Sharing resources within the cohort Peer review and feedback

Models of Writing – Dr Nick McGuinn (Education)

Dilemmas of Intervention – Dr Audra Mitchell (Politics)

Britons at work – Dr Trev Broughton (English)

Professional skills 2 – Dr Phil Lightfoot (Physics)

Decisions to make early on: Are you blogging as you, as a potentially identifiable pseudonym, or completely anonymously? Are you blogging alone, with a partner, or as part of a departmental / project team? Is blogging going to be a major activity or a minor activity? Is it for teaching, profile boosting, both?

Gender and Digital Identity: “…I am very familiar with the productivity of digitally-mediated communication. These media make possible relationships, idea sharing, knowledge making and forms of epistemological change that are exceptional. And yet they can also be deeply dangerous…” – Sara Perry, Archaeology Explore the issue at

Key concepts defined

Post / article: means the same thing – one update on the blog. Multimedia: a good thing to include in blog posts – especially pictures and video Subscribers: people who regular get updates from your blog via email or an online service Comments: responses to the article, which the author mediates


A non-academic example: my own blog. Libraries, New Professionals, Marketing, Emerging Technology, Social Media

After nearly four years: 3000 comments (a proper dialogue) 1500 - 2000 subscribers (more reach than many journals) 350-400 views each day (unless I blog)

I'm blogging less but there's more for Google to find so the views are going up:

A non-academic example: my own blog. Libraries, New Professionals, Marketing, Emerging Technology, Social Media

Time to get started. 1. Go to and sign in with your University email address and password. 2. Click 'New blog' 3. Follow the guide in the handout.

Blogging is most effective when you're part of an online academic community, so it's important to consume as well as create. For which you need RSS >> It stands for: Really Simple Syndication. Although the proper explanation is really anything but... Relevant definition: A way to keep up to date by making the content come to you: blogs, news feeds, anything regularly updated online.

Why use RSS? Subscribing to feeds via RSS funnels all the things you're interested in (but might otherwise miss) into one place. You can sub-divide them into folders (Mustreads, Research, Technology, Policy, or whatever). Even once useful articles have disappeared off the front page of the sites you value, they're still waiting for you in your feed-reader.

You can also set up alerts for ego-searches, e.g. mentions of your name, your major theories / articles, or links to your blog / website.

You usually subscribe in a feed reader – I’d recommend either


Blogging well

Write for the web From the authors of the successful British Politics and Policy blog: Academics normally like to build up their arguments slowly, and then only tell you their findings with a final flourish at the end. Don’t do this ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’ in which layers of irrelevance are progressively stripped aside for the final kernel of value-added knowledge to be revealed. Instead, make sure that all the information readers need to understand what you’re saying is up front – you’ll make a much stronger impression that way.

Encourage interaction Avoid text-only posts

Encourage interaction Avoid text-only posts (It’s NOT dumbing down!)

Use titles which reveal the content, rather than obscure it. Linking to other blogs is the new referencing...

Use titles which reveal the content, rather than obscure it. Linking to other blogs is the new referencing... (It’s NOT dumbing down!)

You need to actually tell people you’re blogging.

You need to actually tell people you’re blogging. Blog name and URL on your business cards on your PowerPoint presentations in your email signature Tweet about it, feed it into your LinkedIn profile

Comment on other blog posts. Write guest posts for other blogs.

Above all: Make it as easy as possible for people to share posts and subscribe to your blog.

Keep in mind: Multi-author blogs are more sustainable, and have a higher post-rate. The more posts you have, the more Google searches you show up in, and so the more views you get.. *Useful* blogs (or blogs with a useful element) tend to get more interest - I smuggle in thoughtful posts among the useful posts, to a bigger audience... Blogging works best when you write about what you care about

Logistics: Add yourself, as an author, to your own blog, under a non-work email address. Should you ever move institutions, you don't want to lose access to what you've written.

"How many times have you read a post, or a newspaper article, which you have disagreed with in part because you have better expertise or knowledge? Why keep that to yourself?"

6 tips for busy academics: •Doing an interesting lecture? Put your lecture notes in a blog post. •Writing a detailed email reply? "Reply to public" with a blog post. •Answering the same question a second time? Put it in a blog post. •Writing interesting code? Comment a snippet into a post. •Doing something geeky at home? Blog about what you learned From

Further perspectives: A Guardian Live-chat featuring lots of blogging academics: gher-educationnetwork/2012/oct/19/acade mic-blogging-power-pitfallslivechat

Any questions?

Thanks for coming! These slides at: Digital Scholarship Blog: E-Learning Development Team Blog: Support for Researchers: Ned’s email: Simon’s email: Absolutely every picture via

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