25 Years of OU: 2004 – blogging

I didn’t start this blog until 2006, but it was my 3rd attempt at blogging. About 2004 I had seen Tony Hirst and John Naughton making good use of blogging, and I followed a lot of the nascent Northern Voice crowd. I attempted using Blogger, then a hosted WP site before I set up on Typepad (and then migrated to Reclaim Hosting a few years later). I’ve blogged about blogging a LOT, it is the default topic for bloggers when you run out of interesting things to say, so I won’t repeat the stuff about identity and digital scholarship here (I love that the tag I used for this initially and which persists was ‘weblogs’).

In terms of the OU, it took us a long time to integrate them into courses, and the version of WP we gave students is too stripped down to promote any long-term engagement. Once I had become a more persistent blogger in 2006 I was often the one wheeled in to faculty staff development days to espouse their pedagogical potential. I remember being in one such session and some colleagues were experimenting with the student blogging tool. One commented “I see students can add links in here – that’s a worry”. This may seem chucklesome now, but I think it gets at the fundamental issue that the web brought to education, and which blogs (and then social media) personified – a loss of control and authority. And that’s not always beneficial – in case you hadn’t noticed, misinformation spreads quickly. But it’s also liberating, and extensive use of blogs is still an aspect I build into courses.

I don’t think we’ve really embraced them as individual learning tools at the OU though. Particularly for our students (and especially on the open programme), where they can choose from a wide range of courses, a blog that the learner develops over the course of their study is a way of creating connections, gathering activities, and developing identity. It can provide the glue between modules. And I still think it’s a better eportfolio tool than and eportfolio. I’d still like to give all students a Reclaim site when they register which is theirs to take with them, beyond our walls.

Blogs have been a very useful tool for OU academics and projects however, helping staff connect with each other, and to engage with students and public engagement more broadly. During the Great OU Crisis of 2018 (the subject of a later post), combined with social media, they became a strong tool for a voice of the OU and maintaining the values of the organisation. Welcome to the resistance.

Covid 19 bit: As HEIs make online learning a greater component of their offering, then this is a great opportunity to set students up with a space they own, and that persists across courses. A good set up will provide them with a space for reflection, development and also a tool that all courses can utilise. Gathering these types of activities may make that move away from exams and the need for evil proctoring software easier.

Jim reminded me of this great YouTube clip which I used to show in my blogging sessions:

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