Encouraging educators to blog

As part of the broadcast strategy review, I’ve been asked to produce a document that sets out how we can encourage more OU academics to engage with new technologies as part of their everyday practice (ie, not just for teaching purposes). I’m concentrating on blogging because I think it has a reasonable tradition (in the new definition of tradition which means anything older than 2 years) and is probably the most fruitful for academics. Most of my arguments will apply to the other technologies also, and I think you can use blogs as a springboard for a host of web 2.0 stuff.

Anyway, following on from my previous post I wanted to set out the motivations for educators to take up blogging. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far, there is a bit of overlap between them:

  • The economics of reputation – increasingly one’s reputation online is seen as a valuable commodity. This is partly because a good reputation is difficult to establish and also because in an environment where content is free and widely available then quality becomes a differentiating factor.
  • Engagement with your subject area – in many subject areas the blogosphere is where much of the informed and detailed debate is occurring. If this is the case in your subject area then not to be part of it limits your expertise in the same manner as not publishing journal articles (perhaps even more so). If your subject area is not one widely engaged with blogging then this represents a good opportunity to establish yourself as one of the lead experts.
  • Increased reflection – keeping a regular blog seems to encourage a degree of reflection and critical analysis as you comment on conferences, workshops, research, etc.
  • Personal status and payback – being a recognised blogger in any field is likely to raise your profile and thus lead to increased requests for participation in projects, key note speeches, consultancy, invited papers, etc.
  • Organisational status – as an institution the OU is not as prominent in the blogosphere as it should be. While company blogs tend to be rather bland, there is a positive image and potentially student recruitment effect for the institution if there are known to be a number of good bloggers in residence.
  • Link to teaching – the type of content used in courses is increasingly diverse, and one model for including up to date information is to have feeds from a number of blogs incorporated in to teaching material.
  • Eating our own dog food – increasingly students are encouraged to use blogs in courses, and so we should be demonstrating how they can be effective.

In a comment on my previous post Scott Leslie makes the good point that by being a blogger you build up a network of contacts, from people linking or commenting on your posts, plus the blogs you read and link to, which is invaluable in overcoming problems. Doug Clow also suggests that he had come to the stage where he couldn’t do his job without blogging now.

Now, I know lots of people have blogged about this and must have run similar projects in their own universities, so I’d really appreciate any links or suggestions for further benefits for academics. It would also be kind of neat to say in the report that some of this report was produced through the benefits of blogging, demonstrating Scott’s point.

5 Comments

  1. I’ve been having difficulty promoting blogging on campus as well. There seems to be some hesitation, involving things like “I don’t have anything interesting to say” and “nobody would read me” – both are best answered with “so what? the blog is for you, not them”
    I’ll be giving a workshop at UCalgary on Wednesday to show faculty members some blogging and wiki tools. I’m going to avoid the institutional/company-blog philosophy, and promote them as tools for personal knowledge management and reputation building.

  2. Thanks D’Arcy – that comment about it being for the individual, not the audience is spot on. You are absolutely right on avoiding the institutional philosophy – kiss of death for a blog I think. What I want to do is to get educators blogging about their subject areas and things that interest them. This has an indirect payback for the institution as it demonstrates a vibrant academic community, but you wouldn’t want it to be the official mouthpiece of the organisation. It’ll be interesting to hear how your session goes.
    Martin

  3. Thanks Beth, this is an excellent workshop. I have to run one next month at the Open University, and I’ll definitely be using this as a resource. I too wanted to stress the importance of commenting on other people’s blogs as a means of growing your network, so I was pleased to see how you’d covered this.
    Martin

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