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Driving learning for students of Public Relations through blogging

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 3 Mar 2013, 10:30

Driving learning through blogging: Students’ perceptions of a reading journal blog assessment task. (2007/2008)
Melanie James

I'm reading these papers for a few reasons:

  • part of H809 - getting my head around how research is conducted
  • my interest in blogging as more than verbal jamming (my take on it)
  • its value or otherwise as a student learning experience
  • its value or otherwise in a business context
  • this paper as its author came out of 'industry' to work in academia - my hoped for career shift.
  • whether there's PhD research in here somewhere.

(I currently think not based on the papers I have read and a PhD thesis on blogging in business - to ill defined, too broad, nothing that orginal to put online what some people may have put in a diary/journal, gets confused with internal communications, PR and journalism. Is NOT an effective means of knowledge transfer. I'd prefer the expert view - in person. Perhaps where the skill of this loose kind of writing is under scrutiny - stream of consciousness as a writing style).

The uses are specific. The greater value is with those for whom writing forms a part of their career plan.

So journalism, creative writing, PR, communications and social media ... advertising too. As a platform to support a foundation course it might be used to develop academic writing skills. Three years ago I pulled out my 1999 copy of 'How to study' from the OU.

My notes on this are interesting for two reasons

  • noting how the book is laid out like a web page (it is of course the web page than still is a poor copy of the printed word)
  • the pertinence of the advice to someone studying a undergraduate and graduate level
  • the style of writing, that feels like it comes from the 1950s.

'After we've read, heard and talked about a topic, our minds are awash with ideas, impressions and chunks of information. But we never really get to grips with this experience until we try to write down our own version of it. Making notes is of some help, of course. But there is nothing like the writing of an essay to make us question our ideas, weigh up our impressions, sort out what information is relevant adn what is not - and, above all, come up with a reasoned viewpoint on the topic that we can feel it our own'. (Rowntree. p. 170 1999)

Problem/Opportunities Students who fail to engage with the required course readings will be silent and disengaged. This can have a negative impact across all students.

Students who don’t engage with the technology, such as blogging, will be at a disadvantage as PR in the future will include the use of Web based technologies.
Structure Questionnaire taken alongside end of module questionnaires taken by each cohort.
Questions Does this type of  assessment task increase student engagement with required course
reading?
Does the assessment task have wider application than in public relations courses?
Does this facilitate the development of students’ technical skills in using new media?
Setting University of Newcastle, Australia
First and Second year Public Relations undergraduates.
Author Dr. Melanie James, PhD (UoN), Grad.Cert. PTT (UoN), MA Journalism (UTS), BA Communication (Hons) (UTS), MPRIA joined the School of Design, Communication and IT at the University of Newcastle in November 2006 after working in senior management roles in strategic communication, government communication, public relations and marketing communication.
Research Research on teaching and assessment. (Rowntree 1971, Boud, 1988)
Concepts
Methods A formal survey was undertaken in Semester Two to evaluate the students’ perceptions of the reading journal blog assessment task and to identify students’ opinions as to the strengths and weaknesses of the two specific aims of the assessment task. (James 2007 p. 2 )

The first aim was measured by asking whether they felt the task contributed to their learning about public relations at an introductory level through engagement with the course readings and the second aim was measured by asking whether they felt the assignment had facilitated their development of technical skills in blogging.

The survey questionnaire included 12 Likert-type items which asked for levels of agreement-disagreement with statements relating to the reading journal blog assessment task.
Partial triangulation as similar/same questionnaire used for the course as a whole?

Multichoice type online survey completed anonymously.
Frameworks
Findings Only a minority of students commented on other students’ blogs even though it was clearly indicated on the grading criteria that it had the potential to earn the student more marks. (James. p. 5 2007)

From a lecturer’s perspective, the level of engagement with the assessment task in particular, the coursework projects generally, and the in-class discussion was extremely satisfactory. (James. p. 6.  2007)

The overall standard of the final course group project was high, and although not directly comparable with previous years’ results, average grades for the course were higher. (James. p. 7. 2007)

Nearly three-quarters of respondents (71%) agreed that the blogging assessment task tied in well with the class exercises and other assessment tasks (RQ6). (James. p. 11. 2009)
Paradigms A constructivist approach to learning – learners construct contextual meaning rather
than students predominantly being passive receivers of information (Anderson, Krathwohl, Airasian, Cruikshank, Mayer & Pintrich, 2001).

Combining a learning journal with a blog was seen as a way to design an assessment task that responded to both identified challenges and would also foster the active engagement and personal investment factors that Angelo (1995, cited in Connor-Greene, 2000), considers crucial to effective teaching. (James p. 4. 2007)
Limitations Academics unclear of the marking criteria.
Students not familiar with blogging so needed more setup time.
Academic integrity of the content.
61% responded to the survey.
Implications Ways to better design the course.
Use of sentence leads to start the blog.
Use of sentence leads to comment on other people’s blogs.

PR students will need to be able to set up, maintain and contribute to blogs and make decisions about whether such tactics should be adopted in campaigns (Alexander, 2004; McAllister and Taylor, 2007).

This reads like second guessing the way the world has gone - but sucessful social media PR agencies do little else but blog for their clients, some do reputation management seeing what the social media are saying.

Reading to learn has long been a feature of higher education (Guthrie, 1982, cited in Maclellan, 1997).

For all the highfalutin e-learning interactive stuff how much do postgraduates, let alone undergraduates, spend reading? If you study law how else do you engage with the content?

Enthusiasm for the new from academics. “blogs have the potential, at least, to be a truly transformational technology in that they provide students with a high level of autonomy while simultaneously providing opportunity for greater interaction with peers” (Williams & Jacobs, 2004, p. 232).

It must be human nature to respon in one of two ways to anything new - love it or hate it. Academic research can turn revolution or pending doom into the mundane.

'As expected from the experiences of students in the first iteration of the assessment task, RQ4 and RQ5 clearly indicated that the majority of the respondents were inexperienced with both blogging and posting comments to existing blogs'. (James, p. 10. 2009) So much for Prensky, Oblinger et al and the ‘digital natives’ - far from being eager and skilled online, they are nonplussed.

More than two thirds (67%) of respondents indicated they had not had experience with blogging before the course, and 80% disagreed with the statement “posting comments on other people’s blogs was something I’d done regularly prior to doing this course”. James, p. 11. 2009)

So much for Prensky, Oblinger et al and the ‘digital natives’ nonsense - far from being eager and skilled online, they are nonplussed.

REFERENCE

Alexander, D. (2004). Changing the public relations curriculum: A new challenge for educators. PRism 2. Retrieved 24th April, 2007, from http://praxis.massey.ac.nz/fileadmin/Praxis/Files/Journal_Files/Issue2/Alexander.pdf

Anderson, L., Krathwohl, D., Airasian, P., Cruikshank, K., Mayer, R., & Pintrich, P. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives (AbridgedEd.). New York: Longman.

Boud, D. (1988). Developing student autonomy in learning (2nd ed). New York: Kogan Page.

Connor-Greene, P. (2000). Making connections: Evaluating the effectiveness of journal writing in enhancing student learning.Teaching of Psychology, 27, 44-46.

James, M.B. (2008), 'Driving learning through blogging: Students? perceptions of a reading journal blog assessment task', Prism, 5 1-12 (2008) [C1] (accessed 27 Feb 2013 http://hdl.handle.net/1959.13/38338 )

McAllister, S. & Taylor, M. (2007). Community college web sites as tools for fostering dialogue. Public Relations Review, 33, 230-232.

Maclellan, E. (1997). Reading to learn. Studies in Higher Education, 22, 277-288

Prensky, M (2001) Digital natives and digital immigrants. 

Rowntree, D (1999) How to learn to study.

Williams, J. & Jacobs, J. (2004) Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 20(2), 232-247.

 

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