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Anna Greathead

Who, Why, What and How....

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My project title was developed after, oooh, about three seconds of careless consideration!

However - my throwaway but catchy words have actually helped me form a mental structure of the eventual project output which has eased my general panic over the last couple of weeks (possible a bit too much!).

Who blogs?

Who used the OU blog tool? In short - not many people. I have been unable to get official figures but there are around 168,000 OU students and about 50,000 public blog posts each year. Given that a small number of blog users are quite prolific and a lot of individual student blogs consist of a single post (or three at the maximum) it's not unreasonable to assume that usage is low. Of course there may be private blogs in the system too but even assuming a generous 'three times as many' it still means that each OU student uses the blog tool less than twice each year. The blog is only open to current students and staff.

Why is there a blog tool?

The blog tool is part of a suite available to OU students. Different courses may feature different extra options but the blog tool is part of StudentHome. The potential for the blog is a part of the body of research and theory surrounding technology enhanced education - practitioners can see how it could function as a reflective learning journal, an online collaborative space or a 'can't be lost' repository for ongoing work and activity. There is lots of sound pedagogical research surrounding the activities which blogging is thought to be a technological enhancement of but somewhat less about how much it has (so far) fulfilled the theoretical promise.

What do people blog about?

The blog post analysis revealed a few indisputable patterns.

1. Some people who blog a lot often simple use their blog as a journal. There may be some reflection within it but essentially it's a diary.

2. Other people blog a lot and their posts are short, thought provoking, amusing.

3. Some people only blog when their tutor requires it.

Defining the 'right' way to blog is counter to the aims of reflective or collaborative practice but it doesn't look like this tool is principally being used for either of those things.

How can good blog use be encouraged?

I have got a lot of comment here from OU students (past and present) and some tutors, VLE designers and other experts. I hope to add narrative from different perspectives here. There are many stories of good blog use.

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Least Famous 'Influencer' Ever

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Hi Anna, smile

See my latest - https://learn1.open.ac.uk/mod/oublog/viewpost.php?post=225851 

Not sure where this fits in.

I've used this space as a place to just be me for the last decade.

At a certain point, you stop thinking and you start... just being... if that makes sense.

Matt smile

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Re. the ' only open to current students and staff' bit, that's not quite true. You retain access for I think 3 years after completing your studies (though I very rarely post, I still can, though I haven't been enrolled on a module since September 2017). Which I suppose means that take-up is even lower than you calculated.

Anna Greathead

Thank you

Thank you Matt and David

The 'nuts and bolts' of this tool don't seem to be contained in any single document or headspace.

Even being unable to reply to your comments (rather than simply comment below) seems to be a huge oversight which I had not previously noted.

Anna C Page

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Hi Anna,

In my undergraduate modules I don't think the blog tool was available (I graduated at the end of 2005) and none of the modules I did encouraged students to write blog posts. I started my own blog in wordpress in March 2009 partly because of where I worked (IET) so had Martin Weller and Doug Clow's blogs as examples of active academic bloggers, but I used it at the beginning more for other interests (family history with computing history) - my first post was for Ada Lovelace Day in 2009 (encouraged by an IET programmer colleague) and my posts have been infrequent over the years.

Three months later I started a separate hobby blog on Blogger which I have posted to regularly ever since about my craft and collecting activities. Around that time there was an explosion in public, diary like blogs - some of them were sustained for a long time by their authors, some of them posted regularly at first, then less frequently and eventually stopped. The functions to follow each other's blogs/profiles and show which blogs you followed on your own blog in the side bar was one tool which encouraged this exposion of blogs, when Google changed the following functionality (which confused and annoyed people at the time), I noticed a drop off in blogging in the interest groups I still follow. And of course time and personal circumstances also play a part - people's motivations and available time to blog evolves.

I agree about commenting on a blog - having threads (replying to an actual post and it appearing as a reply) is logical and it is annoying that the student blogs don't offer this design feature, so comments are displayed as a stream of comments which might or might not be related to a particular discussion. Blog site functionality and design is one of the factors which could encourage or discourage people from blogging or commenting on blogs. Novice bloggers might not be willing to blog because of spam comments which might appear - getting to grips with the comment moderation tools on different blog sites might be a step too far for some people.

Anna P

Jenny Duckworth

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Hi Anna - I fall into category 3 - blog when your tutor requires it. Well, it wasn't the tutor requiring it per se, but there was a module activity on H800 where you had to set up a blog (in the OU module blog) and post on it. So I blogged because it was a module activity... I did this a couple of times on the module but realised that I was posting the same on the blog as I was on the tutor group forum - so it sort of fizzled out.

But with hindsight, I do wonder if I should have taken a blogging approach for my reflections on H818. I've got a log set up in a word document and it's a rather unwieldy beast (currently about 15 pages). Good to get stuff down (and let off steam from time to time) but perhaps it would be useful to share these thoughts with others? All part of the journey to 'openness'. Back in October I was very much in the 'errr - no way' camp, but think I'd be more receptive to the idea now. 

This is my final MA(ODE) module - otherwise I'd consider being an active blogger on my next module smile

Best wishes



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Hi Anna

It is a quite interesting post. I think the OU blogs are accessible anyone who is having a user account in the system, I am not quite sure, I only refer the Moodle blogs.

When considering me, I have never used OU blog space for personal use but working with it when there was group work. But I started blogging in my own wordpress site (http://elearninglk.com/) since it was a requirement for the courses I followed in MAODE. But later on, it became an interesting area for me. So I have started writing something about learning technologies. Therefore, I don't know which category I am belonged to. You can decide.

Our students do not practically use blogs. Since they are engineering students I don't think I will be able to introduce blogging to them very easily. But I hope to implement a session this year to push them to write the blogs to practice the reflection writing.

You have clearly explained what you expect to discuss at the conference. Why do think you are using a qualitative approach for your study?

All the best for your work.

My Pennies worth

Hi Anna,

My blogging behaviour reflects my general social media engagement, posting little and infrequently. Giving a friends post a like or to advertise music events or promotions myself of friends are involved. Social media has become a very adversarial environment of late (a place people go to vent and fight)

I fall into the same camp as Jenny D, blogging when required and having a sense that the blog space was an unnecessary extension to forums where the course collaboration takes place. However, I can see it as an attempt to nurture and evolve students’ reflective academic practice, networking and academic confidence. I find its’ screen presence and functionality frustrating you have to construct responses without being able to see or instantly reference the posts you are replying to, it entails switching screens. pedantry on my part or poor design? I think my point being that in order to encourage and broaden blog creation and participation within the space it needs to function and feel right. Maybe the options to personalise the space. In my response to your comments on my blog, I said the Wix site was free and the blog can be created using a template in minutes then personalised and features added. As you become more familiar with the site the more adventurous you can be.  So there is a real sense of ownership, (evidenced in both Iroshnis and Anna Ps comments.)

Helen Darlaston

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I think your post reflects the way I started blogging in H880 with the OU tool. I began by using it as it asked me to at the end of each week, and deliberately used a reflective tool so I had a structure. Most of the posts were private, unless a tutor specifically asked me to open a post up to a wider audience. So it was a reflective journal really.

Now I have a private blog and a public one on Wordpress, as I am working to be more open, as part of my project. The OU blog began a habit of blog writing that has stuck with me.