Friday, May 04, 2007

Student blogging assignment wrap-up

Today's the last day my students can post on their blogs for their class grade. I told them in all sincerity that I have enjoyed reading their posts and feel like I got to know them a little better because of it.

Quite a few have commented on the assignment, and the results on this experiment are mixed. Meghan, Mezelle, and Elyse confess to liking it, even after some initial reluctance. They, along with Kristina and Kelly, are thinking about continuing their blogs. Meanwhile, P.R. Student and Chad say they just never took to it; J.L.C. summarizes what she's learned about blogs from a PR perspective; and Allie is disappointed that she didn't have time to do more with hers. Additions: Nicole now admits it's important to know about social media; Nikki offers me some constructive criticism; Crystal didn't like posting her opinions for all the world to see; Ben says it helped him polish his writing skills; another Nikki has decided to keep posting on her blog; and Lauren says it was harder than she expected.

Another faculty member asked me if I'm going to make the same assignment when I teach campaigns in the fall. In all honesty, I haven't decided yet. Did my students learn something from it? Did the blogosphere benefit from their contributions? Was it worth my time and energy? I welcome your thoughts.

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Comments:
I am a MSc PR student in Stirling University, and I want to tell you that I will definitely encourage my tutor to make the same assignment the following years. I can assure you that your students have definitely learnt a lot by running their own blogs, even if they weren't posting frequently. Even those that haven't really enjoyed it, I believe that they were benefited in some way, and if a client in the future asks for a blog, they will be able not only to create one, but also to explain how and why this could benefit them. Running my own blog gave me the chance to do research. To follow links and find out what’s going on out there. And this is very important. I've learnt a lot from this assignment, which you admitted that inspired you to do the same, and I'm sure your students were also benefited from it. No more essays please...
 
Evi, I'm glad you think the assignment is worthwhile (and so is your tutor :-) I am sure). But you are not typical-- you have genuinely tried to get involved in the blogosphere. I know because I've seen your comments on some of my students' blogs and have checked into your blog a few times. It's wonderful when students do as you have done and really dive in, but in fact many of mine did not. It was a lot of extra work for me -- not only did I create new lectures and handouts on blogging, but I monitored all 30 blogs and tried to help the students publicize them as well-- yet I had to listen to many of them complain about it all semester.

As part of my ongoing battle to manage my time as efficiently as possible, I'm supposed to ask myself if a given project will improve my standing in my department or community, take too long, or be enjoyable. Maybe I'm just grumpy because I'm overloaded at the end of the semester, but right now it's hard to say this assignment passes any of those criteria! Of course, you're right that the bottom line is student benefit, so maybe I'll keep doing it even though some didn't enjoy it as much as I'd hoped.

In the meantime, keep up your great work!
 
Dr. Russell,

I have posted a few tips for you on my blog: Last chance to make an A... that you may want to check out.

Over all, I think blogging was a great assignment and I would encourage you to continue it, perhaps in a writing course.
 
Firstly, I want to thank you for your flattering words. I understand that you are disappointed as the goals you had set haven't been reached but I would recommend you to think of the following: it was the first year of this assignment, so there is much room for improvement. You've asked for feedback, so hopefully you'll find out what your students liked or disliked. Nikki's idea, to set at least a post as a weekly requirement, which was the case for our assignment, would probably urge the students to spend more time on it. Moreover, what our tutor has asked us to do is to comment at least once per week to one of our classmates' blogs and to an external blog. I think that was really useful, as it motivated me to search the blogosphere and find out what is being discussed. And it wasn't easy at all, for all of us to make comments in posts of PR professionals, or prominent bloggers (that's why you have found several comments on your students' blogs), but at least I tried to engage myself in the conversation. And I think that this is always the first step. I have to admit that, as far as I know, among my classmates, I must be the one that enjoyed most that assignment, but there were many times that I was fed up with it. You shouldn't be disappointed because some of your students weren't benefited as much as you expected, or hoped, because I can assure you, and probably you already know, that there must have been several assignments in the end of which the students kept wondering what it was all about. The fact that that you put too much effort in this, makes it more disappointing, but you should keep in mind that you offered them a great opportunity to familiarise themselves with a new tool, that proves to play vital role in the field. Some didn't take advantage of this chance. But given the fact that it was the first time, and several of your students have realised its usefulness, I think you have to go on with it, improve it, and the results will be better next year. Give it some time...
 
Thanks to both of you for your constructive feedback. I'll definitely consider all this when I plan my class next fall. :)
 
Dr. Russell,

I especially liked the blogging assignment because just like you said, I felt like I got to know my classmates AND you much better even though I had you for two other classes in the past.

I also liked that I had another big assignment in which the grade could only be influenced by the work I put into it. I know that it is important to learn to work with a team, and sometimes your grade can be affected by others', this was a nice way to individually show what I know and think about PR!
 
Good point, Kelly. And in fact the blog did make a difference (up or down) in a few people's final grades, especially if their team grade was on a margin. I liked that an individual grade was what made the final determination.
 
I understand your frustration because I have assigned similar blogging efforts to students for three semesters. Lower your expectations. I was depressed and frustrated after the first semester, but it was because I had held the bar up too high for students new to the blogosphere. The past two semesters I have had returning students who were once my biggest naysayers and now the biggest advocates. I am proud of how far the students have come and the rest of the faculty is taking notice. Keep up the good work. While not all bloggers in our profession may respond immediatly, we are watching and reading intently.
 
You know, Lauren, I think you are right. I think I expected them to be as excited about it as I was, because I perceive it to be for their benefit. But just like people already in the practice, not everyone's going to be into it. Thanks for the encouragement!
 
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