Do universities lead, or do they follow? Well, clearly, the answer is “both.” When it comes to weblogs, universities have been gradually climbing on the bandwagon over the past few years. By now, blogging is no longer “hot,” in the way that things “here to stay” cool down as they become ingrained into a society. Blogging has clearly made its biggest splash in the realm of journalism, mostly via partisan news blogs and the attempts of the more staid media institutions to acclimate themselves to the new ways that readers have learned to read and to look. Of course, there are important implications for the Fourth Estate (hands wrung about it here).
What’s yet to be determined, though, is the range of directions blogging will go (Vlogging is one definite; integration with social networking sites is another). As is normally the case, colleges and universities will lead– it’s up to them to really think about and experiment around this question, and we may be reaching a “tipping point” in that process. More and more universities are making blogging services available to their communities of faculty, staff, and students. These blogs are being used in a variety of ways, from the instructional to the communal to the entreprenuerial to the personal. This process has not yet been studied or reported upon in any great detail, as far as I know (well, there’s this). Universities will be doing that, too.
Locally, Baruch College will be rolling out its own blogging service using Movable Type this Fall, and the Bernard L. Schwartz Communication Institute is currently supporting faculty who are interested in learning a little or a lot about the medium.
The promise of blogging for teaching is, of course, in the ease and variety of communication the medium allows. Given the scalability of weblogs and their speed of information exchange, their implications for teaching are profound. In an era where students seem to be doing less and less writing in their classes, course weblogs are a potential curative. They offer faculty a way to extend their classrooms and diversify their interactions with students. If used well, blogs can aid the transfer of textual, visual, and technological literacy, and also provide students with regular outlets for expression. Such tools, if used with discipline, can only bolster liberal education.
Weblogging in higher education has already been discussed on CAC.OPHONY in great detail, thanks to efforts of Kate, Deborah, Jill, and Mikhail. Let’s bring it back up to the top, and see what type of conversation we can generate. What, then, are productive weblog projects for courses, beyond what have already been discussed? What can universities do to get the most out of the weblogs they support? The Institute will be thinking about and reporting on these questions over the coming academic year. We’d be interested in hearing from any visitors who have strong thoughts, examples to share, or probing questions on the matter.