Student Blogs

How should an institution go about providing a blogging service for its students? The traditional approach which has been taken to the provision of an IT service for members of an institution has been to evaluate the range of products and select a solution which satisfies the user requirements, taking into account the resource and support implications.

In a Web 2.0 environment, however, other options become available. Rather than installing software locally, services which are available on the network can be used – and blogging services such as WordPress and Blogger are very popular blog hosting services.

What are the preservation aspects associated with the provision of a student blogging service? One might feel that the locally-installed application must be preferable, since management of the software and data is under the control of the institution. But what happens when students leave the institution? The normal policy in many institutions has been to delete student accounts and their data shortly after they leave. But is this desirable from the student’s perspective?  And what if they wish their data – their blog posts – to still be available after they leave the institution?

This is starting to happen, with the University of Warwick, which provided the first large-scale student blogging service a number of years ago. And as I wrote about a year ago, we are starting to see the first generation of student blog enthusiasts asking these questions. My post linked to a blog post hosted at the University of Warwick from a student (Jo Casey) who asked:

In the middle of August I will be leaving Warwick (to be the new Corporate Communications Manager at the Open University). … But, given that I will have to migrate my blog, where is the best place to go?“.

Unfortunately Jo’s blog was been deleted after she left the University – I was fortunate to have captured her question on my blog.

In light of this particular example from an institution which pioneered use of students blogs, my question would be “Wouldn’t institutions be advised to recommend the use of mature hosted blogging services for members of the institution – such as students – who will normally only be at the institution for a short period?

Would this be a desirable approach? What are the disadvantages? And could such problems be addressed?

4 thoughts on “Student Blogs

  1. Richard M. Davis

    Hi Brian – I was also very impressed by Warwick Blogs – as a Warwick graduate, it’s always pleasing to see my alma mater at the forefront of new developments. I based part of a paper for my MSc on their endeavours, and linked to a couple of exemplary Warwick blogs that were then open, but since then they appear to have moved behind a login wall (assuming they are still there at all). Thus the issue is predominantly of policy, not of self-hosting versus third-party hosting.

    I believe that if an educational institution is encouraging use of blogs to support reflection, discourse and deep-learning, it has a responsibility to make that online environment as safe as it tries to make its physical campus. Third-party hosting might be a reasonable alternative to the costs of service development and maintenance, but the institution must examine the T&C and functionality very carefully to ensure they meet standards it can recommend to those in its charge. Blogger, and Facebook are very general “tools”, and a particular institution might legitimately want something more tailored – like Edublogs, ELGG, Club Penguin even – or something truly bespoke.

    Where an institution has insightful and innovative IT direction and policy, it could be prevented from moving at the pace of its own needs rather than those of the hosting company. (I was told just such tales about hosted VLE and assessment systems at JIF08 the other day.) The WordPress/Wordpress MU code base, for example, offers an excellent toolkit to build on: it underpins and Edublogs – we shouldn’t let the limitations of some of its current implementations, like JISCInvolve, blind us to its true potential.

    My sense is that Warwick Blogs successfully created an online community predominantly “@ Warwick”, and I don’t think that would have been achieved if they had simply told all to go and get on with it at, FB or Blogger (none of them, BTW, so mature in 2004 when Warwick Blogs launched).

    This is a little off the preservation track, but I think there is in common the theme that institutions be guided first and foremost by informed decisions about their own distinctive needs and responsibilities. Perhaps also that one’s data/content needs to be migratable.

  2. Richard M. Davis

    P.S. I think that students should have the option – right, even – to have their blogs persist at the institution, whether simply by staying there or through redirection. Something, perhaps, for the Alumni departments?

  3. Ashley

    I prefer hosting at the online hosting services rather than one at locally or the one provided by institutions. Hosting online can increase its visibility and enhance the writer to share and write more.

  4. Pingback: JISC-PoWR » Blog Archive » JISC PoWR Workshop 2: Preservation and Web 2.0

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