On Student Blogs

There was an article on InsideHigherEd.com this week that piqued my interest. And mostly for what it lacked in content.

The post listed three ways in which colleges and universities could use student blogs: storytelling, advertorializing (not a word, BTW) and employability/digital literacy.

I pretty much disagree with this thesis across the board. What I do agree with, though, is the comment by Alert Reader Antoinette, who points out:

My personal view of student blogs is that often they are – sorry to be unkind – simply boring. No criticism of the students writing them – their effort and enthusiasm is more than apparent and commendable. But stories about personal experiences and interests are rarely relevant to the reader, nor do they seem actionable in any way. As you say, more could be done to get the most out of this medium.

And she gets a gold star.

Look, if you are marketing a college or university and someone says, “We need to have student bloggers because everyone else seems to have student bloggers or ‘I went to a conference and someone said I need student bloggers’ or we need student bloggers because adult bloggers cost too much,” please do us all a favor and get another job.

The point of student blogs, in my estimation, is to position them to entice prospective students to visit and then ultimately get excited about and apply to your institution. They need to be (1.) authentic, (2.) engaging, (3.) compelling and (4.) AUTHENTIC again, this time in bold caps.

When I started student-written blogs at a previous institution, I hand-picked my first crop of bloggers and tasked them with writing something new once a week. I did not give them any more direction than that. I also promised that, outside of spelling and grammar, I would not edit them and if they wanted to criticize the institution, they could present their case and I would have their backs.

It was a learning experience for all parties — including me, who, more than once, got yelled at by a dean or VP who didn’t like what they had read — but I earned the trust and respect of my writers by standing firm and by treating them like professionals, And all of those bloggers grew as storytellers by leaps and bounds and that blog was the most-read section of our website.

And, out of the myriad projects I conceived and managed during my near-decadelong tenure at that institution, it is the one that I am most proud of.

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