Monday, August 22, 2011

CHE: Using a Blog in a Independent Study

Although I never did blogging during my independent study times, I thought this could be useful for other students and practitioners who engage in research and social media. A graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis posted this article.

Access and Permanence: Whoops, where did I put those lab notes? Umm, what did I call that file, and where on earth is it on my computers? If only I could read my handwriting. . . . The fact that you’re publishing the material onto the internet, making it both semi-permanent and accessible, is a huge advantage.

Organization: Closely related to permanency, blogs can keep thoughts organized. For me, this is best achieved by keeping one thought or article to one post. Posts will be organized by date which is great for seeing the evolution of your study. You can also add tags to your posts to keep them organized by subject.

Ease: Blogging is pretty darn easy. At sites like (which I use, on my professor’s recommendation) and Blogspot, posting is no harder than composing an e-mail or Word document–in fact, students can even often blog directly from Word, reducing any technological friction. There are many free blog hosts out there, so students should be able to find something that matches their style, budget, and technological sophistication.

Advanced Features: While blogging is easy, most providers also have advanced features that students can use as they become more comfortable. You can often schedule posts to appear at a specific date or time; you can make some posts private, requiring a password to see; and you can use analytics to see who is reading your blog (Hi, mom!).
Visibility: Independent studies are, almost by definition, lonely enterprises–but you’re often studying a topic that many people study. If you’re regularly posting your research to a public blog, eventually someone else in your discipline will find you, which can set up interesting conversations.

Accountability: It’s all too easy for independent studies to slip off of the radar of faculty member and student alike. Regular updates to a blog, however, provide a handy way of keeping this from happening, and, at semester’s end, your blog’s record of when everything was published is a perfect way to make sure the proper credit is awarded.

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