In the BBA in Marketing Management at Kwantlen we are working to develop practical professional online skills in our students. I see two great reasons to support this effort with blogging.
- Business are blogging to build value added communities for their customers. They need people with blogging experience to make this happen.
- Developing a personal brand, a wise strategy for all professionals, but particularly those who will be seeking employment in the near future, can be supported through professional blogging activity.
So with those goals in mind, the blogging activities in the summer classes were focused on creating professional contributions to the online community. I set expectations and demonstrated their rationale by asking students to “Google” themselves. In 2009 Microsoft commissioned a study that found 79% of hiring managers and recruiters reported reviewing online information about prospective employees (Weiss, August 2011). With stats like this, it is certainly worthwhile to pay careful attention to what appears in that search. Building professional online content can help with this task, and blogging can be an important component of an e-portfolio.
Within this context, the class was assigned with publishing content that would reflect their professionalism, growing knowledge base, and career interests. With each post students were to consider whether or not they would be proud to present their work to their employer. They were instructed to review posts carefully for spelling and grammar, of course, but also to pay very careful attention to protocols surrounding referencing.
Beyond being an expectation in an academic environment, good referencing practices add credibility to student posts. Referencing is also expected in the social media community. Ping backs, retweets, likes, and other such sharing through social media can all help to give proper credit to the original work. For the blogging assignment I specified that students use APA format for their sources, and when possible, they were to include an embedded link to the online resources that were open source.
The blogging assignment for the Organizational Behaviour class was adapted from a traditional one where students were to review 3 journal articles and the compose a brief report. I always felt it a shame that the only audience for such reports is me. Students put so much work into these pieces and their instructors are often the only people to ever read them. When I was a student, I secretly suspected that part of the reason my professors seemed to know everything was because they had all of us researching and summarizing for them. By having this same assignment published in blog form, students could review the work of their colleagues and therefore benefit from the collective efforts of the group.
To encourage this reading, marks were awarded for engaging in professional conversations about the blog posts. Again, it was important to establish clear expectations for professional, and respectful online discussions. We discussed these in class. Again, the group was quick to emphasize that comments made should be focused on blog content, the arguments presented therein, and that we all needed to be mindful of the longevity, and public nature of these conversations. I also included links to some online resources in the assignment instructions I posted.
One of the advantages to WordPress is that posts are moderated by the blog owner. While this meant that students needed to approve posts regularly, it also meant that if they were uncomfortable with anything someone posted, they needn’t approve it. Further, since announcements to moderate comments are emailed to the blog owner, if an inappropriate comment was made, the announcement to moderate it could be sent to me and then I could address the issue. Notably, this wasn’t necessary, but was certainly a nice feature.
The commenting protocols needed to be respected by me as well. This meant that constructive criticism and grading, needed to remain private. I distributed grades and feedback for blog posts and community activity directly to students during classes, and didn’t put any such comment or grade on their blog. Any suggestions for improvement could then be made to the post so that they were “polished” for future employers to find, and none of my evaluation of the post was available to any other class member.
I left the vast majority of the discussion to the group. I only posted when I could add other points for consideration, or to clarify important items that needed deeper consideration. They took charge of the conversation.
I was very impressed with how well the group respected the professional expectations of the learning community and performed well with both referencing and discussion. Here is an example of one of the class blogs. Many thanks to Larisa for agreeing to this feature here.
Next post I’ll talk about grading process and helping students find their blogging community voice. Is there anything else?