Want to foster community and give your students a voice? Start blogging

From educators to students, blogging is a vital social infrastructure for the higher education community. Michael Taster and Rosemary Deller offer their tips


29 May 2024
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What can blogging offer the higher education community? The London School of Economics and Political Science arguably has one of the most wide-ranging and professionalised academic blogging platforms in the UK, if not the world, and receives more than 10 million views a year. As editors of, respectively, LSE Impact blog and, until recently, LSE Review of Books, we have perhaps spent more time than most considering this question. More specifically, how can it help amplify student voices?

We should begin by emphasising how far blogging, academic or otherwise, has evolved since its inception at the turn of the millennium. For many, blogging – a merger of “web” and “log” – still denotes a solitary activity, a slightly anachronistic exercise in a diaristic style of writing which, barring a few high-profile examples, holds little value in engaging wider audiences. 

But this view of blogs as the “primordial soup of the internet age is at odds with the way digital platforms operate today. They are defined by multi-author blogs. Look at any newspaper, thinktank or research institute and they will host, or at least contribute to, various blogging platforms. Within academia, there has also been a recent proliferation of online magazines and publications aimed at reaching and engaging focused audiences – in effect, blogs by another name. There is growing evidence of policymakers using blog content, and the LSE blogs platform is regularly cited by major news outlets, linking them to potentially huge audiences. For instance, an LSE Impact blog post on ChatGPT featured in the Atlantic and has been influential in shaping the debate around artificial intelligence and assessment in higher education.

In practice, blogs operate as part of what author (and blogger) Mark Carrigan has termed “the social infrastructure of scholarship”. Blogs link groups and audiences and enable them to collectively build online communities, discussions and interactions. This is something Claire Gordon, director of the LSE Eden Centre for Education Enhancement and co-founder of the LSE HE blog, recently elaborated on in a post in honour of its fourth anniversary, recognising the role it plays in maintaining a critical and reflexive community focused on teaching in higher education. Indeed, as the social media landscape tilts towards favouring fee-paying members or highly engaged influencers, multi-author blogs can perform an important equity function, providing open-access platforms for diverse, often marginalised voices that might on their own not receive a hearing. 

Hone your writing and teaching skills

The practice of blogging can also help you experiment with your personal voice and develop styles of writing that engage wider audiences. As academic and blogger Pat Thomson argues, blogging can build confidence and encourages clarity and conciseness – a welcome skill in the often verbose world of academia! Blogging can also be used as a pedagogical tool, offering more creative and diverse forms of assessment than the traditional essay or exam paper, as evidenced by the Reviews in Translation collaboration between LSE Review of Books and LSE Language Centre. 

Give your students a platform

This combination of knowledge development and community-building – as exemplified by the LSE blog platform – is only enhanced when student voices are thrown into the mix. Just as the effectiveness of knowledge exchange is predicated on building it into research projects from the beginning, partaking in blogging as a student can be one way of strengthening those skills from the very start of research careers too. 

Of course, students may not be in the position to draw on new research findings from multi-year research projects or published research – typically the basis for academic blogs, including many within the LSE blogging community – and publishing early in the research process may come with some drawbacks. However, student blogs still offer an important mechanism for students to test out ideas, engage with the intellectual currents of their discipline(s) and stake out research questions and territory to develop as part of their work. This can be especially helpful for those looking to develop an academic career.

As participants in higher education, students are expert in its workings – from understanding the importance of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) initiatives and the need to take neurodiversity seriously in the academy, to interrogating the hierarchies of knowledge production and their impact on marking practice, advocating for international solidarity among student bodies and reflecting on the value of a university degree. These student contributions all show critical attentiveness to prevalent and pressing issues facing contemporary higher education structures and offer generative ways to tackle them. 

The “conversational scholarship” of blogging is enriched by the inclusion of student voices that can contribute to accessible and creative modes of thinking and writing higher education differently. 

Michael Taster is managing editor of the LSE Impact Blog. Rosemary Deller is knowledge exchange support manager at LSE and until recently was managing editor of LSE Review of Books.

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