Blog keeps office door open

March 2, 2007

Jonathan Briggs is a connoisseur of blogging. The professor of new media design at Kingston University has used his weblogs over the past four years to publicise his work and spark debate among his students, even using it to replace some of his tutorials.

"I encourage students to make comments and to get involved. I monitor what they write before I publish it and correct their spelling if need be. Students really respond to this way of working."

Professor Briggs publishes his lectures and activities for students on his blog each week. "I send them a reminder e-mail or text message to say it's up. This week's activity has been viewed 971 times; I only published today's lecture last night, but it has been viewed 24 times already," he said.

"This is how students work now and we have to give them more flexible learning and be more flexible in the way we engage with them."

For Professor Briggs, this means giving his mobile number to students who can also contact him via the blog. "That has replaced them wandering the corridors trying to find me, and they don't abuse it as you might imagine."

He syndicates some of his blog, which has made him part of a larger blogging community. He gets requests from all over the world to use his materials. "It's a fascinating way of communicating with students and other academics. People in industry read it as well. I would really recommend it."

Kingston launched a blogging service last week for all its 1,500 academics after the success of a recent pilot scheme.

University officials hope the new shared online spaces will draw in high-calibre undergraduate and postgraduate students. The idea is that the blogs will promote the university's research to an international audience and allow Kingston academics to communicate with their peers or students worldwide to share ideas and insights.

Ian McNiece, Kingston's ICT manager, said the blogs were created centrally and then academics could add to them and decide whether to change the format, give access to others or allow comments. He said: "Technology, especially in higher education, tends to be inward facing, but this (blogged) research is indexed by Google and search engines so they have presence in the virtual world and globally."

Each blog can be linked to others to create a network of resources and interested researchers, Mr McNeice explained. "It creates a meshed network of original thinking and reaches out to like-minded people."

The university can also now give outsiders access to the traditionally restricted virtual research sites that research groups set up to share data internally, Mr McNiece added.

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