Four ways to engage students in blogging

Enrich the conversational scholarship of blogging by including student voices. Anna D’Alton offers her tips

Anna D’Alton's avatar
12 Jun 2024
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Why should students get involved in academic blogging? As recently outlined in a Campus resource written by my colleagues Rosemary Deller and Michael Taster, blogging is an accessible way for students to explore the ideas germinating through their studies and interrogate the conventions that shape learning experiences in higher education.

More than that, blogs are a way for students to build community, helping them to feel actively engaged in knowledge production and exchange around the subjects they’re studying. But how can educators and staff running academic blog platforms encourage students to get involved?

Use blogs to complement academic study

Make students aware that writing about what they’re learning outside of formal assignments benefits rather than detracts from their studies. It’s a space where they can gain experience, skills and confidence in writing, as well as bylines to add to CVs. They’ll also learn how to express complex concepts in simple and engaging ways.

Crucially, a good academic blog will have an editor who can work with students to set the topic and parameters of the article and provide editorial feedback. From my time working with students at two London School of Economics blogs, I know that students value this guidance and a sense of working collaboratively to produce a stronger, more polished piece of writing.

Run workshops and featured series

For students who haven’t written much before, blogging can seem daunting. Running an information session or an informal “Blogging 101” workshop, where students brainstorm and write a short piece by the end of the session, can be a great way to get the ball rolling.

Creating themed series of posts is another way to make it more approachable. On the LSE International Development Blog, features such as write-ups on events and lectures or on class trips and fieldwork, insights and reflections on group projects and call-outs for posts on particular themes like decolonising academia yield great student uptake.

On LSE Review of Books, book reviews are an excellent format through which PhD students can engage with the latest research and emerging debates in their disciplines.

Foster accountability

Setting standards and deadlines is important. Academic blogging involves plenty of creativity and exploration, but it also requires structure and guidelines to make contributors aware of the expectations and to ensure accountability. Encouraging short-form contributions and setting realistic time frames that work with, rather than against, coursework submissions and assessments will produce a better experience and less likelihood of abandoned commitments.

Spread the word

Getting the word out to students about blogging is most effective through a multifaceted approach. Circulating opportunities in university-wide communications is useful, but these can often be missed. Sharing tailored call-outs through departmental newsletters, message boards and meetings or classes helps students to recognise the relevance of blogging to their studies and experiences.

Students look to staff mentors, heads of departments and other academics for guidance, making them well placed to reinforce the value of blogging. Tutors can also encourage students to rework insightful, engaging essays and assignments into blog posts.

Finally, it’s a good idea to involve students in this publicity effort, too. Foster a peer-led approach by selecting blogging ambassadors – enthusiastic students with interest or experience in writing – to set an example and encourage their peers to join in. Once you have built up a strong reputation and catalogue of posts, students will see the benefits of contributing their own ideas and experience.

Anna D’Alton is managing editor of the LSE Review of Books at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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