Blogging – community and soul

Just back from the 2006 Transition Forum, well at least the ‘Welcome to my crazy life’: The First Year@Unimelb blog session.

‘Welcome to my crazy life’: The First Year@Unimelb blog
An insight into the experiences and preoccupations of the current generation of first year students, through a discussion of the ‘First Year@Unimelb’ blog. This session will introduce you to the aims and background of the blog, the online student community it has created, and to some of the bloggers themselves.

This seemed to tie nicely into recent research with the study First Year Students’ Experiences with Technology and the First Year Students’ Experiences with Technology: Are they really Digital Natives? report. (Investigating the First Year cohort using Marc Prensky’s Digital Immigrants, Digital Natives categories.)

Using Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point concept, we are not quite there with blogging and social networking. These activities are still ’emerging technologies’.

From “First Year Students’ Experiences with Technology: Are they really Digital Natives?”

While social networking software such as MySpace has recently grabbed headlines in the media, only 23.8% of incoming students are engaging in social networking daily or weekly; while 62.9% of students have never logged on.

and ,

A significant blog culture is evident among incoming first year students, given 34.9% indicated they have kept their own blog in the last year and more are reading (58.6%) and commenting on (43.9%) other people’s blogs. A significant number of students (21.2%) indicated that they were contributing to their own blog on a weekly basis.

The First_year@UniMelb was not built as a ‘propaganda for marketing purposes’ tool compared to the student blogs at some other University sites. The seven students who are blogging are not paid for their posts.

The students were given a frame work (double sided A4 page) which outlined expected protocols such as privacy, copyright and defamation. But the students were basically trusted with a blank page – some editorial intervention was required such as when Uni Legal contacted the editor regarding a posting “about mp3 downloading” but this was minimal.

The original scope was for the 7 students to post a single post per week for the first six weeks of semester, this was overtaken pretty quickly and there was some concern as the posting drifted into the personal life of the bloggers (Is this a sign that the editors are digital-immigrants and the bloggers digital-natives ?). The scope was allowed to grow as this gave the blog a wider contemporary context.

Community: There are 54 registered users on the blog, of which only ten regularly post comments. Many of the registered users are lurkers, and I must admit to being one of these lurkers. Initially the blog showed a lack of interaction and comments, it has been suggested that this may have been due to the registration and moderation hurdles for commenting; it may also have been because the audience had no template for *how* the comments were to be handled in what was a ‘University site’. {This could be an issue in many of these sorts of Blogs where it is not purely a personal communications medium but with other agendas … perhaps the Unit may have had some luck using ice breaker comments?}

When the comments started to come in after posts such as Question Needing Answers (Sophie) and Revelation! (Johanna), the community started to build; at todays session Chris described the blog as having ‘Soul’. And what more can be said about Instant JAFFY (just add water!) (Jeremy) ? 🙂

Outcomes:

  • Development of a community online
  • Archives of advice and experience
  • High level of interest from staff and prospective students
  • So much of the first year experience is about external influences

Points to the ‘University Experience’ as being n integrated adult environment with many external influences beyond the control of the University; a ‘life view’.

  • A welcome procrastination tool 🙂 [Chris]

What Next?

Current 2006 site is archived
Recruit a new batch of First Years to keep the first year experience fresh.
This years bloggers move onto being 2nd year bloggers
Subject based sorting (tags?)
Podcasting ?

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