Reflections from The Great MCOM5 Blogging Experiment

The experiment is over and the assignment complete.

First-year St. Lawrence College Advertising—Integrated Marketing Communications students wrote the last of their 10 blogs the other week.

Some students hated it and some loved it, but I’m certain one thing is for sure: everyone gained from it.

Over the course of 10 weeks, students had to write 10 blogs that each reflected on what they were learning about their field of study. They had to use critical thinking. They had to proofread. They had to use cited examples to back up their ideas or claims. And they had to follow a basic checklist that required them to implement feedback from previous blog entries and to follow certain formatting rules. They also had to integrate some basic social media tools.

At the very least, everyone learned something about how to write for the Web and for business and the current technological tools available.

All 70 students will be expected to continue to blog as part of future classes over the next two to three years and some will do so reluctantly. But I’m confident that somewhere between 15 and 20 will do so with passion. Indeed, for many of these students, the blogs will serve as a powerful employment tool to show future potential employers who they are as people, learners, and future marketing or advertising professionals.

The assignment was by no means perfect and there are lots of elements I must improve in order to maximize the learning experience and to make evaluation more manageable. Marking rubrics probably took at least 10 hours out of every weekend and I marked only five of each student’s 10 blogs (at random).

To help improve the assignment for next year, I had all students fill out an evaluation that I reviewed and brought back to my last class with one of the sections. We had our class party and then I invited anyone to stay behind who wanted to help me brainstorm to make the assignment better for future students. A group of about six students stayed behind. Together, we hammered out some key ideas that I’ll work on implementing for next year:

1. Provide more frequent feedback—The brainstorming group recognized that I can’t devote more time to marking blogs, but they wanted feedback on more than just five of the 10 blogs. The solution? The group suggested I incorporate students into the marking or evaluation of other students’ blogs into the grade for the assignment. For example, one student suggested, students could be assigned to use the rubric or checklist to evaluate three other students’ blog entries. It’s a great idea. Students would have to find one blog each to evaluate between the first and third weeks, between the fourth and sixth weeks, and between the seventh and 10th weeks. This way, student bloggers would receive more feedback. The evaluators would also get a chance to turn a critical eye on other students’ work. Wow! What a great idea!

2. Provide more guidance in the beginning on how to go about writing a blog so that students are more likely to hit the ground running instead of spending a few weeks trying to get it right and losing marks as a result. My solution is to enlist a student to develop a blogging how-to video that will take students through the process of blog writing. One of the first-years has proved herself to be a remarkably talented videographer and editor. She will design the video. We still have to meet to talk about it, but I’m confident this will be an essential resource well beyond this assignment.

3. Provide a better feedback vehicle than paper rubrics handed out in the first class of the week. I’m going to try to develop a PDF form that I will email to students. This will include hyperlinks to online resources to allow students to address challenges.

4. Provide more one-on-one time with the course instructor. Even five minutes could help students immeasurably. I recognize this and somehow I will put aside a week to have a face-to-face meeting with every student.

5. This year, students were allowed to use, WordPress, or Tumblr for their blogs. Next year, WordPress will be the only option. Tumblr isn’t sharable and WordPress is considered the industry standard.

6. I’m thinking that I’m also going to provide an option for students to make one of their blogs a video that they make about advertising or marketing. I still have to work out the details and I’d be grateful for any ideas. Ideas, anyone?

There will be other tweaks in next year’s assignment, but that’s all the thinking I’m going to do about this assignment for now.

Thank you to my wonderful first-year MCOM5 students who embraced this assignment, developed their writers’ voices, improved their business writing and editing skills, learned something about using social media, and have taken the first strong steps toward developing a showcase for their personal and professional brands.

And thank you to all my students—Advertising—IMC and Office Administration—for all of your constructive feedback throughout the past semester. Thank you for showing respect toward me and toward one another. Thank you for sharing your creativity and your passion for learning. And thank you for your affection throughout my experience of becoming a new father.

Thank you for teaching teacher.


About teachingteacher

Business communications instructor, journalist, corporate communications writer and media trainer ... and Masters Candidate M.Ad.Ed.
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