After three years of delivering blogging assignments to Advertising students, I’m convinced that blogging is the perfect platform to teach first-year students all they need to know about business writing essentials.
This assignment requires students to write eight weekly blogs about what they are learning in their marketing and advertising classes or about their observations of industry trends or campaigns. They get a chance to be creative and practice self-reflection and critical thinking skills. They also get a chance to manipulate social media as more than end users or customers.
Just as important are the writing skills they acquire. Because they have to write every week using a checklist, they scrutinize their own writing on a regular basis. They are also scrutinized by me as I evaluate five or their entries randomly. And then, each week, each student is assigned to evaluate another classmate’s post with the same checklist that I use.
So they get plenty of feedback.
The checklist requires students to follow some of the most basic rules of business writing in relation to sentence and paragraph length, meaningful headings, punchy writing, and evidence citation.
Interestingly, at first, a number of students didn’t follow these basic—and very clear—guidelines and they lost big marks for it. However, by the end of the assignment, all but one student had developed crisper, cleaner writing and were following basic formatting rules.
As an aside, the grammar diary component was also a success for many students. Those who followed it to the T and met weekly deadlines clearly learned some valuable lessons about writing mechanics by researching five of their own errors as pointed out by me. I know I’ll have to tweak this part of the assignment for the next time I deliver it, but I’ll talk more on that in another post.
Right now, I’m interested to see if the writing and formatting skills developed through the blogging assignment will translate to students’ last assignment: a six- to eight-page formal report due at the end of the semester.
Will students display the same attention to detail that they developed with their blogs? Will they back up their data, arguments, and other information with clearly cited evidence? Will they follow the strict formatting guidelines required of them?
Students have a lot of other assignments due right now and, admittedly, the report isn’t worth as much as it should be—at 15% of their final grade. But the blogging assignment was also worth proportionately less than the work involved—at eight 150- to 350-word blogs worth a total of 20%.
So I’m not sure what the outcome will be. However, there’s one thing I do know for sure: These students now have the tools and the knowledge to be better writers and to present their information more clearly, concisely, and more persuasively.
Whether they decide to use what they’ve learned will be up to them.
I wish them hard work, success, and fanatical adherence to my formal report template.