On your mark. Get set. Blog!
Here we go again. My newest first-year Advertising students are about to begin their biggest assignment of the year: an eight-week blog worth 35% of their mark in my Writing for Advertising class.
Every year, I bring in blogstar Brook Johnston, a 2011 graduate of our program (formerly known as Integrated Marketing Communications and now called Advertising and Marketing Communications Management) who is now a successful copy writer at a dynamic advertising agency in Toronto. I Skype Brook into the class every September to kick off the blogging assignment and to tell students how blogging played a big role in his career success.
I teach blogging in my writing classes because it’s the best way I’ve found to help students become better writers. But, previously, students haven’t seemed very excited about the idea of blogging for two straight months, so I’ve felt I needed Brook to back up my claims that blogging is, well, good for them, that it will help improve their prose and build their professional brand.
This year, I sense that students may not need as much convincing. After all, blogging has gone mainstream.
When I first started the assignment in 2010, there were about 130 million blogs worldwide. A survey of the main blog services this year suggests there are double that number just three years later. Curiously, when I invited second- and third-year students into our class last week to tell first-years about my writing course, the first-years were voracious to learn about the blogging assignment and spent most of their question time asking about it.
“I asked if they wanted to hear some funny stories about their teachers, but all they seemed to want to know about was the blogs,” one third-year student told me the next day.
I’m not disappointed. After all, it’s about time students got excited blogging. It is an incredible assignment. Over the next eight weeks, our first-years will start to build their own online brand through blogging.
Each week, they’ll write about what they are learning in their marketing and advertising classes and about their observations on advertising and marketing issues in the world around them. Writing about, and reflecting upon, what they are learning will help to reinforce their lessons.
At the same time they’ll be writing using a specific checklist that will require them to use critical thinking and they’ll have to use referenced examples to back up their claims and thoughts. They’ll also have to embed images and video and social media tools. And they’ll be required to follow some basic business writing rules.
All this will be done under my critical editor’s eye. Students will get plenty of feedback, they’ll have to research and correct errors that I point out, and they’ll have to evaluate one another’s posts weekly in two sub-assignments that are part of the bigger one.
Marking-wise, it’s a killer as I spend at least a day every weekend marking the assignment over its duration. Nonetheless, it’s incredibly rewarding. Students grow hugely as writers and they learn some of the most basic WordPress technical skills required by their industry—thanks to my AMC colleague Robin Pepper, who has teamed up with me on the assignment to take students beyond content in his Computer Skills for Communications class.
Maybe word has spread about the assignment. Maybe it’s the growing popularity of blogging. Or maybe it’s just the students who have entered the program this year.
Whatever the case, for the first time ever, I’m fairly certain I won’t have to work too hard to get students to buy into the value of this assignment.
I still plan to have Brook visit us. He’ll beam into the classroom Thursday morning for his annual—and always-inspirational—Skype visit.
And I can’t wait to see how big a flame his spark ignites this time around.