To blog or not to blog: some IHEs embrace the power and vitality of weblogs, while others approach them with a wary eye.
THIS FALL A COUPLE DOZEN STUDENTS ACROSS THE United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. took up blogging for their alma maters. In occasional or weekly posts they offer slices of campus life that the Admissions office can share with prospective students and their parents. Because these are blogs and not recruiting brochures, the writers have a chance, it seems, to tell it like it is.
But for readers accustomed to the rough-and-ready informality of many blogs, these new websites are curious creations. Press releases have typically preceded the writers, and education reporters, at least briefly, followed them. Most new bloggers labor in obscurity, taking months to build their writing skills and attract an audience, but thanks to the links from the Admissions page, these sponsored sites had readers from the start.
The financial and editorial arrangements vary. Some bloggers receive a stipend sti·pend
A fixed and regular payment, such as a salary for services rendered or an allowance.
[Middle English stipendie, from Old French, from Latin st for posting at least once a week, while others receive the computer, digital camera, or audiovisual equipment they need to create a high-tech blog site. No matter how they are compensated, bloggers are a peculiar kind of employee, practicing an individualist's art on behalf of the school.
Press releases and admissions sites present their blogs as "authentic, firsthand first·hand
Received from the original source: firsthand information.
first accounts of student life." They promise "an inside look" at "the real lives" of small groups of students who are carefully chosen to represent the diversity of the student body.
One blogger, for example, frequently reports on leaving campus to attend professional sporting events, while another graciously answers questions from prospective students. Another details the busy life of the student athlete, while still another publishes a dramatic picture of new bullet holes in his off-campus student apartment complex. Some posts are exciting or promising, and some even talk about ideas--but administrators are anxious about the risk.
Can student bloggers create an image attractive enough to engage and recruit new students? Should valuable space on the admissions website be turned over to self-expression? Administrators are watching cautiously to see how these young people represent the school.
A Generation Gap
Lori Croy, manager of Web Communications at the University of Missouri, Columbia, has worked in web design since 1995. She says that the two generations think of blogs very differently. Croy notes, for example, the "sheer embarrassment people on the management side would feel if a journalism student used poor grammar or punctuation," since this might be seen as a "direct reflection on the faculty's ability to teach properly."
But many young writers, especially those not on the university payroll, see their blogs differently. "They are an informal way to communicate, not a collection of polished and copyedited material. We have a way to go before one generation understands blogs the way the other understands them," says Croy.
Croy's work is involved not so much with blogging itself as it is with the influence that blogs and other new media might have on the future of campus web design.
"Administrators may not be comfortable with a blogger's spontaneity spon·ta·ne·i·ty
n. pl. spon·ta·ne·i·ties
1. The quality or condition of being spontaneous.
2. Spontaneous behavior, impulse, or movement.
Noun 1. taking place on their major communication channel," she notes, but they are very much interested in the energy, speed, and focus seen in good blogging. A content management system, the far more powerful and expensive cousin of high-end blogging software, can take IHEs further into the age of dynamic campus web content.
Frozen in Time
Not too long ago, most university webpages were static objects created by wrapping HTML HTML
in full HyperText Markup Language
Markup language derived from SGML that is used to prepare hypertext documents. Relatively easy for nonprogrammers to master, HTML is the language used for documents on the World Wide Web. code around a collection of words and images. The process often relied on a department's web enthusiast typing code and posting individual and often idiosyncratic id·i·o·syn·cra·sy
n. pl. id·i·o·syn·cra·sies
1. A structural or behavioral characteristic peculiar to an individual or group.
2. A physiological or temperamental peculiarity.
3. pages that remained unchanged until the next burst of coding and posting.
Today, stock logos and page templates standardize large portions of an institution's website, strengthening the brand and vanquishing idiosyncratic pages. Still, most department pages depend on the diligence of a single writer for updates.
The faculty may be active, publishing research and innovating in the classroom, but the department webpage often goes unchanged for weeks or months. Multimillion-dollar segments of the institution appear to be frozen in time.
Students, however, operate at a different speed. Many organize their lives informally with e-mail or instant messaging Exchanging text messages in real time between two or more people logged into a particular instant messaging (IM) service. Instant messaging is more interactive than e-mail because messages are sent immediately, whereas e-mail messages can be queued up in a mail server for seconds or . They get their news from sites like MyYahoo or Google News that are updated throughout the day. Their favorite blogs have new posts at the top of the page each time they visit, with some even offering photos, videos, of podcasts.
Students no longer live in the age of the static webpage, even if their university does. Croy believes that campuses too must offer "content deployed in multiple media."
With that goal in mind, a university that doesn't dare blog can still learn a few things from the blogger generation.
Doing What Blogs Do
Whether it's written by a witty cultural studies professor or a dedicated news junkie News Junkie A person who spends a large proportion of their day devouring one news programme after another, supplementing this with a thorough trawl of newspapers. , a good blog usually includes links to other websites. The blogger quotes from and annotates other blogs in an informal fashion that many a scholar would nevertheless recognize.
Good bloggers do quite a bit of work to present, perhaps even organize, a body of knowledge for their readers, and they write every day. They respond quickly to news and discussions as they unfold across the web. By practice and by design, there is always fresh content at the top of a blog.
Experienced bloggers read widely and know most of the other writers who cover their topic; they list the best of these sites in their sidebar. In time, skillful skill·ful
1. Possessing or exercising skill; expert. See Synonyms at proficient.
2. Characterized by, exhibiting, or requiring skill. bloggers build a community of readers and writers who focus on their shared concerns. Bloggers often use RSS (Really Simple Syndication) A syndication format that was developed by Netscape in 1999 and became very popular for aggregating updates to blogs and the news sites. RSS has also stood for "Rich Site Summary" and "RDF Site Summary. feeds--a type of web formatting--to make their content viewable in multiple formats for new audiences.
By most of these standards, some student recruiting sites are online diaries An online diary is a personal diary or journal that is published on the world wide web on a personal website or a diary hosting website. Online diaries began in 1994. As a community formed, these publications came to be almost exclusively known as online journals. , not blogs. But Missouri's undergraduate admissions site, Croy says, strives for some of those blog-ish virtues. The site (http://admissions.missouri.edu) focuses on student voices in a series of rotating interviews that offer "18 Reasons to Choose Mizzou."
The main page offers gateway links that take visitors to well-aimed pages that reassemble re·as·sem·ble
v. re·as·sem·bled, re·as·sem·bling, re·as·sem·bles
1. To bring or gather together again: reassembled the band for a reunion tour.
2. and republish re·pub·lish
tr.v. re·pub·lished, re·pub·lish·ing, re·pub·lish·es
1. To publish again.
2. Law To revive (a libel or a canceled will). campus information in order to serve the overlapping and contrasting needs of particular audiences, such as parents or transfer students. The Missouri site balances the young audience's preference for a fast-moving web experience with their need for practical information.
A Campus Blog
While there are bloglike ways to improve a university website, the question remains: Can a campus risk having a real blog? Some are making a serious effort.
For example, Indiana University Indiana University, main campus at Bloomington; state supported; coeducational; chartered 1820 as a seminary, opened 1824. It became a college in 1828 and a university in 1838. The medical center (run jointly with Purdue Univ. South Bend South Bend, city (1990 pop. 105,511), seat of St. Joseph co., N Ind., on the great south bend of the St. Joseph River, in a farming and mint-growing region; inc. as a city 1865. is one of the 200 member schools participating in the American Association American Association refers to one of the following professional baseball leagues:
The American Democracy Project (ADP) is an initiative of 219 AASCU campuses that seeks to create an intellectual and experiential understanding of civic engagement for undergraduates enrolled at (ADP (1) (Automatic Data Processing) Synonymous with data processing (DP), electronic data processing (EDP) and information processing.
(2) (Automatic Data Processing, Inc., Roseland, NJ, www.adp. ). The project is a three-year initiative to strengthen civic education in member schools' curriculum and co-curriculum.
IU South Bend's ADP programs include a blog (www.iusb.edu/~sbadla) that publishes column-length pieces most weekdays on matters of public policy, the challenges and rewards of active citizenship Active citizenship generally refers to a philosophy espoused by some organizations and educational institutions. It often states that members of companies or nation-states have certain roles and responsibilities to society and the environment, although those members may not have , and the strengths and weaknesses of American democracy. Writers discuss local, national, and global aspects of those topics as well as their implications for public and higher education higher education
Study beyond the level of secondary education. Institutions of higher education include not only colleges and universities but also professional schools in such fields as law, theology, medicine, business, music, and art. .
The ADP blog is a general university publication, not a scholarly journal, and it does not publish traditional academic writing. Instead, most of the pieces would fit well on a good op-ed page. The blog aims at balance by including writers from across the political spectrum. Readers can join in by commenting on individual pieces, writing their own pieces, or submitting reading suggestions, letters, or provocative quotations.
Posts by professors are often informed by their scholarship, but these and other writers also gain authority by testing ideas against personal and community experience. On the blog On The Blog is a British radio comedy series that was first broadcast in May/June 2007 on BBC Radio 2.
It starred Andy Taylor as the nerdish wargaming blogger Andrew Glasgow who was the central character of the series. , what counts as knowledge is not settled by the word of a university expert. This attitude is appropriate and necessary for the subject of democracy.
Faculty authors are not always comfortable working this way. Political scientists tend to avoid studying local politics, biologists are not often accustomed to speaking about the intelligent design controversy with a general audience, and English professors may be more comfortable deciphering literary than political speech. Many faculty members are tempted by the anonymity of their private lives and leave democratic exchange to others. The university, too, has not decided how to value this kind of writing and publishing.
Nevertheless, the ADP blog gains new writers each semester. Regular and occasional authors have included students, faculty, staff, and members of the community. This fall the blog has published many reports from sociologist Scott Sernau as he circled the world, teaching global issues courses for the Semester al Sea program. Judging by the page visits, some of the most popular entries have been the related bibliographies created by the university's librarians.
The ADP blog has learned the lessons of republishing re·pub·lish
tr.v. re·pub·lished, re·pub·lish·ing, re·pub·lish·es
1. To publish again.
2. Law To revive (a libel or a canceled will). , too. The blog occasionally secures permission to republish writing from other publications, such as Tufts University Tufts University, main campus at Medford, Mass.; coeducational; chartered 1852 by Universalists as a college for men. It became a university in 1955. Jackson College, formerly a coordinate undergraduate college for women, merged with the College of Liberal Arts in President Lawrence Bacow's recent Boston Globe column on teaching the value of service. Each week one of the best pieces from the blog is broadcast on the region's National Public Radio affiliate station WVPE, and some of these pieces are rebroadcast by other NPR stations This is a list of NPR radio stations.
Alabama | Alaska | Arizona | Arkansas | California | Colorado | Connecticut | Delaware | Florida | Georgia | Hawaii | Idaho | Illinois | Indiana |
The blog includes links to other publications and web resources, a calendar of campus and area events related to IU's themes, and MP3 audio files from the radio pieces. As participation and readership grows, the ADP site slowly comes into its own as a real, full-featured blog.
Since it's a university publication, the ADP blog has needed a policy about the strong language and aggressive tone found on some political blogs A political blog is a common type of blog that comments on politics. In liberal democracies the right to criticize the government without interference is considered an important element of free speech. . The appropriate content policy calls for a standard of decorum DECORUM. Proper behaviour; good order.
2. Decorum is requisite in public places, in order to permit all persons to enjoy their rights; for example, decorum is indispensable in church, to enable those assembled, to worship. appropriate for a good classroom discussion. In spite of its generality, the guideline is clear to most participants. Only occasionally have submissions been rejected because of a personal attack or inappropriate content.
In the first year, more than 100,000 visits were recorded at the main page of IUSB's American Democracy Project blog, with many thousands more at other portions of the site--not bad for a community of South Bend's size. Writers from both campus and community often contribute work without being asked.
The radio station reports that the commentaries are popular with listeners and that about 15,000 radios are tuned in at the times of broadcast. And the university is named as the source of each of these broadcasts.
But there are weaknesses, too. The variety of authors provides freshness but has at times prevented a sense of continuity among the pieces. It's difficult to keep the site balanced between left, center, and right-wing political opinions. Some faculty members are not used to making local ties to their area of expertise, and some disciplines rarely contribute to the site. And as on other blogs, some pieces provoke no comments from readers.
Nevertheless, the ADP blog provides a place for faculty to develop their skills as public intellectuals writing for and serving a wider audience. The site models and builds active citizenship among students and engages the university with the community in a democratic exchange informed by local experience as well as by the academic disciplines of the faculty. Like all promising blogs, it's a work in progress.
RELATED ARTICLE: Write once, publish again and again.
GOOD WEB PUBLISHING Creating a Web site and placing it on the Web server. A Web site is a collection of HTML pages with the home page typically named INDEX.HTML. Web sites are designed using Web authoring software which provides a graphical layout capability or by hand coding in HTML or both. SOFTWARE CAN DRAW TEXT and images from a database and automatically dress them differently for different audiences. It allows users to:
* Speak to diverse constituencies by repackaging and re publishing the best content from across the website in areas aimed at the needs and interests of these users.
* Offer and use RSS syndication See RSS feed. feeds to widen the readership.
* Repackage re·pack·age
tr.v. re·pack·aged, re·pack·ag·ing, re·pack·ag·es
To package again or anew, especially in a more attractive package.
re·pack and republish for recruiting students. Parents and high school students, for example, may not be well served by a single admissions website.
* Establish several versions of the main Admissions webpages with designs appropriate for the age and interests of the intended readers. There should be considerable overlap in content, but one audience may take a keener interest in the rugby club than another does.
* Repackage and republish for the local community alumni, students, faculty, and staff. Announce a distinguished guest lecture in the events calendar, feature it on a news page, and preserve it on a page that celebrates the highlights of campus intellectual life. A list of resources for troubled students should appear in web areas aimed at students, faculty, and staff.
* Let others repackage and republish. When news, sports, and press re[ease pages include syndication feeds, tech-savvy readers will be able to gel new content automatically in free news-aggregator software such as Bloglines.
* Pipe news headlines into many parts of the site. Good web publishing software will let users sort and deliver news items by syndication feed to different areas of a site. Properly categorized cat·e·go·rize
tr.v. cat·e·go·rized, cat·e·go·riz·ing, cat·e·go·riz·es
To put into a category or categories; classify.
cat , a headline announcing a new life sciences grant, for example, can appear automatically on the pages used by both science and medical faculty.
RELATED ARTICLE: Beyond the viewbook.
JASON Jason, in Greek mythology
Jason, in Greek mythology, son of Aeson. When Pelias usurped the throne of Iolcus and killed (or imprisoned) Aeson and most of his descendants, Jason was smuggled off to the centaur Chiron, who reared him secretly on Mt. Pelion. PONTIUS RECOGNIZES THE APPEAL OF bloggers' dynamic sites and authentic voices for promotion and recruiting. Pontius is president of White Whale white whale: see beluga. Web Services (1) Loosely, any online service delivered over the Web. Such usage appears in articles from non-technical sources, but not in IT-oriented publications, because definition #2 below describes the correct use of the term. (www.whitewhale.net), a company specializing in website design for universities.
Blogging is a very hip term right now," he says. "Universities try to communicate in an authentic voice, but blogging may not be the way to do it."
More familiar genres bring their limitations, too, however. A viewbook, the classic promotional tool, often cloaks a lively campus in glossy static images and slogans. An online version can use database software to create dynamic pages, and good writing can sweep away Verb 1. sweep away - eliminate completely and without a trace; "The old values have been wiped out"
destroy, destruct - do away with, cause the destruction or undoing of; "The fire destroyed the house"
2. the slogans and point to the excitement of campus life.
Inspired in part by the liveliness of blogs, Pontius talks about "looking into the hive," a metaphor that has guided the company's work on sites such as the Brown University research website (http://research.brown.edu). A good website will show donors, for example, "a working, active, busy environment, a hive where a tot of good work is being done."
Pontius believes that when site visitors get a look into the hive, prospective students may apply, prospective donors may write checks, and faculty members feel well represented and well served.
"Faculty members go there to look up policies and grant deadlines," he says, "but the website shows them the commercialization of faculty research, ii shows how the university looks to external audiences and gives the impression to faculty that Brown is working for them."
The site's centerpiece is the interactive five-paneled main column that draws from a well-stocked database of texts and images and offers new glimpses into Brown research each time it is visited.
The panels feature research news, faculty profiles, and articles on major programs. A visitor can refresh the browser of click on a panel link for more articles to appear. Though it isn't a blog, visitors accustomed to blogs see something here that they value: a focused, fast-moving, content-rich site that reflects a dynamic institution.
Ken Smith teaches writing for the web at Indiana University South Bend. He edits the university's American Democracy Project weblog See blog and Web log.
(World-Wide Web) weblog - (Commonly "blog") Any kind of diary published on the World-Wide Web, usually written by an individual (a "blogger") but also by corporate bodies. , as well as his own "Weblogs in Higher Education" blog (www.mchron.net/site/edublog.php).