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2012 News Releases

Blogs becoming alternative to research paper in some Longwood classes

November 30, 2012

Lee Bidwell working with blogging students
Dr. Lee Bidwell, professor of sociology, works with students as they develop course-related blogs.

In some Longwood University classes, blogs—once primarily an outlet for personal musings—are getting some serious academic cred.

In addition to—or in some cases instead of—writing a traditional research paper, students in Communication Studies write blogs analyzing Super Bowl ads. Sociology students have created blogs as resources for military families and people who have experienced domestic violence. Students and faculty in the Longwood at Yellowstone National Park project blog daily about their experiences.

"Blogging helps students learn to think in a different way, which is how they’ll have to think in the real world," said Dr. Lee Bidwell, professor of sociology and one of several Longwood faculty members and librarians who have presented at conferences on how blogging can enhance learning.

Students in Bidwell’s Stress and Crisis in Families course this semester have created a blog, "Stress and Crisis in Military Families" (http://blogs.longwood.edu/socl306f12), which is a resource for military families. Students in her Domestic Violence class in spring 2011 and Writing in the Social Sciences, an online graduate course, in summer 2011 also created blogs.

"The students are not just learning content for a class but learning skills that can make them marketable to an employer," Bidwell said while students worked on their military families blog in the library one morning in November. "They’re still doing research, and once they’ve done the research, they have to translate it to the general public. This is what colleges do—provide knowledge and resources for the community."

Dr. Pamela Tracy, associate professor of communication studies, has used blogs in some of her courses since spring 2010, when she redesigned her Media Criticism class to include blogging. She also has incorporated it into her Communication Theory class, and she used it this semester in her Interpersonal Communication class.

"We’re dedicated to developing citizen leaders, and students need to know how to communicate with the public," said Tracy. "Developing the skills to write for a variety of audiences is critical. Through blogging, they can apply theory to analyze media images in order to inform the public. The blogging technology allows them to engage in critical thinking in more creative ways—through the use of images and hyperlinks. This type of writing serves a different purpose from writing a more traditional paper for a professor."

Course-related and other blogging at Longwood is done through a publishing platform called Longwood Blogs (http://blogs.longwood.edu), operational since March 2011, which is administered and supported by Greenwood Library. The platform—which is a collaboration among the library, Information and Instructional Technology Services (IITS), and the Office of Public Relations—had 1,560 sites and 2,268 users as of late November.

"We’re teaching students how to have a scholarly conversation outside of a 10-page research paper," said Liz Kocevar-Weidinger, head of instruction and interim librarian for eresources services.

Technical support for the platform is provided by Nathan Landis of IITS and Chris Harper in the library, and Tatiana Pashkova-Balkenhol of the library coordinates instructional support. Faculty members praise the library staff’s efforts in supporting blogging. "Our library is phenomenal and forward-thinking. The staff teaches people not only how to use the platform but the theory on blogging," said Tracy.