Tag Archive for 'studyabroad'

Reaching out: University lessons-learned from student blogging

In the quest to perfect our study abroad blog pilot - which seems to be going very well these days - I’ve been reaching out to several universities that are doing a fantastic job with their student blogging projects. Most all of these blogs would be classified as “admissions blogs” and give the reader an insider perspective about what it’s like to be a student on their university programs - whether it’s a student attending math classes on home campus, or spending a semester studying in Spain. The content is engaging, the design fantastic, and it’s clear that these universities have a strong handle on producing strong, reliable, and authentic content.

Giving up some of the university’s control of content and decentralizing it to students is an intimidating prospect for most organizations, yet the content created in these venues can be the most compelling for perspective students. As I’ve said before, it’s a fine line to walk between being too controlling and encouraging bloggers to user their own voice. Here are some of the tips in my running list of good techniques to employ when setting up a student blog: Continue reading ‘Reaching out: University lessons-learned from student blogging’

“Media Fast” and study abroad

A great article from the Washington Post tells the narrative of a communications professor at American University who gives her students an assignment to shut off all their media devices for 24 hours, then write about it.

A few weeks ago 79 Academic Directors (ADs) from our study abroad programs came to campus for orientation. During this time I helped present a session on Web 2.0. to help them better understand the media habits of our students. Over half of our ADs aren’t American citizens, and while Facebook and Instant Messaging definitely has a global reach, many of these staff had limited experience with these technologies, and many others want nothing to do with them whatsoever. The overwhelming consensus among all of the ADs is that they’d prefer their students spend more time exploring the culture instead of wasting away in internet cafes.
Continue reading ‘“Media Fast” and study abroad’

Our first blogger

It’s official, our Fall 2007 SIT Study Abroad blog has it’s first student blogger signed on for when our programs start in September! We weren’t sure whether the project would appeal to our students, nor if they’d want to participate in a blog owned by World Learning vs. a personal blog. Some are doing both. However, the unanimous response from the students we chose was “Yes, of course! I’m honored!” Well, we’re honored to have them too. So it’s a win-win for everyone.

I received the signed waiver last night (via a photograph that was emailed from Brazil - smart kids!) and sent out the formal Typepad.com invitation soon after. You may wonder what the waiver is all about, or you may also ask why we haven’t taken a blood sample and an oath over a bible saying there will be no inappropriate material written over the course of the semester. I think some of our staff would have preferred that method, or that we’d have avoided blogging altogether, but maybe in my own young naivety, I’m trying to give our students the benefit of the doubt.
Continue reading ‘Our first blogger’

A foray into student blogging

Note: this was first published for Michaela’s personal blog on August 21. 2007.

One of the first projects I’ve been working on at my new job is setting up a blog for our fall study abroad programs. We have 79 specialized programs scattered across the world and each student has a vastly different immersion experience. I thought it might be fun to follow 10 of our students through a blog, as they undergo a semester of transformation.

Beyond the usual decisions of what blog software to use and whether to host 10 separate blogs or 1 blog with 10 voices, and how to handle photographs, it’s been hard to ignore the controversy out in the academic world: whether or not it’s appropriate to feature student bloggers on an organization’s website. Students tend to be extremely insightful at times, while at other times, extremely inappropriate. My research of other study abroad students (on programs unassociated with ours) uncovered provocative YouTube videos, inappropriate photographs and captions on Flickr/Webshots, and independent student blogs that blasted their study abroad programs and overseas experience. Granted there is lots of *great* stuff out there too, and hopefully as with most things on the web - the good will rise to the top, and the moaning/complaints/inappropriate discussions will sink to the bottom.

The other discussions I’ve been involved in with folks revolve around directing the types of content we want from our students (both on our official blog and if students choose to blog independently) and/or censoring negative content - all things which are hard to do on something as “leaky” as the web. I also struggle with any idea of censorship because of the free speech/freedom of press implications, etc. I believe the web should evolve organically, though the unpredictability of student behavior - college students for that matter - makes this issue a tough one. Kids have gossiped for hundreds of years - the internet has just evolved as another medium for this type of behavior. Anyone who has spent anytime on Facebook or MySpace knows this. Also, beyond our blog, what if students are writing inappropriate content on personal blogs - are we allowed to tell them to stop? I’ve tried to explain that what we don’t “allow” our students to do, it will still likely surface somewhere else if the student is determined enough. But regardless, you throw in free speech and ideas about civil society (which we try to teach in our programs) and you’ve only added fuel to the fire while not practicing what you’re preaching. It’s hard for folks to understand this, but hopefully in time it will be more clear and some best practices will emerge.

It’s definitely going to be an interesting learning experience, not only for our organization and myself, but for our students as well.The blog is located here, though not populated yet (our student bloggers will be identified in the next week!).

In the process of setting it up in Typepad, I’ve found a few scripts that add some multimedia and interactivity to the blog in a simple (and free), yet useful way. My two favorites so far are:

A Zee Map that features the locations of each of our study abroad bloggers.

And a Flickr slideshow (featuring my images) from Slide. Thanks to Beth for telling me about this one!