Here in Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of Sussex we have been blogging for 4 years. In that time we have picked up a few clues as to what makes a successful post. Here I will share a few thoughts and some links to our ‘Greatest Hits’.
Since starting the blog we have tried to remain focused on some key things: who we are writing for (our audience), why we are writing (our purposes) and the type of posts that will serve our audience and purposes best.
As a team we are focussed on enhancing teaching practices and enriching student learning at the University so we consider the staff and students of the institution to be the primary audience for our blog. At the same time we recognise that we reach a readership far beyond our own campus and try to make our posts useful to the wider Learning Technology community as well.
The Sussex TEL blog serves several useful purposes, giving us a place to share news, publicise events and share resources. Most of what we publish falls into one of the following categories.
News, Events and Updates
A blog post can often be written and published quite quickly so can be very well suited to news that you want to share. At the moment we are working on the introduction of a new VLE and the blog has proved a valuable way of sharing updates about the project with the campus community. The timeliness of a blog also makes it a great platform to publicise upcoming events such as our programme of workshops.
Encouraging and supporting use of the institutional Learning Technologies
Whilst we use the blog to share ideas for using a wide range of digital tools,a key focus is on the learning technologies provided by the university. Poll Everywhere is available for staff to use in their teaching and posts such as Gamification using Poll Everywhere’s Segmented Responses and Get even more from Poll Everywhere – LaTeX, Surveys and more… are a great way to raise awareness of new features and ways to use the tool.
At the moment a lot of our blog posts are about Canvas, which is being introduced as the new Sussex virtual learning environment (VLE). By using categories we are able to present all the Canvas posts in one place and this is building into a great resource which can be used in face-to-face discussions with staff or used to provide more information when responding to email enquiries.
This was one of the earliest types of post we published and remains popular. Our app reviews offer a quick overview of an app that can be used in teaching and learning, answering a few important questions: What is it / what does it do? Is it free? Will it work on my device? Where can I get the app? How might I use it for teaching and/or learning? What are the alternatives?
Some of our most popular app reviews have been:
- Apple Clips: A free and easy video editor
- Fun online quizzing with Kahoot!
- Introducing Prezi: a virtual canvas for presenting ideas.
As well as blogging about learning technologies we write about digital practice more broadly, because developing digital capabilities and confidence amongst staff and students underpins their use of technology in teaching and learning. Posts such as ‘Digital Productivity for work, study and life’, ‘Reflective practice goes digital’ and ‘Clever apps for smart researchers’ introduce our readers to a range of tools that they can use for personal and/or professional purposes.
As members of faculty explore the use of learning technologies, it is great to be able to use the blog to share short case studies. These posts are often based on interviews with the academics concerned, which is a very time-efficient way for them to disseminate their practice. As well as text-based case studies such as Seeing how it all fits together – a timeline for Art History our Teaching with Tech Podcast often features Sussex academics sharing their experiences of using digital tools in their teaching, such as Transforming Seminars with Padlet.
Listicles – 5 is our magic number!
Some of our most popular blog posts this year have been list-based articles. Here are 5 of our most-read lists of 5 things. These cover topics which are of interest to Sussex colleagues but also the wider educational community (as evidenced by the amount of retweets these posts get on Twitter). Posts divided into 5 short parts (each 100-200 words) are easy to read, but have enough content to be useful.
What makes a successful post?
Just as we publish several types of post, and have more than one audience, so the success of a blog post can be measured in different ways. If a post inspires one Sussex academic to try something new and/or get in touch with the TEL team that is a success. High viewer numbers are great, but posts with modest views can have a big impact in terms of our engagement with the wider Education Technology community. Some posts, such as news and events, have an initial impact but are quickly out of date, while others carry on being shared long after they are written. So the success of a particular post may be evident quite quickly, or may continue building over the years.
We would be very interested to hear from readers of his blog what type of posts they find most useful. Please use the comments to let us know.