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Title: How and why students blog : a case study exploring the take up of blogging within a Child Studies programme
Author: Armstrong, Lin
ISNI:       0000 0004 5349 3523
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis has analysed the use of blogging within a classroom based ‘2+2’ Early Childhood Studies course. As such the research involved 'non-traditional' learners in that they were mainly women returning to education, initially based in a further education (FE) context. This was an intervention, which aimed to provide practical support for learners as well as an opportunity to explore the value of networking through the production of blogs. A feature of the intervention was that while students were encouraged to use unrestricted blogs they were free to write what they liked and when they liked. The study took place over three years and involved three cohorts of learners (Cohort A n=18; Cohort B n=21; Cohort C n=13; Total n =52). It can be described as a case study on blogging in that the study was concerned to understand a phenomenon in a specific and bounded context. The consistency of findings across the three cohorts meant that the study was considered as a single case albeit differences between cohorts were signalled as and when they came up. The study used a mixed methods approach and reported data on participation rates, content analysis of blogs and the perception of learners through interviews (n=17) and questionnaire responses (total n=32). The key findings were that there were differentiated levels of participation. Within the population ‘Non Contributors’ (n=23); ‘Uncertain Contributors’ (n=5) and ‘Contributors’ (n=16) were identified. The pattern of differentiated blogging activity could be observed across cohorts, albeit with small variations. However, it is important to add that while nearly half of the students in Cohorts B and C did not contribute entries to their blogs, all students became followers of other blogs. Furthermore, all who created a blog succeeded in attracting followers, in some cases quite large numbers of followers. Those who became bloggers were not especially skilled with technology or necessarily more academically able. Rather they tended to be people who saw the point of blogging and got satisfaction from blogging. Through their resilience they gained readers and received feedback on their blogs in ways in which uncertain bloggers did not. As for the reading of the blogs; students accessed blogs because they valued the content for throwing light on course material, extending the curriculum and offering multi-media formats. Gaining a sense of community was a big motivator for students to take the time to look at the blogs. Those who contributed the most (the Contributors) appeared to take on a special role within the group. They felt a particular concern for other people’s learning in some cases taking on a kind of mentoring role. There were several explanations as to why students were constrained in their blogging or why they did not blog at all: pressure of time, difficulties in access, uncertain online literacy skills, a perceived lack of value, a feeling of being vulnerable or exposed. It was clear that there were both technical and literacy barriers to participation. The implications of the study are that there is a value to blogging and students and practitioners are recommended to introduce blogging (or other online networking) in order to enhance and extend teaching and learning. However there is no simple solution to the organising of blogs. For example there remains a tension between providing bloggers with high-direction, perhaps resulting in broader take up, against low-direction, perhaps resulting in narrower but more autonomous use. The asynchronous nature of blogs provides an opportunity for extended reflection, but also an opportunity to avoid responding and the anxiety of leaving permanent records of contributions. The study is carefully positioned as offering both encouragement and realism about blogging.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: LC Special aspects of education