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Student Blogging: Brilliant or Boring?

By Chris | August 21, 2008

I’ve been preparing for the Intermediate Microeconomics class I will teach this fall. While working on my syllabus, I considered creating a blog and assigning each student in my class to contribute a post. I thought it would be a good way to get students thinking about economics in their everyday lives and would offer a creative environment for aspiring economists to identify themselves.

I wouldn’t be the first instructor to try such an experiment. While browsing 26econ.com, I read that Aaron had set up a similar blog for his students. He required students in his internet economics class to post about the business model of an online business. You can see the blog here. It doesn’t feel very bloggy. The last paragraph of one post starts with “In Conclusion”. Other posts list the references at the end. Some of the posts remind me of a condensed Wikipedia entry, not bad, but not something I’d peruse in my free time.

I think the trick to such an assignment is providing an incentive for students to post, without scaring them into writing superfluous drivel. It reminds me of a post by Ben Casnocha. In the real world, unlike college, no one is obligated to read what you write. You have to catch and keep the reader’s attention. I blog part-time and still struggle with this. Is it too much to ask of a student?

Topics: College, Economics | 5 Comments »

5 Responses to “Student Blogging: Brilliant or Boring?”

  1. aaron schiff Says:
    August 21st, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Thanks for the observations. It was a bit of an experiment for me and I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I did tell the students not to write like an essay but perhaps I should have given them more tips about blog writing style.

    I think if I did this again, I wouldn’t ask students to write about a particular topic, but instead ask them to find links to interesting sites/news/blogs etc that are relevant to the course and post their links with a very brief discussion of why the link was relevant to the course. Maybe that would be a bit more ‘bloggy’ 🙂

  2. Frankie Stix Says:
    August 23rd, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    I think an element of anonymity would help students ‘open up’ in their comments like many do in real world blogs and message boards. Just food for thought.

  3. Chris Says:
    August 25th, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    That is a good point. I blog semi-anonymously. I only use my first name and only tell certain people about this blog. It makes it much easier to write what I’m thinking without worrying about who I may be offending.

  4. Mark R Says:
    September 20th, 2008 at 8:09 am

    Chris, I think it’s a great idea. One rarely sees an economist that does *not* blog or post their thoughts/research/discussion online in some format nowadays. Getting students acclimated to this is important.

    I would also discourage the anon flexibility, because if people don’t have their name stuck to something, then they’re likely to either not really think about what they say or perhaps go overboard in an uncivilized manner. I have been guilty of that myself: attacking people on blogs b/c I’m posting anonymously. In some scenarios its fine, but in real discussion forums, I would hold people to what they say, because after all, isn’t part of upper level education learning to communicate coherently? Posting semi-anonymously is not a bad idea. Great idea, though …

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