Thinking differently about student blogs

Over the last 5 or so years I have been asked many times about starting blogs on campus. When I was in the admissions office this was often an idea we looked at but never tried. I always had trouble with what a student would blog about. Talking about what someone had for breakfast just did not seem interesting enough. I know lots of people have had success with blogs. One example we looked at was Brad Ward when he was at Butler with the Butler Bloggers.

However we still couldn’t make the case that student blogs were right for Gettysburg. Last year we decided to try blogs in a slightly different way. We tried taking short term experiences that our students were having like an outdoor adventure trip, community service project, or class field trip and have them “blog” during the 7 or 10 days that they were on the trip. They write reflections and post pictures and videos.

So far these types of blogs have worked well for us. It allows Gettysburg to highlight several different aspects of student life as well as the breadth and depth of the student experience. This week marks one year since we started this strategy with a blog about one of our student leadership groups and their trip to Colorado. Since then we have published many of these and actually have three more right now during this spring break.

What do you think of our different way to provide our audience with student blogs?

8 Responses to Thinking differently about student blogs

  1. This sounds very accommodating to the tough demands on students’ time, plus a good way to incorporate a wide variety of perspectives. Could be a nice win-win for all!

  2. Tonya Smith says:

    We used this same approach when a group of our students went to the Obama inauguration. Our ning site ( was incredibly popular with the students and faculty, and news outlets picked up the story and linked to the site so that folks here could follow the trip.

    Although we can’t quantify the results, anecdotally, they were great. Plus, we looked like a university on the cutting edge. I now have units throughout campus asking if applying this solution is right for them.

    We do also have a group of students who blog for us on a regular basis. We do not determine content for them, because what they have for breakfast can be interesting sometimes. Especially to other students.

  3. Paul Redfern says:

    @Tonya I really like your use of Ning here and the idea. Very well done!

  4. Paul – We’ve taken a similar approach with our research blog, Visions, by turning it into a forum for students who are on study abroad or short-term research trips to post. Right now we have a student posting about her experiences studying abroad in Spain (here’s her latest post). These aren’t necessarily promotional but they do provide little slices of life from real students doing stuff — not the usual admissions student blogs.

  5. Dara Crowfoot says:

    Paul– Do you have any data on usage? Like how many people have viewed and commented on the blogs? Or metrics on page views or traffic to the part of the site where the blogs sit?

    We are thinking about adding blogs for prospective students to give them a glimpse of what it’s like to go to our university. But we want to do it in a way that prospective students find value in so that they will get read by the prospective students.

    I think the key is creating something that the target wants. Otherwise, we risk blogging for blogging sake with no one really using it.


  6. Paul Redfern says:

    Dara – we don’t allow comments on these blogs right now but we do have good traffic stats on them. I will create another post with some analysis I agree with your last point and that is what we are trying to avoid as well.

  7. […] Data Analysis for student blogs Yesterday Dara Crowfoot asked a good question about what metrics or usage stats I have in a comment on my post Thinking Differently About Student Blogs. […]

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