Advisement Blogging for the Millennial Generation
David Lichtenstein, University of Southern California
The inspiration to start a blog stemmed from frustration during my time as an undergraduate student. As typical at many universities, I received information about internship and research opportunities from academic advisors via email. Though stuffed with useful information, I found these emails cumbersome to read as they often were long, patchwork collections that frequented my inbox. In truth, I began ignoring these emails altogether when I was not actively seeking a position, and later it proved challenging to locate the information when I looked for experiences and jobs. When I became an academic advisor, I thought there must be a better way for students to browse and search for these valuable opportunities using a familiar, Web-based interface. That’s when I turned to Blogger©.
At first, my Biological Sciences (BISC) Blog was simple: an Internet age reimagining of the cork bulletin board. My colleague and I posted such things as internships, volunteer, and scholarship opportunities, and campus events; we built viewership among our biology students by marketing the blog in email communications, one-on-one advisement sessions, and presentations. To our happy surprise, the blog was a huge success. Since its inception, we have posted more than 700 events and opportunities and have received over 80,000 visits (the only intended audience being USC’s 900 biology majors and minors). From a qualitative survey of our students, we discovered that over 70% were satisfied (and less than 1% were dissatisfied) with the BISC Blog.
Given the enthusiastic response from our students, I became curious why more advising units do not consistently use this communication platform for student information. During my exploration of the use of technology in higher education, I found that most college academic advising blogs are managed by an individual advisor or small group in a single department. Most of the blogs I visited use stock templates, have few or infrequent posts, or are simply no longer active. Typically, content consists of advising dates and procedures, recommendations (e.g., “make a course plan to ensure positive movement toward your graduation goals”), or more general academic and career advice. I believe that consistent and timely delivery of content as well as overall presentation of material impact how students perceive blogs as reliable and trusted resources that can enhance their educational experiences. Positive perception can increase site viewership and thus augment a blog’s influence as a vehicle for teaching and advising.
Building on student feedback and my exploration of academic blogs, I began adding new features to the BISC Blog, including social networking, embedded media, a subscription option for daily email updates, and Google Calendar. My goal was to create a visually-appealing and social Web site for students while avoiding the temptation to add flashy-yet-frivolous features. Though I do not have formal computer science training, the availability of good documentation and open source code allowed me to create a major redesign over a few months.
Other advising units were impressed with our efforts and soon wanted similar blogs of their own. To assist our college’s efforts to centralize academic advising, I expanded the redesigned BISC Blog into three sibling blogs for each of the academic divisions of our college: Natural Sciences, Social Sciences and Humanities. I believe these blogs help students profit from the collective knowledge of a vibrant community of advisors with diverse backgrounds and experiences. To create ownership for each department, we allow individual advisors to submit content on behalf of their department. As is the case in any group writing effort, it was imperative that we establish style and editorial guidelines to ensure consistency and professionalism. For example, we maintain a standard format for all postings and do not allow advertisements or classifieds on the site. I am proud to report that we already have a budding community of academic advisor-bloggers from various departments within the college.
Technology is constantly evolving and student needs change. As a result, the blog will continue to be an in vivo experiment. At this time in biology advising, we have phased out the practice of sending “opportunities and events” emails as we feel confident that students actively use the blog. By not overstuffing students’ inboxes, we have increased the salience of higher-priority email communication. My hope is that our students will contribute to and view the blogs as more than just another campus information kiosk, and advisors will continue to blog substantive academic and career advice in addition to passing along opportunities. The blog platform allows unprecedented student access within our college community and helps us improve the continuity of the information stream to students.
For the USC College Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences blogs, visit http://college.usc.edu/blog-directory
Undergraduate Academic Advisor
Office of College Advising
University of Southern California
Cite this article using APA style as: Lichtenstein, D. (2010, December). Advisement blogging for the millennial generation. Academic Advising Today, 33(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]