Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bloggers in Education: their beliefs, motivation, and perceived impact

The phenomenal growth of blog and blogging has also affected the world of education and educators. Though probably nobody keeps a track of the number of blogs that exist now, previous statistics reveal that there are over 133 million blogs with over 175 thousand new blogs created everyday. The Number of blog posts everyday is over 1.4 millions. Technorati also conducts a regular survey of the bloggers to know about the what, why and how of blogging. In line with this thinking, an exploratory study has been conducted to understand the world of bloggers in education using the International Edubloggers Directory that has 1125 members from 64 countries and represented by 54% male and 46% female bloggers.

Educators have been attracted towards instant publishing and interactive features of the blog. Blogs are used for a variety of reasons: as a conversational tool, as a tool to create knowledge, for developing a community of practice, and for knowledge management. A review of literature by Luehmann (2008) reports that blogs allow self-direction, provide opportunities for reflection, invites perspective making, allow knowledge brokering, and support identity development. In the classroom and distance education settings, blogs are used as a tool for constructivist approach to learning and foster collaboration and meaning making in a social environment. Professional development of educators as a reflective practitioner is an important aspects of the numerous affordances the blog offers. The use of blog can also be analysed from the use and gratification perspective, which says that people use media strategically and choose a particular medium based on how it meets their specific needs or goals (Katz, Gurevitch, and Haas, 1973).

Sometime back I did a survey to know more about bloggers in education. What are the motives of educators in using blog? What are their beliefs about the media, and what are their perceptions of the impact of their blogging? The survey received a modest 77 responses that I have analyzed and present here for information of all.

Profile of the respondents

  • Male 61%, Female 36%, No response 3%.
  • About 17% respondents were in the age group of 46-50 and 51-55 years, followed by 15.5% in the age group of 36-40, and 14& in the age group of 41-45.
  • Forty-nine percent has a post graduate degree, while 22% were PhD, followed by 19% graduates. Six percent of bloggers were undergraduates.
  • Forty-two percent work in schools, 29% in university and colleges, 14% worked as independent consultants, and 10% were in variety of other sector including government.
  • Forty percent of the respondents were in mid career position, while 39% were in senior level position as per their professional work. Twelve percent indicated that they are in top position in their organization.
  • As the bloggers surveyed were in education, the discipline indicated by 57% of the respondents as Education/ learning science, while 15 indicated their discipline as humanities, 9% as sciences, 5% as social sciences. There were also bloggers who indicated their discipline as medical, engineering, business studies, and computer sciences.
  • Majority (about 82%) of blogs are in English language. Dutch bloggers represented in the survey are about 7%, while Spanish bloggers represented are about 5%. Other languages are German, Romanian, Bhasa Indonesia, Chinese, and Italian.
  • About 25% of the respondents were from United States, followed by 16% from United Kingdom, 9% from Ireland, and 5% from Spain.

Some major highlights

  • The earliest blog reported in this study started in 1995, while most (27%) of the blogs started in 2007, followed by in 2008 (26%).
  • Ninety six percent of bloggers do not like anonymous blogging, and 99% do provide comment facility in their blog. In 66% cases these comments are moderated.
  • Blog writing is done individually in 84% cases, while two author blogs accounted fro 4% and group blog accounted for 5%.
  • The time of Blogging: More than 50% of bloggers informed that there is no set time for blogging. Only ten percent do blogging at work.
  • Blogging Software: Blogger is the most preferred software used followed by WordPress.
  • There is wide variation in frequency of blogging by edubloggers. Daily bloggers are about 20%, and once a week type are about 44 percent, if we consider some of the figures combinedly.
  • It is interesting to note that about 47% of bloggers say that their institution is indifferent to their blogging activity, while only 17% encourage them to do so.
  • Majority (87%) of institutions do not have a blogging policy for their employees.
  • About 35% blogs are targeted toward public in general, while another 35% are targeted towards teachers.
  • A wide range of services and social software tools are used by the bloggers in education. They include weblinks, RSS feeds, video, blogroll, etc.
  • Only 13% allow advertisement in blog. While about 10% are paying for blogging, 8% of respondents receive payments for blogging. Rest others neither receive payments not make payments for blogging.
  • What blogs are liked by them?: I asked them to list 3 blogs lied by them. The list of blogs generated had 169 unique URL. However, the most liked ones are as follows: Free Technology for Teachers (9); Weblogg-ed (4); Half an hour (3); Integrating ICT into the MFL classroom (3); ZaidLearn (3).
  • Blogging Success: Most bloggers in education consider personal satisfaction (60%) as their success. Over 53% also consider the number of unique visitor to the blog as indicator of success.
  • Bloggers in education use blogging to share information (77%). They also believe it enhances their professional development (73%). Other reasons of using bloggng include: share experiences (55%), develop an identity of self (53%), talk to the community (52%). About 50% also believe blog as storing for future use.
  • Impact of blogging: Some more serious issue emerges here. Fifty seven percent of the respondents said their professional contact reduced due to blogging! About 50% believed that blogging improved their teaching.
  • Bloggers indicated about 206 key descriptors to depict their blogs. About 10% of the respondents listed ‘education’ as one of the descriptors, followed by about 5% listing ‘educational technology’. Education was also the major tag found in the blogs.
  • Attitude towards Blogging: Overall the attitude of bloggers towards blogging is very positive. Bloggers consider blogging as an activity that fosters reflection, critical thinking, and it promotes professional development of individuals. They do not consider that blogging has reduced publishing in professional journals.


Katz, E., Gurevitch, M., & Haas, H. (1973). On the use of the media for important things. American Sociological Review, 38, 164-181.
Luehmann, A.P. (2008). Using Blogging in Support of Teacher Professional Identity Development: A Case Study, The Journal of Learning Sciences, 17, 287–337.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Innovations in Distance Education

Innovation has become a buzz word in all walks of life, and Distance Education is not far from it. Probably, the Asian Association Open Universities (AAOU) Conference in Teheran in 1995 was first such occasion to devote full fledged discussion on innovations in distance learning. But, if we closely look at the deliberations there and elsewhere in distance education literature about what is innovation, it would be much clear that there is much to be desired. While some would consider the use of an existing technology in a new context as innovation, others would consider a new teaching learning programme an innovation. Broadly, innovation is the act of starting something new. It could be a new idea, a new product or a new process. Two important concepts are related to innovations – creativity and change. Innovation is a creative process, and it advocates change in the current practice. The change could be radical or incremental. However, it is different from invention. Innovation is ideas applied in practice. As such, distance education itself is an innovation in the field of education!

We can all be creative and innovative, but contrary to popular belief innovations are not always appreciated. Remember, Alexander Graham Bell, who invented telephone was turned down by Western Union telling it as a “useless toy”. Scott Berkun, author of the Myths of Innovation, states “Every great idea in history has the fat red stamp of rejection on its face”. Does that mean, we should stop thinking and innovating? No. The real innovators sustain and persist. There may be rejection due to ego, pride, politics, priority, fear, greed, etc, but innovators survive due to their convictions and belief in what they have strived to create. Fortunately, history shows that when institutions do not recognize innovations, it results in entrepreneurship. But, this is also a sign of institutional failure to accept innovations internally, experiment and institutionalize ideas, because it may come from a person in low hierarchy. Fortunately for distance education in India, and for the Indira Gandhi National Open University, we have the National Centre for Innovations in Distance Education (NCIDE), which has various schemes for recognizing innovations within the institution and the system in the country.

For distance education, innovation is an imperative. It is not something that we may do, but it is something that we must do. For example, cost-effectiveness is one of the strong pillars of distance education. If we do not constantly think and innovate how can we maintain cost-effectiveness? One programme may not be cost-effective, but the system as a whole should be cost effective to justify its existence as an alternative mode to provide quality educational access to large number of people. So, we need to innovate new programmes that cater to the needs of the market. We need to use new instructional and learning design principles to develop programmes that are suitable to the needs of the learners. We need to use appropriate technology to make the programme more interactive and useful to the learners. In all the activities, we need to think about the philosophy of open learning, and innovate appropriate distance education programmes that provide access to more people at less cost. Innovations in distance education therefore should follow a system-wide perspective, and IGNOU being a pioneer in distance education, it is the responsibility of teachers and administrators to think about the system as a whole. Particularly, as a national university we are accountable to the nation to show that the system is what it is meant for, and therefore, we should constantly innovate in curriculum design, instructional design, learning material preparation, ICT enabled programme delivery, new programmes, and new technologies in education.
Published in ennovate: NCIDE eNewsletter published on 21 May 2010.