Using a collective blog to support the transition between work and formal learning in a Master’s course

Florence Dujardin @afdujardin – University of East Anglia

Social media are affecting the semiotic landscape of higher Education in new ways. They offer alternatives to VLEs for supporting students’ meaning-making that can emulate digital professional practices and create opportunities for developing online public persona. Blogs and other media therefore offer interesting new spaces for studying the development of digital identities as expressed through students’ online writing. This paper explores how mature students enrolled on an online Master’s programme in Professional Communication used a collective reflective blog, drawing on both professional and academic knowledge and practices as they formed a learning community.

Blogging enabled them to face – and meet – a dual challenge: acting as digital residents and making the transition from the workplace into postgraduate study. To understand their blogging practices, this paper takes an Academic Literacies approach building on Creme’s and Lea’s work on the transitional spaces afforded by reflective writing and online writing.

This approach views writing as a situated social practice through which students negotiate a sense of identity as they engage in various academic practices (e.g. essay writing, reading, postings in digital spaces). It is well suited to increasing our understanding of blogging asan emerging academic genre, of particular value in professionally oriented disciplines and/or fieldwork and placement contexts.

Using virtual literacy ethnography as the methodology, this paper examines students’ blog posts and responses, focusing on the stance and voice that students adopted in the collective blog during an academic year, with particularly attention to interactivity, intertextuality, metadiscourse, and epistemic modality. It also draws on interviews and access logs to frame an understanding of the experience of sharing a reflective blog. The aim to identify writing practices that might be encouraged or harnessed to help students manage digital journeys and position themselves on the academic-professional continuum.