Using blogs to engage students in their subject outside of formal teaching spaces

Tom Bassindale @WeAreForensic – Sheffield Hallam University

This talk will investigate how effective blogging can be at extending the classroom and encouraging students to explore additional sources of information.

I started blogging in 2012, mainly to highlight my thoughts on professional issues within forensic science.  I now also blog as part of my teaching on the Forensic Science courses at SHU. I write blogs to support my lecture material in various ways; articles are a mix of current issues of importance and expansion of lecture notes.  Forensic science is a subject rich with case studies so I have been using these cases to illustrate key concepts.

Through reading the blogs, and the comments on many, students are exposed to a wide network of specialists.  Through my personal network, particularly developed through Twitter, I get comments from course leaders at other Universities, medics, anti-doping scientists, forensic experts and assorted other interested parties.  These comments are often very useful in further expanding understanding.

I link the students to these blog posts in various ways, in lecture notes and other tools. I have embedded a Pinterest board on each of my module sites on Blackboard and also a Twitter feed.  I include the link (either as a short link or QR code) in the lecture notes when appropriate. I will often start a session the following week with the students discussing the blog.

This semester I have a fairly small cohort in each module (<25) and I will capture the number of links being followed by the students and gain some feedback from them on how they feel this helps to support their learning. I have been tracking the numbers of views the past few years to examine the readership. I will report these results in this talk.