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Using Visual Network Analysis to go Beyond Self-reporting Studies of Blogging

A Research Paper by Doug Specht, published by Journal of Learning and Teaching in the Digital Age

Given the increasingly prominent position of digital technologies in the Higher Education classroom, this paper uses a mixed method approach to explore the ways in which blogging might be used to support student learning through a large MA dissertation module, comprising students from five courses. Taking as it impetuous the idea that blogging can create a community to support students in the writing of their own dissertation. The research saw 179 students invited to undertake blogging over a 10-week period, with proscribed activities for eight of these weeks. The networks built by students were modelled through Gephi, and this data was supplemented with two surveys carried out before and following the module. The results showed a mild trend towards the blogs not producing a community, nor creating an environment in which self-reflective practice was forthcoming. The role of the teacher also appeared to become solidified as the sole motivating factor, leading to a low uptake in posting on the blog, and even lower in commenting. The work also highlights the two-fold issue of students being fearful of giving negative, coupled with the sense that peer feedback was not worth as much as staff feedback, significantly reduced the development of the community, and of critical thinking. The work concludes that while blogs might have some potential, this case demonstrates that they need to be more deeply embedded within the pedagogy of the course, and not used as an ‘add-on’.

Keywords: Blogging; Community; Technology Enhanced Learning; Digital Learning; Higher Education


Cite as: Specht, D. (2019) The Issue of Blogging: Using Visual Network Analysis to go Beyond Self-reporting Studies of Blogging. Journal of Learning and Teaching in the Digital Age. Vol 4, No 2: p.10 – 24.

Doug Specht


Doug Specht is a Chartered Geographer (CGeog. FRGS) and a Senior Lecturer (SFHEA) at the Communication and Media Research Institute, within the University of Westminster. His research examines how knowledge is constructed and codified through digital and cartographic artefacts, focusing on development issues, and he has written on this subject in numerous books and papers. He has also spoken on topics of data ethics and mapping practices at conferences and invited lectures around the world. He is a member of the editorial board at Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, and sits on BSi committee IST/36 Geographic Information, where he focuses on geographic data in the SDGs. Doug is additionally a trustee of the Santa Rosa Fund, an educational charity; and a core member of the Environmental Network for Central America.


3 July 2019
Research Area
Published By
Journal of Learning and Teaching in the Digital Age
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