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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.

Image: Doug Specht

Doug Specht


Dr Doug Specht is a cultural geographer and educationalist. His research explores themes related to environmental justice, human rights, and access to education, with a focus on the production and codification of knowledge though cartographic artefacts and in educational settings. In recognition of his work, he has been appointed as a Chartered Geographer and Chartered Teacher. In addition, he has been awarded Advanced Teacher Status, alongside being a Senior Fellow of AdvanceHE. Dr. Specht has authored numerous articles and books, including Mapping Crisis, the Routledge Handbook of Geospatial Technology and Society, the Media and Communications Student Study Guide and Imagining Apocalyptic Politics in the Anthropocene. He writes regularly on ethics, environmental and human rights, education, and mapping practices in such publications as WonkHE, The Conversation, Geographical, and for Times Higher Education. Dr Specht is a member of the editorial board of the European Journal of Geography, Westminster papers in Communication and Culture, and Anthropocenes – Human, Inhuman, Posthuman. He is Chair 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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