I must have been heads down in work earlier this week to miss all the notices about the kick-off of HigherEd BlogCon, a month-long, asynchronous online conference focusing on the use of weblogs in higher education. But I got tipped off by Kate Boardman of the University of Teesside to a Blackboard case study presented as part of  HigherEd BlogCon. The presentation, titled "How the integrated use of blogs and Blackboard can improve a university public relations class," is from Ric Jensen at Northwestern State University in Louisiana.

A public relations course seems like a natural fit for implementing
blogging as a teaching and learning tool. Blogs have become a focus of
the public relations field, in the sense of PR teams monitoring what’s
being written on blogs as PR teams have traditionally monitored and
mined other media, but also in using blogs as a way to relate to the
public and customers. (Gee, do we know any companies trying to do that? ;-)

Given that, I was a little surprised that Ric didn’t seem to be
having his students write their own blogs or a group blog, although he
did mention "inspiring" them to blog as one of the goals of combing
blogs and Blackboad in his teaching. One key way he’s using the two
technologies together seems to be shifting some of the discussion from
Discussion Boards in his Blackboard Learning System course site to the
comments on his Blogspot blog posts. One of the immediate benefits of
that is bringing the discussion out from the course and into the
public. On the other hand, for managing and participating in in-depth
discussions,  I’ve always found following the flow of the flat comment
structure of blog comments to be more difficult than threaded
discussion forums. There’s certainly space for both styles of online
conversation, and it’s a worthwhile conversation to explore which uses
lend themselves to one approach or the other. In any event, Ric has an
interesting, balanced presentation online that’s worth checking out.

HigherEd BlogCon extends throughout the month. Each week has a
different focus. This week has been about blogs in teaching, next week
is oriented around library and information resources, followed by weeks
devoted to blogs in admissions and alumni relations, and blogs in the
context of website development. Each day sees a couple of new
presentations posted to the HigherEd BlogCon site.

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