PRISM

Using social media to reinforce student engagement, learning community and academic skills: the Politics blog during lockdown.

PRISM

Using social media to reinforce student engagement, learning community and academic skills: the Politics blog during lockdown.

In lockdown, the Politics blog has become an invaluable tool for communicating with our students, providing a platform for academics and students to engage with world events – and each other. 

The Politics blog was initially established for communicating externally.  Initially, the blog focused on communicating team members’ research activity to the academic community.  More recently, the blog became a valuable tool to communicate with future students about the benefits of studying Politics at CCCU, as well as a useful repository for recording TEF-able teaching activities. 

However, since lockdown, the blog has been repurposed as a tool for communication with our existing student community. 

There has been a lot of politics in recent months, including Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement.  These issues greatly affect our students.  The Politics team wanted to support our students to engage with these issues, to encourage them to reflect on the impacts of these on their own lives and to enable our students to share their insights with us. 

The blog enabled the Team to do this, in the following ways. 

  • Communicating with our students about current events enabled the Team to share their perspectives and link current events with their modules.  This highlighted the currency of students’ learning, whilst demonstrating real-world applicability of their academic learning. 
  • The Team included our students’ perspectives in the CEFEUS research project, ‘The Impact of COVID-19 on Kent and Medway’.  Encouraged by Dr Sarah Lieberman and Dr Soeren Keil, many of our students contributed their own research, which was published in the blog, boosting student’s academic skills (inc. research, writing) and social media skills.  Jean Monnet funding for this project also enabled some students to be paid for their research time, giving a boost to their bank accounts, as well as their CVs. 
  • The blog developed our learning community.  Our students have continued to be engaged with each other and the Programme team throughout lockdown.  Perhaps more importantly, students have engaged their home communities with their studies, through the blog, sharing their and others’ content with non-University family and friends. 
  • The blog has given our students a voice.  This has been particularly important during the Black Lives Matter movement, enabling our black students to speak for themselves. 

Analysis of blog traffic data reveals that readership increased dramatically during lockdown.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that this is especially true amongst our students and their wider communities.  The blog has also had a considerable amount of press attention, which has raised the profile of CCCU and the Politics team. 

The Team has the following tips for successful use of blogs:

  • It takes time to learn how to blog.  Persevere with the technology, it does get easier! 
  • Invite students to contribute, to build community, confidence, engagement and skills. 
  • Remember to support students in developing their writing style; and do build in time for editing, to ensure that the blogs reflect well on the student, the Programme and the University.  
  • Integrate the blog with other activities.  Community and student voice are strong themes for the Politics Programme in the NSS.  The blog is a fantastic way to extend activity in this area, whilst simultaneously raising awareness of other activities, reinforcing their success. 

You can find the Politics blog via: https://blogs.canterbury.ac.uk/politics/

Politics blog

Figure 1: The Politics blog, accessed 24 August 2020. 

For more information on the Politics blog, please contact Laura.Cashman@Canterbury.ac.uk

For more information on L&T in the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Social Sciences, contact Susan.Kenyon@Canterbury.ac.uk

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