Marcus Lee, a student in his junior year at Penn State, started blogging for the university this semester. His passion for writing has pushed him to investigate how technology is affecting the way students and teachers communicate both inside and outside the classroom.
We write because we have to. It is one of the oldest yet meaningful ways to communicate between human beings. From the moment every person started school all the way through their careers in their respective professions, writing played an important part in their success. Colleges put major emphasis on writing courses, trying to prepare students for the workplace setting on how to be professional and accurate with whatever they are writing. Penn State University has a course, English 202, which is a required course for undergraduates on how to write and read critically and effectively. There are four different types of this course: A-Social Sciences, B-Humanities. C-Technical, and D-Business. However what we are seeing from these courses is an adaptation to the change in technology. More and more of these courses are moving toward electronic course work because of the rapid evolution of electronic communication.
In particular, English 202C has become the main driver for the English 202 courses. Through the Education Technology Services, English 202C moved to a digital format to allow students to publish some of their work online. What was realized was that students were simply typing up papers and turning them in, with no one able to read them accept peers and the professor. Publishing the work online allows the student to reach a larger audience while still projecting their voice through a piece of writing. Today's workplace is more than simply typing a report and handing it to a supervisor or a group of subordinates. Company personnel has to be able to communicate through online networks in order to make communication cheaper and faster.
Alison C Jaenicke, who has been teaching her English 202C course online since spring 2009, finds that students writing in an online environment is something that will come increasingly important over the course of their careers. Even more interesting was the fact that she does not see blogs as a way that students are communicating better with her as the professor, but with other students in the course. The blog has allowed them to interact more. And something like this can translate to the workplace. Increasingly we are seeing jobs give personality tests, trying to figure out who is sociable and can fit in their work environment. Students interacting prepares them for big companies where communication both in and out of the workplace is key.
Jaenicke recognizes that students do not use the blog for much more than classwork, but some students do go on to express other views. These "other" views are key to the success of blogs at Penn State. Students go beyond what is required because they feel comfortable writing in such an environment, and that can translate well to their writing future.
The future for Jaenicke and other English courses looks bright as far as using the online arena as a means to have students publish their work. Jaenicke also uses blogs in her English 30, 232W, and 487W courses. Starting as a "pilot project" for the English Department, the integration of student work into the "Digital Age" will better prepare students for the writing requirements of the workplace setting. The intention all along has been to start with 202C, but expand this project to all 202 courses as well as English 15 and 30. But professors like Jaenicke have taken the initiative and expanded the blogs to other courses. This can only be a positive step toward making students successful beyond the classroom.
Write because you want to. Write because you have to. It is what is expected.