Higher Education

Why Do Students (Not) Blog?

Leeds (UK), February 2010 - Positive impacts on learning through blogging, such as active knowledge construction and reflective writing, have been reported. However, not many students use weblogs, even when appropriate facilities are offered by their universities. Researchers Monika Andergassen, Reinhold Behringer, Janet Finlay, Andrea Gorra, and David Moore from Leeds Metropolitan University, UK have introduced their findings on the reasons for this apparent aversion.

While motivations for blogging have been subject to empirical studies, little research has addressed the issue of why students choose not to blog. This paper presents an empirical study undertaken to gain insights into the decision-making process of students when deciding whether to keep a blog or not.

A better understanding of students' antipathy to blogging may help decision makers at universities in the process of selecting, introducing, and maintaining similar services. As informal learning gains increased recognition, results of this study can help to advance appropriate designs of informal learning contexts in higher education.

The method of ethnographic decision-tree modelling was applied in an empirical study conducted at Austria's Vienna University of Technology. Since 2004, the university has been offering free weblog accounts for all students and staff members, not bound to any course or exam. Qualitative, open interviews were held with three active bloggers, three former bloggers, and three non-bloggers to elicit their decision criteria. Decision-tree models were developed out of the interviews.

The modelling worked best when the decision process was split into two parts, one model representing decisions on whether to start a weblog at all, and a second model representing criteria on whether to continue with a weblog once set up. The models were tested for their validity through questionnaires developed out of the decision-tree models.

Thirty questionnaires were distributed to bloggers, former bloggers, and non-bloggers. The results reveal that the main reasons for students not to keep a weblog include a preference for direct (online) communication and concerns about the loss of privacy through blogging. Furthermore, the results indicate that intrinsic motivational factors keep students blogging, whereas stopping a weblog is mostly attributable to external factors.