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Academic Coaching & Writing

I. Academic Blogging: My Blogging Experience

Sep 19, 2013 by Lee Skallerup Bessette

Academic blogging, or perhaps more appropriately, blogs written by academics, or academics who blog, is gaining popularity and traction. In a 2003 piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, writer David Glenn asks, “Is this a revolution in academic discourse, or is this C.B. radio?” The revolution, such as it is, is still in progress, but as more and more voices add to the number of academics who blog about their research and academia, the genre gains visibility and legitimacy.

The purpose of this series is to introduce you to academic blogging and address some of the questions you might have. These topics include:

  • What is an academic blog?
  • Types of academic blog posts
  • Why YOU should blog
  • Becoming a better writer
  • Developing a vision for your blog
  • Blogging for the wrong reasons
  • Choosing the right platform
  • To be or not to be (yourself) when you blog
  • Finding time to blog
  • Building an audience
  • What’s stopping you?

Before kicking off the series, I want to introduce myself and describe my experience as an academic blogger. In early 2010, my family had moved the previous fall to a rural town for my husband’s job, and I was unemployed. Since I was stuck at home for hours at a time while my two very young children napped, I decided to be proactive in creating a virtual community. I also needed an outlet. Academic blogging was not my first choice, actually. I started blogging about trying to start swimming again and then about children’s television shows. Both those attempts faltered, and I finally started to blog about what I really cared about, what I really wanted to write about, which was higher education.

I started College Ready Writing using the Blogger platform, provided for free by Google. I also signed up for Twitter and began to engage with a variety of different people interested in education at all levels. Being unemployed, I threw caution to the wind and wrote about a variety of issues, did not censor my critiques, and was experimental. I didn’t have a set blogging schedule and wrote when the inspiration struck me. My audience was small, but consistent, and I was growing a community on Twitter and through the blog itself.

During this period, I also took a chance and answered a call-for-contributors at the blog, University of Venus. Soon after I began writing for them, they moved to Inside Higher Ed (IHE). They published my piece, How Higher Ed Makes Most Things Meaningless, a blog post that subsequently was picked up on a number of other outlets, and is still one of the top blog posts on my blog. I also received the support and encouragement from a group of dedicated bloggers, academics, and activists (not to mention a good editor).

In late July of that year, I was offered a full-time, non-tenure-track teaching position at the same university where my husband worked. The money, while not great, was needed, and I missed teaching. So in August, I started teaching five writing intensive courses. My blogging productivity, however, did not decline. I wrote more posts during the five months I was teaching than I had the preceding five months when I was unemployed. I continued to blog about issues in higher education, this time from a contingent faculty member’s perspective, and I also started blogging about teaching and pedagogy.

In January of 2011, I picked up one of the largest spikes in visits to my blog by writing about my experience of virtually attending the annual Modern Languages Association conference via Twitter. I was now an avid Twitter user and had grown my community and blog following. That summer, I introduced a new feature, Bad Female Academic, which helped my blog top 10,000 hits in one month. I received a couple of invitations to move my blog to a larger platform, and in October 2011, College Ready Writing made the move to Inside Higher Ed.

Usually I blog two or three times a week. I also maintain a blog devoted to my current research project, as well as writing for other online publications. The last time I checked, my most-read piece on IHE had over 12,000 page views. Through my blogging, I have been invited to give talks, guest lectures, workshops, and even conference presentations and contribute book chapters. I’ve also been fortunate to be involved with a large community of blogging academics and scholars who are supportive and inspirational to me. Some have become close friends, people I would have probably never met or connected with otherwise.

I talk about academic blogging with the “zeal of a convert.” But I am aware this it isn’t always easy. The purpose of this series is to present to you how you can get started in academic blogging and make the most out of your academic blog. I welcome questions, so please don’t be afraid to let me know what kinds of topics you’d like to see me address.

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