Blogs at PSU Growth

My friend and colleague, Brad Kozlek has been updating some of the stats for the usage on Blogs at Penn State. He put together a little spreadsheet and shared it with me the other week. I was sort of stunned to see not the total numbers, but the jump from Spring 2008 to Fall 2008 use. I think it is fair to say it is growing considering last Spring we ended up with about 800 blogs. Interestingly we did a week over week view and saw an increase even in the middle of a semester. That to me is an indication that people are beginning to see the blogs as more than a blogging platform and are looking at them to manage websites, resumes, ePortfolios, and other things. You know, a real publishing platform.

Blogs at PSU Adoption

Blogs at PSU Adoption

What is amazing about this to me is not just the total number of blogs (which is cool to see at 3,932), but the number of posts. This is a good indicator to me that people aren’t just setting up their blog out of curiosity … they are actually writing in them. If you look at last week’s numbers (19,456 posts), we’re looking at right around 5 posts per blog. Add to that the 7,700 comments and we’re seeing the birth of some serious writing and conversations. One other thing I am noticing is how the total number of users is coming into line with the total number of blogs. Early on we were seeing a user create a number of blogs. It seems that we are perhaps doing a good job of talking to people why one blog utilizing a strong tag/category structure is more powerful in the long run. Perhaps … but interesting to see these numbers come closer together — right now there are only 239 more blogs than there are users, compared to August when there were 372 more blogs than users. Finally, I am quite literally stunned by the fact that users are uploading so many assets through the system. I am encouraged to see that maybe people are seeing the blog as a place to share and store pictures, documents, audio, video, and other objects. I would not have guessed that the Blogs at PSU would be managing 10,771 assets at this point.

These are by no means close to what our course management system, ANGEL sees in utilization — where there are currently 79,646 students with at least one course in ANGEL. ANGEL has been in play at PSU since 2001, so it would be interesting to go back and look at adoption a year into that initiative. Maybe I will if that is of interest. We’ll keep watching and reporting — I am really wondering what the numbers will look like at this time next semester … I am encouraged and energized by the possibilities.

9 thoughts on “Blogs at PSU Growth

  1. Hi Cole
    It would be great to get a snapshot of what kind of activities people are using blogs for – eg how many courses have blogs as a mandatory element, who is using it as an e portfolio, learning journal, social networking, etc etc.
    and how many are staff and how many student, and at what levels eg undergrad, postgrad, phd ?

  2. Fascinating and useful post, Cole. Congratulations on your success.

    I second Paul Lowe’s question about mandatory instances. I also wonder what your team thinks of the increase – what do they see as drivers?

  3. Paul and Bryan … We don’t quite yet know about mandatory use, eportfolio, and the other specifics. Since it is all one platform (Movable Type) it is hard to really know what is what. We will be doing an evaluation later in the semester that will be sent to those in the system to see how they are using it, what their reactions are, and if it was mandatory for a class will they will continue writing. We’ll also get a simple demographic breakdown. I can say that last spring a little more than half of the 800 or so blogs were made by staff — and quite a few were part of an effort with Information Technology Services to get our staff writing.

    Bryan … I’ll ask the team to share their thoughts on adoption. I think it is a combination of factors … the simplicity of the environment has been a game changer. More and more faculty are aware and are interested in seeing students take advantage of spaces like this and are asking them to write in the open for class. Finally, I think the notion of portfolio is catching on — we have a couple people here on campus have spent a great deal of time working with faculty and students alike to promote portfolios across the University. This activity has been going on for years and now with the platform we are starting to see wider use. Just my two cents … let me see what others think!

  4. At the end of each semester we used to conduct a survey of student web space for the purpose of finding out to what degree this service was be utilized and to also get an indication of what students were using this space for. Our last web usage survey took place June, 2007. ( )
    With the advent of www_protected space, the blog tool and prolific use of other non-PSU services this survey didn’t seem to be as helpful.

    Now, perhaps, it is time to target the use of Moveable Type usage with a similar type of survey in order to answer the question, “What type of return are we getting from this investment?” Server statistics are good quantitative indicators, but given the figures presented perhaps it is time to jump to qualitative indicators to help us better understand usage.

  5. A survey is definitely in order to get at some of these questions of how blogs@psu is being used.

    In one way we could say that blogs@psu is being used for a diverse set of purposes. It is simply a publishing platform. People are using it for general websites, eportfolios, blogging, podcasting, asset sharing, discussion spaces.

    At the same time, I think we might be seeing these different uses converging into one sort of “blog-folio website”. Dr. Zembal-Saul’s work on blogs as portfolio ( ) gets at the break down of the wall between the traditionally more static notion of portfolio and the highly dynamic nature of blogs.

  6. we use blogs for enhancing reflective practice and find it very effective, in much the same way as a traditional learning journal, but with the greater interactivity and searchablity that web 2.0 allows; and we are just planning to roll out blogs as an e portfolio solution as well as possible as an easy and quick way to create course content, so we would be fascinated to see how this is working at penn state…

  7. I think a huge reason for the increase is simply that word is getting out. We’ve been lucky to be involved in a few course redesign projects where we’ve had the opportunity to suggest using the Blogs@PSU platform and it has been overwhelming accepted. As word travels, more and more people realize the benefits.

    There are also courses that have been requiring people to create ePortfolios or sites for years and the instructors are just learning of Penn State supporting its own. While some are still teaching other platforms, I think we’ll see a huge switch in the next few semesters so that instructors don’t necessarily have to be the experts at the program… that’s what the “Help Desk” will be for. And, since the help desk is a Penn State entity, care will be more personalized.

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