As an online instructor you need to stay current in multiple fields – your specific academic area of expertise, technology, education, as well as professional development and career opportunities. How can you keep track of it all? A couple of weeks ago I posted a list of helpful blogs for online students. Now it's time to focus on blogs for instructors! Managing the flow of information is a constant challenge. My goal here is to provide you with a place to start and help you set up your reading list so that it's something you will want to come back to regularly.
Ten Blogs for Online Instructors
- Higher Education News – This is a dynamic industry and there are many resources to keep you current on the latest ideas and debates about the future of higher education. Inside Higher Ed is one source you may want to explore. This site currently hosts 20 separate blogs, each one focused on a specific area of interest. Some post more frequently than others. Take a look at GlobalHigherEd and The World View to get started with this site.
- Educational Technology – The term educational technology covers a lot of ground and there are many popular educational technology blogs out there. As you select a blog to follow consider how you use technology as a delivery mechanism for learning materials and to create a virtual environment that encourages and facilitates learning. You will find professors, teachers, publishers, and vendors are all great sources of information! Here are two to consider: The Ed Techie by Martin Weller, a professor at the Open University in the UK, and Teacher Reboot Camp by Shelly Terrell, a technology and ESL instructor.
- Research – As a faculty member, full-time or part-time, there may be an expectation for you to be involved in research activities. Blogs can be a source of research ideas, provide additional information for your current research projects, and a way to conduct and disseminate research. Search for blogs written by researchers in your field and consider adding one of the following to your list: Research Blogs and Research Blogging are collections of links to blogs that are used for research purposes.
- Technology Skills – The fast pace at which technology is evolving and new devices enter the market requires us to step up our efforts to stay current. Look for blogs that provide some insight about what is on the horizon, cover the latest innovations, and provide tutorials and tips. Lynda.com is a software training service that also offers information in a blog. Tech-Tips provides how-to posts on hardware and software topics. You might also like Tech Tips for Educators from the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
- Professional Development – The goal of adding this category is to find a source of events and materials that you can use to direct your professional development activities. Look for online webinars, searchable libraries, and guest speakers. You may even find venues where you can share your expertise! The Sloan Consortium is just one organization to consider. This group focuses on online teaching and learning and offers free webinars and fee-based workshops.
- Professional Associations – You may already be a member of one or more professional associations. Do they have blogs? Look for this format on their websites or in newsletters you receive via email. Consider expanding your association search to include groups specifically focused on education and technology, such as the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) and the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). These groups provide online venues for you to add your expertise to discussions and build your network.
- Jobs & Careers – Your career is a process, a series of positions. Navigating the process of building an academic career can be challenging and may lead you to take different paths. You'll find a number of career experts who blog about academic careers, as well as academics who blog about their own career experiences. Search for a blog that provides some reflection and advice, as well as links to job postings. The Chronicle of Higher Education hosts a series of blogs that might be helpful to you. These range in topic – start with On Hiring: Advice on Managing the Academic Career.
- Leaders in the Field – What are you teaching? Who are the leaders in your field? With millions of blogs currently online, you will find multiple options related to your academic discipline, interests, and niche. Search for blogs by your favorite authors, researchers, and speakers, and add at least one of these to your list.
- Your School – (or Schools) As an online instructor you may be teaching at multiple institutions. Schools are using blogs these days to disseminate announcements and provide information about programs and activities. You'll find these at the college/university level, as well as published by the Library and Faculty Development groups. Find the blogs at your school and add at least one to your list.
- Trending Topic of the Month – Your pick.Take your blog list to the next level by selecting a new topic to explore on a more detailed level. This may lead to you adding new blogs to your list or it may be a short-term thing. Either way, this technique will help you extend your knowledge a bit and perhaps find new inspiration. A few topics to consider: mobile learning, digital humanities, social networking, Internet security, and competency-based learning.
Manage Your Subscriptions and Refine Your List
Try a free blog reader to help you manage all of this information. These tools allow you to subscribe to multiple blogs with one account. You will then have a central access point you can refer to for the latest posts from all of your favorite blogs. Here are just a few blog readers to consider:
As you build your reading list you will find additional blogs to add while others become less relevant. This process of fine-tuning is ongoing. Your blog list is your list, so make sure you are maintaining it to suit your needs.
Blogging in Academia
As you explore all of the potential blogs available to you, it may come as a surprise how many are published by academics. Higher education institutions are getting involved in blogging and professors are independently writing their own blogs. This form of writing is gaining ground as a way for academic professionals to reflect on topics of interest, provide details about their research, and initiate discussions about current issues and events. All of these voices contribute to a larger community and discussion.
Blogging in academia is still very new and not always well-received. There are voices on both sides of the debate. Alex Reid, a Professor at SUNY Buffalo, presents the argument in his post On the Value of Academic Blogging. He is a proponent of academic blogging – and the benefits of connecting with a larger audience and interaction with others through comments – as a way to publish in addition to traditional journals and books. Blogging still has challenges ahead since it is not generally considered as valuable in the context of tenure and promotion.
Share Your Discoveries and Expertise
As you read all of these new blogs, forward interesting links you find and articles that you think are important. Share with your colleagues and students and help them refine their reading lists. If you are not already blogging, think about how you might use this writing format to share your experiences and expertise with colleagues in your field. Discover your voice and join the blogging community-at-large.