Not Your Grandpa’s Blog

A blog to support our ELI 2009 talk

Cole’s Page

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PSU Basics

  • More than 90,000 students
  • More than 22,000 World Campus enrollments
  • More than 5,000 faculty and 10,000 staff
  • 24 locations across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Our blog platform is managed and run by our core ITS organization.  We built it upon existing infrastructure to make it ultimately scalable to our overall population.  We built upon our Web-Access authentication system so students could move in and out of their blog dashboards with a single sign on.  We also made the decision to publish static html pages into Penn State Personal Webspace (PASS).  What this means is that we utilize the 5 GB of space that everyone gets without worrying about ownership of content, the opportunity for users to get their stuff out, or the need to create new policies to govern blogs.  That has turned out to be a wise decision.

We use MovableType as our blogging platform.

Blogs at Penn State Back Story

We launched our “blogging” service about 18 months ago after some real heated discussions about affordances of a system like this.  Our argument to our primary IT group revolved around creating an environment that was an open publishing platform — not just a blog service.  When we stopped talking about blogs they began to understand the power.  On thing we’ve heard them say over and over is that the Blogs at PSU make their infrastructure look great!  Visit the Blogs at Penn State

Blogs at PSU

Blogs at PSU

The growth hasn’t been at the webmail level, but it has surprised us.  Last year we saw growth that really blew us away on a couple of levels.  The big stories being the use of blogs for the promotion of course conversations and ePortfolios — from the start of the Fall 2008 semester we saw 3,700 new users, 3,500 new blogs, 16,360 new posts, and 5,840 new comments.


We are promoting the idea that faculty shouldn’t require a course blog, opting instead to talking to students about how one space is more powerful.  One overall space can be used across a career by effectively employing categories and, more importantly, tags to keep things organized across their academic and personal lives.  This is ultimately the direction we are taking this — a Learning Life Stream.


enablerWhat is emerging is that people are getting the fact that blogs are powerful personal content management environments.  Because of the way one can instantly post, tag, search, and edit students can organize materials in an online space like never before.  This notion has lead to some really interesting uses — the most powerful being the use of blogs for program assessment.

Stacks of papers can become a thing of the past as students move their content into integrated online spaces that are fully searchable and belong to them.  Some departments have worked to identify and clearly articulate the program outcomes so as students create work (evidence) they tag it with the program outcome statement so it is easily aggregated together.  When the time is right our Pack it Up tool allows program assessors to create a fully functional archive and move it into a program assessment environment.



Some Examples




Written by Cole Camplese

January 8, 2009 at 4:02 pm

One Response

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  1. […] platform – not just a blog service.” Students end up using their blogs as “powerful personal content management environments,” basically publishing everything they do (personal and academic) to their blogs. If students […]

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