Pickle Jar favourites: Student blogging at its finest
We love sharing advice and knowledge, so when we were asked on Twitter to recommend some really good student blogs, it really got us thinking about what makes a student blog ‘great’. After a lengthy discussion about design, content and delivery, we pulled together some of our favourite examples that we’ve spotted during our collective years of working in the higher education sector.
This is what we came up with…
Jumbo Talk at Tufts University is one of the slickest examples of student blogging that I’ve seen in higher ed. They’ve managed to perfectly blend corporate and professional with an authenticity of student voice that doesn’t feel forced, too “salesy” or simply just too try-hard. And my favourite characteristic of all? They’re also doing a great job of giving it a solid sense of humour (you can hear my wittering on about humour in higher ed in this recording of my 2014 Confab Higher Ed talk on the topic).
Unlike some institutions that try to focus on individual student blogs, Tufts is a single multi-contributor stream. In doing so, they’ve achieved a solid frequency of posts, with a new one every few days produced by one of 42 contributors to the blog. By not placing an unwieldy expectation on individuals to have to publish too frequently, they’ve ensured its sustainability.
I have to declare an interest – I worked in the communications office at the University of Warwick for 8 years, but that doesn’t influence my choice here. Warwick were known early on (circa 2005) for their blogging platform, but over time interest and activity dwindled. It’s great now to see that the marketing team have found a way to develop these blogs that are no doubt interesting and useful to prospective students.
I particularly like the way they have selected students from across different subject areas so prospective students can get a real sense of what other students on that course do and think about on a regular basis. I also like to clear calls to action for the prospectus and visit days. It would be nice if there was another way to browse through past posts, and see most popular/relevant posts but that’s only because there is so much great content here that could be of interest.
It may not be the prettiest site, and I wish it displayed better on my mobile, but I love the Oberlin student blogs. The 25 bloggers really show their creativity, honesty and passion through their posts. Bloggers are encouraged to show emotion through their writing – to make the audience care about them and their experience – and it really shows.
The team – and it really does feel like a team of students – covers the full spectrum of student life. They openly share tips and advice to new students and I’m sure inspire real nostalgia amongst alumni. There are even a couple of members of the admissions team posting regularly about the application process.
I particularly like how the posts are categorised in the drop downs so you can quickly find topics of interest – with each section also including a really helpful overview of the topic with links to other related content. Surfing through each section shows quite how much valuable content there is and I can lose hours to the authentic stories. They make me want to be a student again (at Oberlin!).
I’ve always been interested in the student experience at Durham University. It’s an ancient institution in a relatively small city, and there’s always been a sense of tension between town and gown. So the Durham University student blogs are a helpful insight to what it’s like for students in that kind of environment.
The site is nicely categorised, and there’s a helpful range of topics to help current and prospective students find out more about life in Durham, societies to join, sporting activities and other events. What I really like, though, are the contributions from postgraduates and recent graduates. Careers advice for students is always better when backed up by those who’ve just been through it themselves, and some of the posts here tell a really helpful story for Durham students.
Oh, and obviously I’ll be looking out for more posts on Durham’s Quidditch efforts in the coming academic year.