An Analysis of Blogs as a Teaching Tool as Perceived by Hospitality Management Students

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1 Vol. 5, No. 2. ISSN: RESEARCH NOTES AND REPORTS An Analysis of Blogs as a Teaching Tool as Perceived by Hospitality Management Cihan Cobanoglu University of Delaware, Newark, USA DOI: /johlste Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism Education Abstract Blogs online diaries have become a common marketing tool in the hospitality industry. They also promised to be an effective educational tool. This report analyses the use of blogs as a learning tool. from two hospitality technology courses were asked to create a blog and add postings to this blog throughout a semester. At the end of the semester, they were given a survey to measure their perceptions about blogs as a learning tool. A large majority of the students found the task of creating blogs easy with proper instructions. A majority of the students also found blogs effective in learning new material about class subjects. The students perceived that the interaction among peers increased due to the blog assignment. The report includes the instructor s experience with the blog assignment. Introduction A blog, also called weblog or webblog, is defined as a frequent, chronological publication of personal thoughts and Web links (Weil, 2006). In principal, a blog is not different from a webpage. However, a blog can be created with the touch of mouse clicks and no experience in web authoring IS needed (Wu, 2005). The blog is updated instantly and allows readers to post comments (Siemens, 2002). The postings in a blog are also viewed chronologically, therefore giving readers a sense of continuity. Purpose and Objective The purpose of this paper is to analyse hospitality management undergraduate students perceptions of blogs as a learning tool. The objectives of this paper are: 1) to give instructions to set up a blog by using a free blog website (blogger.com); 2) to discuss the author s experience of using blogs as a teaching tool in a hospitality class, and; 3) to present hospitality undergraduate management students perceptions of blogs as a learning tool. Cihan Cobanoglu is Assistant Professor of Hospitality Information Technology at the University of Delaware. He has over 5 years of industry experience and research interests include the use and impact of technology in the hospitality industry.

2 Background Blogs have been commonly used by travellers to post their experiences about the places they visit, stay, entertain and eat (Price and Starkov, 2006). According to Price and Starkov (2006), blogs will play an important role as a marketing tool in hospitality in the very near future. Blogs will be useful in two directions for a hospitality organisation: 1) as part of the hotel defensive strategy; such as reviewing hospitality blogs and identifying trends among the travellers, and addressing the negative points brought by bloggers, and; 2) as a marketing tool in hospitality. A search on BlogPulse (2006) revealed that blogs that contain the keyword travel increased from 3647 blog sites (0.55% of all blog sites) in February 2006 to 4,835 blog sites (0.85% of all blog sites) in August This indicated a 32.57% increase over about 6 months (BlogPulse, 2006). According to BlogPulse, there are 33 million blog websites as of August 2006, and roughly 800,000 blog postings have been recorded. On average, 50,000 new blogs are created daily. These numbers show the magnitude of this tool as a personal and commercial feeling and experience expression. Blog Creation The author used a free blogging website (blogger.com) to explain how to create a blog. The process of creating a blog is a fairly simple, three step process as explained by the Blogger.com website: 1) create an account; 2) name the blog; and 3) choose a template. At step one the user s name, password, and address are collected. At step two the user is required to name the blog website so that it can be identified by readers. In addition, an identifier blog address is also required. In the third step the user is asked to choose one of the templates for the blog website. Once the blog is created, the students can add as many postings as they like. All postings are listed chronologically in the blog. Readers can freely view the contents of the blog and post comments. The owner of the blog can visit the comments left for their blog postings and the communication continues. This way, an asynchronous interaction can take place. Student Survey An online, cross-sectional, descriptive questionnaire was developed. The instrument had three sections. The first section had 21 statements about the use of blogs in a hospitality technology class. In the second section, there were behavioural questions about the use of blogs in the class by the students. The final section had demographic questions. For the statements, a 4-point Likert scale (1=Strongly Agree; 4=Strongly Disagree) was used. A no opinion option was also provided to the respondents to prevent the mid-point syndrome (Weems and Onwuegbuzie, 2001). Even though mid-point proponents have suggested that inclusion of mid-point increases measurement reliability (Courtenay and Weidermann, 1985; Madden and Klopfer, 1978), Krosnick et al. (1996) suggest that using a mid-point in surveys often results in failure to optimise question answering fully. Furthermore, a four-point scale was deemed more useful than a five-point scale, since it may have produced central point bias, where some respondents may have selected neutral even though they may or may not have an opinion (Converse and Presser, 1986). A convenience sample was used since asking other instructors to use blogs for a semester, and then surveying the students might have been impractical. Therefore, the author designed an assignment to be given to students in his classes, a Hospitality Technology course, during the Spring 2006 semester. There were 51 students taking the face-to-face class, while 13 students took it online. The assignment was called Blog Assignment and was semester-long. The assignment asked students to create a blog on blogger.com. were given a video manual on how to create a blog. Once students had created their blog, all web addresses of the blogs were posted on the class website. Five times in a semester each student was asked to read an article about hospitality technology and add a blog posting about the article (a paragraph summary of the article and one paragraph of reflection about the article). The following week, students were asked to visit two other students blogs and then post a comment on their blogs about the postings they had made the previous week. In this way, each Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism Education 5(2),

3 student added five blog postings and ten comments on other students blogs. The questionnaire was given to students in the final week of the class. Findings The online survey was sent to 51 face-to-face students and 13 online students. 42 of the face-to-face students responded, with an 82.3% response rate, and 10 of the online students responded, with 76.9% response rate, yielding an 81.2% overall response rate. Approximately 36% of the students were male and 64% were female. This is in line with the major s male/female ratio. The majority (65.4%) were fourth-year students, 23% were third-year students, and 11.5% were second-year students. This is normal, given that it is a fourth-year level course. About 67% came to the university as first year students while about 33% came as transfer students. About 20% of the respondents had a GPA over 3.5 out of 4.0; 40% had a GPA between 3.1 and 3.5; and 36% had a GPA between 2.6 and 3.0. Perceptions The students were presented with 21 statements about blogs as a learning tool. The results are shown in Table 1 below. Statements Mean Std. Deviation Posting messages to blogs is easy Creating a personal blog was easy After the first blog, I felt more comfortable with posting and reading blogs I believe blogs are interactive Because of the blog assignment, I learned something new Posting a blog and reading 2 other classmates' blogs per week are fair for HRIM 450 class You should keep the blog assignment for future classes A blog assignment is valuable The blog assignment has increased my learning Reading other classmates' blogs was educational The blog assignment was academically valuable to me I see blogs as way to express myself I believe blogs increased the level of meaningful intellectual exchange between students I will read other people's blogs If given the choice, I would have opted to participate in the blog assignment I liked blogs I will use blogs in the future Blogs are a credible source of information I will use blogs in my academic research in the future At first, creating and posting a blog was difficult I would have done the blog assignment even if I was not given the credits (points) Table 1: Student Perception Statements about Blogs (n=52) In general, students agreed that creating (M=1.62) and posting messages to blogs (M=1.58) was easy. However, the learning curve was much better as they posted more blog messages. perceive that blogs are an interactive means of learning (M=1.90) and they stated that they learned something new because of the blog postings (M=1.92), and this increased their learning level (M=2.12). As part Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism Education 5(2),

4 of the blog assignments, students were required to post five messages to their individual blog. The only condition the instructor set for these blogs was that they had to be related to the class material (hospitality technology). Following the week of postings, students were required to read two other classmates blogs and post a comment. When questioned, they agreed that this workload was fair (M=1.96) and reading two classmates blogs was educational for them (M=2.14). The majority of the students stated that they would not have done the assignment if no credit was given (M=2.88). This indicates that grading is a clear motivation, as with other assignments. An independent t-test was conducted to detect the differences between the face-to-face students and online students. The only difference detected was in the statement, I would have done the blog assignment even I was not given the credits (points). Online students were more likely to do this assignment, even without points, than in-class students. This indicates that online students may be more motivated to learn than in-class students. Analysis of Variance test was conducted to detect differences among different self-reported overall GPA groups of students. There are two significant statements among different overall GPA groups at α=0.05 level: If given the choice, I would have opted to participate in the blog assignment and I will use blogs in the future. Tukey post-hoc analysis shows that as the GPA of the student increases, their agreement level with these statements also increases. Motivation Respondents were asked, having experienced the blog assignment, and knowing what you know now, would you participate in something similar in the future if the activity were purely for formative purposes (i.e. it did not count at all towards the formal assessment for the class)? The majority of the respondents (61.5%) agreed with the statement. Some of the reasons given by those who did not agree with the statement were: no educational value, it was too difficult (technically), not interesting, and too-time consuming. A large majority of the respondents (94.2%) did not have any prior experience with blogs. This indicates that instructors do not widely use blogs as a teaching tool. The author wanted to find out how the students perceived blogs as a hospitality marketing tool once they were introduced to them. About 80% of the respondents indicated that blogs can be an effective marketing tool for the hospitality industry. Given that a large majority did not have prior experience with blogs, this strong statement supports the idea of ever-growing blog travel websites such as tripadvisor.com, which has more than 5 million travellers posting blogs on over 200,000 hotels and attractions worldwide (TripAdvisor, 2006). However, respondents did not believe that blogs would replace word-of-mouth advertising in the hospitality industry. About 65% of the respondents would recommend blogs as a learning tool to others. Instructor Experience Having used the blogs for the first time in class, the instructor made the following observations. Some students resisted the blog assignment, by complaining about not knowing how to create and make blog postings. The instructor spent extra time with these students to explain how to do it. This resistance is normal with any kind of new technology being used in class. The same resistance had been experienced when instructors first used Web and/or in teaching. However, with time, as technology adoption curves indicate, the majority of students will become familiar with the tool and less resistant to it. The blog assignment gave the instructor a great chance to include a lot of reading material. If these articles were just given to students to read, it might have been perceived as a lot to do. However, with the help of blogs, it was ensured that each student read at least five articles about the subject topic and read ten article summaries and reflections. The comment part of the assignment also ensured they reflected on the summary they read. Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism Education 5(2),

5 Conclusions and Recommendations Based on the findings of this study, the following conclusions and recommendations may be made: 1) Online students are more likely to do a blog assignment than in-class students even though they may not be given credit (points) for the assignment. This may indicate that online students are more motivated than in-class students. 2) For a large majority of the students, this assignment was their first exposure to blogs. Even though blogs have existed for more than 4 years (Johnston, 2002), few instructors use blogs as part of their teaching. 3) feel more comfortable with blogs as they post messages. Therefore, instructors may create a test blog assignment where they would assign no grades. This would build up confidence with students, especially for those of them who had no prior experience. 4) indicated that they would not have done the blog assignment if no credit was given. Therefore, instructors may need to offer some points to blog assignments as a motivation tool. 5) Instructors might use blogs as an interactive way of discussion outside the classroom. may choose the topics to write by themselves, therefore, the interest level will be higher. 6) Travel blog websites are becoming increasingly common (Price and Starkov, 2006). Tripadvisor.com website, an independent traveller blog site, has over 5 million blog postings about 220,000 hotels and attractions (TripAdvisor, 2006). Hospitality Marketing instructors may include blogs as part of their marketing curriculum, if not doing so already. Resources The following resources might be of use to instructors. 1. Online tutorials (video and screen shots) on how to create a blog in Blogger.com at: 2. How you SHOULD use blogs in education. (Article) at 3. Online resource page for educators who want to use blogs in classes at: Limitations No study is without limitations. This study is no exception. One limitation was the sample. This study reports the results of student perceptions about blogs in only two classes in a north-eastern university in the United States. Therefore, the results cannot be generalised. Further study may be needed to detect the effectiveness of the blogs as learning and teaching tool. References BlogPulse (2006) Retrieved August 9, 2006, from BlogPulse website: Courtenay, B. C., and Weidermann, C. (1985) The effects of a don't know response on Palmore's Facts on aging quizzes. The Gerontologist, 25, pp Converse, J. M., and Presser, S. (1986) Survey Questions: Handcrafting the Standardized Questionnaire. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage. Johnston, T. C. (2002) Teaching with a Weblog: How to post student work online. Paper presented at the meeting of the Academy of Educational Leadership Conference. Nashville,TN. Krosnick, J. A., Narayan, S., and Smith, W. R. (1996) Satisficing in surveys: Initial evidence. In M.T. Braverman and J. K. Slater (Eds.), Advances in survey research, pp San Francisco, CA: Sage. Madden, T. M., and Klopfer, F. J. (1978) The "cannot decide" option in Thurstone-type attitude scales. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 38, pp Price, J., and Starkov, M. (2006) Building a Blog Strategy in Hospitality: Grow Customer Relationships and Direct online Revenue. Retrieved from Hospitality Net Web Site: Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism Education 5(2),

6 Siemens, G. (2002) The Art of Blogging - Part 1. Retrieved August 16, 2006, from elearnspace Web Site: TripAdvisor (2006) Retrieved August 19, 2006, from TripAdvisor.Com website: Weems, G. H., and Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2001) The impact of midpoint responses and reverse coding on survey data. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 34(3), pp Weil, B. (2006) Top 20 Definitions of Blogging. Retrieved August 16, 2006, from Marketing Terms website: Wu, W. S. (2005) Using blogs in an EFL writing class. Paper presented at the meeting of the 2005 Conference and Workshop on TEFL and Applied Linguistics, Department of Applied English, Ming Chuan University. Retrieved August 16, 2006 from: Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism Education 5(2),

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