The SoTL Advocate

Supporting efforts to make public the reflection and study of teaching and learning at Illinois State University and beyond…

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Roadblocks, opportunities, and a call for blog contributors across three topics

Written by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL and Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at Illinois State University

In informal conversations with friends and colleagues, I’ve heard from many that writing a blog post is a scary proposition, for what are very understandable reasons. Authoring a blog is new to many, represents a different form of writing, and are not (typically) recognized in most disciplines as a scholarly artifact. Folks have asked me why they should take on the work of writing a blog in the face of the challenges they perceive. My response? At their core, blogs represent a way to broaden the audience who knows about the work that you’re doing. Think about the narrowness with which our scholarly work is typically shared. We publish in journals and present at conferences with other people who do similar work to what we do. There’s tremendous value in that. However, looking beyond our expected professional audiences, publishing blog posts allows for an easy crossing of disciplinary, institutional, and/or social borders to engage more and different stakeholders in your work. There’s tremendous value in that form of publishing, too. That said, I’m biased. I really enjoy blogging and find it to be incredibly enriching both personally and professionally.

From my experiences as a co-creator, frequent contributor, and current editor of this blog, I want to offer two thoughts for your consideration. One focuses on the biggest roadblock to contributing to a blog (shared anecdotally with me by many) while the other focuses on the biggest opportunity.

  • Roadblock? It seems as though the most difficult thing for contributors to find is their “blog voice.” Ideally, blogs are accessible, jargon-free, and provide a high level summary of a process, idea, or project. I usually tell people that writing a blog is not like writing a paper for peer review. Instead, it’s like writing a letter to folks who have different experiences, priorities, or levels of understanding of your topic than you might. I firmly believe that while it may be initially challenging to develop a less regimented style of professional communication, engaging new audiences with your work makes it a worthy endeavor. How do you overcome this roadblock? Read the blog(s) you wish to write for. Examine the tone, format, and general feel of the already published posts to inform your choices as a potential blog contributor.
  • Opportunity! I wrote recently about purposeful amplification of SoTL work being a major conference theme at #ISSOTL19. One of the ideas I reported on in that blog came from a session presented by Lockhart and Wuetherick (citation below), who discussed planning for the eventual impact of your work when you engage in initial planning of a SoTL project. Writing a blog post tied to your SoTL work is an excellent way of planning for impact. And, while impact can mean a variety of things (e.g., impact across an institution, a discipline, across disciplines, in the public space), the bottom line is that if more and different people are exposed to your work, the greater the chance at increasing its impact. This blog, for example, has had over 12,000 views in over three dozen countries this year alone. Trust me when I say that a broader audience exists for your work. Blogging can help you access that audience.

The information shared above is not coincidental! I share it because I am seeking to represent the voices of more and different SoTL stakeholders on this blog. There are several topics I’d like to propose as a foundation for potential contributors to build upon:

What DOESN’T work? We routinely talk about, publish, and present information related to what does work in our SoTL. Rarely (almost never, actually) do we talk about what didn’t work well at all. There’s value in sharing reflections on things we wish we had done differently, outcomes that weren’t positive, or lessons we have learned from errors made in the process of SoTLing. There’s no shame in learning and growing, and that’s what happens when things just don’t work. Consider sharing those experiences!

What am I reading? Share a link to a site, blog, article, book…anything you’re reading. Create a blog post that briefly summarizes the subject of your reading and share how it can be used/applied in a learning context. Or, share how you/your practice as a teacher or learner evolved as a result of that reading. Another option might be to speak to how you’ve shared or translated that work to other stakeholder groups of personal or professional interest. There is SO MUCH out there to digest that isn’t brought to a wide audience. This call is a chance to make that happen!

Topic of your choice! What are you thinking about in terms of SoTL? Power, voice, partnerships, outcomes, roadblocks, methods, community… Chances are, SoTL Advocate readers would like to hear more! Summarize a project you’ve completed. Give us a think-aloud (okay…write-aloud) about how you plan a SoTL project. Talk about how you’ve developed SoTl networks or provide examples of SoTL advocacy. The only restriction on topic is that needs to relate to SoTL. From there, the sky is the limit!

Please consider contributing a blog post. Share the opportunity with others, and please feel free to contact me ( with questions or to brainstorm ideas or thoughts that might become a future blog topic!

Blog references

Lockhart, W. & Wuetherick, B. (2019). Using SoTL to advance institutional change: Exploring student success in foundational courses. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

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Blogging in the SoTLsphere — A bit of reflection and a call for folks contribute!

Written by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Chair in SoTL and Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at Illinois State University (

Almost 5 years ago, while working with Kathleen McKinney (who was then ISU’s Cross Chair) as a SoTL Scholar-Mentor, one of my duties was to establish a blog to share information related to SoTL with campus stakeholders. Though it felt like a reach, we also hoped to engage folks from outside ISU as blog readers and contributors, but we were unsure that would happen. I had blogged before, but solely as a personal endeavor…a diary of sorts that was only shared with a handful of people. Kathleen was completely new to blogging. We knew we had much to learn. Despite all this, and with hope in our hearts, we sallied forth and the SoTL Advocate was born in October 2014.

Our aim was to create a space to encourage discussions about SoTL and highlight interesting SoTL work, varying our content to appeal to a wide variety of stakeholders. We weren’t sure what sort of impact our content had, in terms of reader interest, but our numbers of views continued to increase steadily as you can see from the table below.

Year Number of Views Number of Visitors
(blog launched 10/31/14)
835 493
2015 4306 2202
2016 5869 3764
2017 6692 4501
2018 7633 5154
2019 (through May 1) 3493 2350
Total for life of blog 25,678 18,464

Happily, these views have come from all over the globe, with 250+ views from ten different countries across four continents.

As viewership continues to grow for the SoTL Advocate, so does my desire to not just increase views and viewers. I want to increase stakeholders’ engagement with the blog. If SoTL is a Commons, then blogging about SoTL should be, too. While guest bloggers are featured in this blog from time, to time, my current goal for the SoTL Advocate is to feature the work of a broader number of contributors, representing varied cultural, geographical, personal, and institutional perspectives. Please consider this blog post an invitation to contribute your thoughts about any aspect of SoTL: a project, a reflection, a failed attempt at SoTL, methods that are new or different (to you or to the world!), or advocacy/outreach ideas or case studies. Tell us how you’ve applied SoTL to your teaching/learning contexts. Share what you’re reading. Present point and counterpoint about a hot topic. Let your voice be heard in a new and different way.

Here are the guidelines I offer prospective contributors, in case you — or someone you know — might be interested in contributing a post:

Prospective blog authors should submit blog manuscripts to Jennifer Friberg (, SoTL Advocate editor. Blogs should be approximately 750-1000 words. Blogs should be written in a friendly and accessible manner, absent unneeded disciplinary jargon that might make a general SoTL readership unable to benefit from accessing the content of the post. Visuals (e.g., open source pictures, photos, videos) are encouraged, as more people will “click” on a blog link if a visual is attached!

Submission of a blog does not guarantee acceptance for publication. All blog submissions are reviewed by the SoTL Advocate editor for content and form prior to notification of acceptance status. Blog posts may be conditionally accepted for publication pending revision/clarification. Blogs accepted for posting will be published as soon as possible following acceptance.

Thanks to those of you who have been so very supportive of this blog and the work Kathleen and I started here together. Sustaining a blog isn’t an easy task, but my work here has been and remains one of my favorite SoTL advocacy-type tasks.

Please do consider joining the ranks of SoTL Advocate contributors. Let me know if you have questions!

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Assessing the Reach of the SoTL Advocate Blog

Written by: Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL and Associate Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Illinois State University

The SoTL Advocate blog started as an advocacy and outreach effort to provide news, ideas, and resources for those interested in SoTL at and beyond Illinois State University in November of 2014. Our intention at that time was to post one blog per week and see what happened, assessing the process periodically. Here we are, 30 months later, so it seemed like a good idea to see where things stood in terms of the status of this blog.

The SoTL Advocate uses for publication of the blog. Statistics are available for all blog managers to use that yield interesting data related to readership and reach of the blog as a whole and of individual blog posts. I accessed the stats for the SoTL Advocate last week and am pleased to report the following:

  • Since November of 2014, we have posted 133 individual blogs and have counted 7197 visitors to our blog. These visitors have combined for 12,119 views of various blog posts.
  • The SoTL Advocate is accessed, on average, 5 times/day by unique readers.
  • Blog posts have most typically been categorized as SoTL resources (65 tags), ideas for SoTL research (47 tags), SoTL news (43 tags), publishing (43 tags), or SoTL report/opinion (18 tags).
  • While posts have been written primarily by Kathleen McKinney and I, there have been over 20 guest bloggers who have had their work posted on the SoTL Advocate.
  • In any given week, the most popular time for this blog to be read is Monday evening at 7pm (CST).
  • Since November of 2014, the SoTL Advocate has been viewed over 10,000 times by individuals in 56 countries. Countries most frequently accessing the blog in that timeframe are as follows: the USA (8208 views), Canada (1074 views), Australia (692 views), the UK (349 views), Malaysia (192 views), the Philippines (186 views), Brazil (136 views), South Africa (81 views), India (77 views), Ireland (77 views), and the Singapore (62 views).

blog reach

  • The most popular blogs (measured by views from unique readers) posted to this site have been:
  1. Developing SoTL Research Ideas and Questions
  2. SoTL Applied: Evidence-based Strategies for Better Classroom Discussions
  3. SoTL Methodology Series #1: Case Study Research
  4. Application of SoTL: Strategies to Encourage Metacognition in the Classroom
  5. Might the 4M Framework Support SoTL Advocacy?
  6. Do We Need to Be Meta-theoretical in our SoTL Work?
  7. SoTL and Institutional Review Boards
  8. Reflections on the SoTL Scholar-Mentor Program
  9. Ideas for Engaging Students in SoTL: Notes from a Panel at the Annual Teaching-Learning Symposium at ISU
  10. Tips for Publishing SoTL Work

I have to admit that the readership of the SoTL Advocate was much larger than I had anticipated, and that we truly have a global readership. It would seem that the blog that Kathleen McKinney and I started has realized its mission (at least in part!) of being a useful resource for individuals interested in SoTL at and beyond Illinois State University. For that, I am thrilled. Thanks to the readers who have read and shared blogs from this site. Your readership and support is very much appreciated!

This recent assessment of the SoTL Advocate has led to clear areas of emphasis for this blog in the future:

  • Our global readership needs to be represented with global authorship! While we have posted blogs written by individuals from Canada and England, it would be wonderful if we could feature SoTL opinions, reports, and ideas from outside the United States with greater frequency.
  • The SoTL methods series (started in 2015 then shelved to cover other topics) will be resurrected in 2017. The three methods blogs that were posted were among the most read in the blog’s history.
  • Applied SoTL blogs are also quite popular, with posts featuring information about how to apply extant SoTL research being frequently accessed by readers. As such, resources will be devoted to increasing the number of applied SoTL blogs, moving forward.

More ideas are percolating, so stay tuned. Feel free to comment with suggestions below, as inspiration is always welcome.

Again, thanks for your support of the SoTL Advocate!