Running into a grade-school teacher at the grocery store often turns out to be an awkward situation for both the student and the teacher. Why does this happen? Often children view their teachers as doing only one thing—teaching. Their teachers’ lives outside the classroom do not exist, and they most certainly do not go to the same Kroger. As the child matures, he realizes that teachers have families and are involved in things outside of the classroom.
At the University of Cincinnati, some professors go beyond the call of duty to advocate for their university, staff, and students by way of Profpost, a blog archive which members can post to and react to posts submitted by other professors. Discourse between professors at the same university allows them to learn from each other while often providing great conversation. Currently the economy of the United States is in a bit of an “overhaul” situation with budget cuts in education on the chopping block. In the coming months, Profpost will be an avenue for university professors to discuss the problems or triumphs in higher education and how it can be further developed to get the most for the probably declining “buck.”
Profpost is an effective discourse community that reinforces teamwork in the classroom between the academics who educate students at the University of Cincinnati and elsewhere. Website design largely contributes to its effectiveness. ProfPost’s layout and organization allow both member and visitor to explore the site easily and intuitively. Posts contain engaging diction, a variety of modes of transmission, and focus which maintains reader interest. Both the organization of posts and the nature of the opinions themselves will allow Profpost to adapt to the ever-changing issues in higher education.
As with any academic course, a framework must be established in order to successfully grasp the more complicated material. Websites, in particular advocacy websites, must adopt the same ideology. Layout and organization of website can lead to clear transmission of ideas or muddled thoughts scattered without meaning. Advocacy blog archives are no exception and are, arguably, prime examples of the necessity of functional framework. Profpost possesses a great layout with thoughtful organization that enables its viewers to immerse themselves in the website quickly and easily. On the homepage of the archive, a center column draws readers in with poetic blogs or some other collection of related works. Above the main stage attraction is a series of tabs that allow the visitor to access the background information to the website. Everything from the mission statement to guidelines for submissions can be located easily using the tabs. Horizontal to the collection in the middle are compartments that organize all of the posts within the archive. Date of the post, topic, tags within, and other blog sites to find related ideas create an aesthetically pleasing layout for the archive in its entirety. Appealing to the viewer is the direct effect of good framework which leads to success for the site.
In a study done by K. Dørum and K. Kine, websites were designed with spatial metaphors in mind. Three layouts were presented: a house, a town and a more social layout. Their research concluded that, “If success and satisfaction of use rely on reduced levels of disorientation and improved recall (i.e. knowledge acquisition and application) rather than how quickly the task can be carried out, the space should be designed to reflect familiarity,” (Dørum and Kine 135). Portraying the importance of organization over speed of access in websites, their conclusion supports the framework of Profpost. The “rules” of the discourse community are clearly organized at the top under the tabs and the “rooms” to the right side collect the blogs in a purposeful way. The framework provided through sound organization enables spotlight on a variety of topics within higher education which allows for the seamless transition with issues of the time.
Additions to the framework of a good advocacy site, the blog posts themselves, must capture the audience’s interests and spark response in the members of the discourse community. To encapsulate the audience Profpost contains posts with phenomenal language, multi sense appeals, and pointed focus, creating invigorating texts. Timelessness of the components allows the blog archive to remain pertinent and professional through whatever changes occur within higher education.
Possibly one of the most changing elements in higher education over the years has been the language used. Academics of the Renaissance certainly didn’t use the same language that was used in the 1950’s, and the language of the 1950’s positively is different from that which is used today. Obviously an online advocacy site wouldn’t be possible in the 1950’s but presently the language shifts are up to date in order to draw readers into a topic or idea. As a primary venue (an advertisement of sorts) for attraction of an audience, the title must use language that says, “Look at me I am interesting.” In the “Submissions” post of the website Liz Tilton, webmaster of Profpost, warns, “If it doesn’t start with a bang, it won’t see the light of day on our pages.” Professors answer with great “bangs” with titles such as; “Reality is Broken” by Page Beetem, “Requiem for the Shift Key” by DL Diva, and “How Can We Light Their Fires?” by Tom Haines. A good start in terms of language, however, this is but surface value. Delving into the posts themselves reveals more riveting language.
“Requiem for the Shift Key” exemplifies exciting use of language in its emotional exposition on the grammatical errors found in students writing, in particular capitalization. DL Diva uses sarcasm such as, “These students have had English 101 and 102, or at least, they have transferred these courses from another institution. (I checked with a few advisors, just to be sure.)” Entertainment and a silent self chuckle drive the viewer to read on about the lack of capitalization in writing to find common jargon and sayings. “In my effort to resurrect a capital letter or 2,” offers a common verbal saying combined with academic imagery of resurrection (Diva). Both professors and students can appreciate the language as it precipitates comedy and relativity. Dual audience appeal allows the posts on Profpost to directly target those whom changes in higher education affects.
Presenting an audience with quirky and insightful language may not be enough to fully reach them and turn advocacy into activism. Often multimodal texts will enliven the people who interpret them to take action. Profpost takes variable modes one step further by involving students of the University of Cincinnati’s candid interviews about topics in their Voices on Main series. Verbal and visual connections can be made to the topics students are interviewed about. Not only does this allow students to voice their opinions on their education experience, it also enables professors to access firsthand accounts of issues the students find important. Reflections can be made about what students are saying and the discourse allows progressive talks as to what can be done to improve both the classroom experience and the university as a whole. This also helps topics stay current with the times. As times change some professors aren’t aware of the issues that students are facing which can lead to misunderstandings within the classroom. Contextual reference to current issues goes a long way in an education setting and helps the student-faculty relationship tenfold. Issues will change and, for the most part, professors and students will be on the same page however, some conflicts will not be as up front in which case primary sources, the students, can provide information. Adaptability of discourse texts allows topics, posts and discussions to stay current and coherent without loss of attention or perspective.
Audience losing interest within the written posts poses a colossal threat to transmission of ideas. In today’s society visual and audio texts seem to hold the attention of a youthful and or active audience much better than written word. Focus on the idea and its applications are keys to debunking this trend. Focused posts make for focused readers. Whether it is a professor on a lunch break or a student completing an assignment, clear and concise ideas must be posted in a focused, original manner.
Liz Tilton gives advice of shortening the posts in order to maintain audience attention in her “Submissions” post. Arguably the best technique for focused posts is condensing thoughts to remove clutter. Tom Haines throws this caution to the wind, disregarding the brevity clause, in his post “How Can We Light Their Fires?” One of the more lengthy posts in the archive, how does Haines command focus within the post and his readers? Rhetorical questioning as in, “So what is it they truly seek?” at the end of his introduction leaves the audience chomping at the proverbial bit for him to answer his own question (Haines Profpost). The answer provides closure, only to follow with more puzzling thoughts. A definite strategy to keep the audience from wavering, the up and down of question and answer or thought and reflection entraps the audience to his topic of remodeling higher education.
Profpost revels in its ability to capture and maintain an audience. Focus allows for issues current among the academic community to acquire proper devotion and recognition. Reflection and commenting soon follows and the thoughts are being shared. Any issue, if given the proper focus, can be transcended to an audience, creating timelessness within the discourse community.
Issues change, ideas are voiced and forgotten, and the way both are communicated will be revolutionized again and again. Higher education, in the wake of current issues and those not yet foreseen, will also change with time. Profpost, a discourse community consisting of professors at the University of Cincinnati and beyond, facilitates advocacy for many subcategories of higher education. From the classroom to the prices in the bookstore, everything is covered in an entertaining and coherent manner. Website framework guides for easy access to viewers while the posts’ language, variety, and focus draw the audience in to think and reflect. Blog archiving acts as time capsules to each year and the thoughts and ideas it held. Yet the flexibility and charisma found on Profpost insures that the discourse community will shape shift with the University of Cincinnati to whatever lengths.
Beetem, Page, “Reality is Broken.” Weblog entry. Profpost. 15 March 2011. 27 July 2011 http://profpost.uc.edu/2011/03/reality-is-broken/.
Diva, DL, “Requiem for the Shift Key.” Weblog entry. Profpost. 13 February 2011. 27 July 2011 http://profpost.uc.edu/2011/02/requiem-for-the-key/.
Dørum, Kine. [No Article Title] Interacting with Computers 23.2 (2011): 129.
Haines, Tom, “How Can We Light Their Fires?” Weblog entry. Profpost. 4 May 2009. 27 July 2011 http://profpost.uc.edu/2009/05/how-can-we-light-their-fires/.
ProfPost. CET&L at University of Cincinnati, 29 Apr. 2008. Web. 28 July 2011. <http://profpost.uc.edu>.
Tilton, Liz, “Submissions.” Weblog entry. Profpost. 11 December 2011. 27 July 2011 http://profpost.uc.edu/submissions/.
Author David Gillespie prepared the above essay for his 2011 University of Cincinnati English composition course 289, the focus of which was to analyze discourse communities. We’re delighted Gillespie chose to analyze ProfPost, and we certainly want to make his work public here. And hats off to both Gillespie and Professor Allison Hammond for tackling such academic work. We’re really proud of them.