EduBlog Award for COE distance education expert

What do Elvis Costello videos, tear-jerking Apple Computer ads, and deep debates about “social software” have in common? They can all be found on Christopher Sessums’ weblog, a favorite online haunt for education technology experts from around the world. Sessums, the College of Education’s director of distance education, won “Best Individual Blog” in the 2006 EduBlog Awards.



“I thing the blog is a great place for research with a little ‘r,’ for the things I’m reading or thinking about on my own,” said Sessums, who is pursuing a Ph.D in curriculum and instruction while working at the college. “I’d like to see this medium become a valid reference for research of the more formal sort.”

A weblog, or blog, is a regularly updated website consisting of dated entries arranged in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first. Weblogs first appeared in the mid-1990s, becoming popular as simple and free publishing tools became available towards the turn of the century. Since anybody with a net connection can publish their own weblog, there is great variety in the quality, content, and ambition of weblogs, and a weblog may have anywhere from a handful to tens of thousands of daily readers. Most weblogs have a commenting feature which allows readers to ask questions, add comments, or respond to the author’s work.

For the past two years, Sessums has been writing about the intersection of education and technology on a personal blog hosted by, an online community for educators. His musings on topics such as the media “prosumer” (media users who both consume and produce content) have drawn a steadily growing crowd of admirers. His site currently gets 600 to 800 new visitors every week.

“I draw my inspiration from the readings and research I do in class, issues I encounter at work,” he said.

While his audience seems to consist mostly of professionals in education technology, Sessums likes the idea of opening these discussions to anyone with an Internet connection.

“We think of the university as a place where you have to pay to get close to this professor or that professor,” he said. “I think of the blog as a form of public scholarship that makes these discourses available to anyone.”

The EduBlog awards were created three years ago by a group of ed-tech bloggers. Like all things Internet, the awards confer no “official” status and come with no prize money – but winners have the satisfaction of knowing they’ve survived instense peer review.

“These awards are voted on by members of the blogging community, which is why I’m truly honored, and more than a bit surprised, to be selected,” Sessums said.

Sessums has some tips for beginning bloggers. First, find a specialized subject and stick with it. Before his current venture, Sessums tried to attract an audience with a blog that covered education in general. It flopped.

“There just wasn’t enough focus,” he said.

Next, find out which blogs in your subject area are the most popular. Whenever you respond to posts on those blogs, make sure you direct readers back to your site.

Finally, offer something people need, whether it’s a map or chart you’ve created, an application you designed, or reliable links to content they can use.

“For instance, in class one day I heard about a site called, which allows you to create Venn diagrams and other charts for the Web for free,” he said. “So I passed it on to my readers. If you can provide people with useful information, they’ll come back to you.”