'the constellations were in a different place': Using Blogs to Understand Student Learning During Study Abroad

Leslie Pitman, University of South Carolina


While a great deal of research has been done on the pedagogical implications and uses of blogging, and even more research has been done on the effects of study abroad, few studies has investigated the use of blogging as a way that learning is processed during study abroad. This study sought to understand how students use blogs during a study abroad semester and the ways in which the blogs reveal evidence of learning. Eleven blogs, written by students at the University of South Carolina (USC) during their respective semesters abroad, were read, coded, and analyzed in order to answer the research questions. Nine major themes of learning emerged: culture, food, travel, transportation, language, academics, people, reflection, and acknowledgement of learning. These written experiences were then compared with the known effects of study abroad, and also juxtaposed with the USC Study Abroad Learning Outcomes. Based on what is already known about student learning during study abroad and on USC's Study Abroad Learning Outcomes, it was revealed that study abroad students write extensively and in surprising ways about their learning experiences on their personal blogs. Blogs may offer an alternative to the post-study abroad evaluations, instead capturing the student learning as it is occurring during the crux of the study abroad journey, and allowing researchers to see the context of the learning experiences.