One of the goals we had for WB was that it would be a tool (but not the only tool) that could help people who wanted to engage in some kind of personal development activities. Now that blogs have been running for a while, there are some mildly interesting things we can say about its use for PDP:-
- The PDP activities which take place within blogs aren't highly visible. It's tempting to assume that if you can't see any PDP posts, then PDP isn't happening, but that argument is flawed, I think: PDP posts by their nature are often restricted to small groups such as Contributors or Me&MyTutor or My Module, or they're marked as "Show just on my blog". In the last four weeks, for example, there have been over fifty posts in the PDP category or a PDP-related category, and over 95% of them have been invisible to most readers. Is that a good number? It's hard to be definitive about that, although my personal view is that it's much better than I would have expected. But at any rate, it's not zero.
- There's an interesting question about how broadly you choose to define PDP: a narrow definition might be something like "Reflection about my course or my studies or my career aspirations". But a wide definition might be more like "Helping me understand or come to terms with things which have happened, or helping me work out what to do in the future." Obviously there's lots of room for debate about what kind of definition you favour, but equally, your view of the success of a blogging tool in supporting PDP depends on the definition you find credible.
- We've always expected that the use of blogs to support PDP (and learning/research activities) would take much, much longer to emerge than the use of blogs for social or personal publishing. WB has been live for just seven months now, but we're thinking more in terms of several years before we can judge whether or not it's a useful tool for these sorts of activities. Our research and evaluation work starts from the assumption that people are more likely to use blogs socially and personally before they decide to use it for other purposes, and the interviews that we've done so far, and the studies that we've commissioned are also beginning to bear this out.
So the future is, as always, uncertain. But the evidence, I think, supports a cautious degree of optimism.