Over the last four weeks, I’ve been through the Blogging101 experience. I’ve had the odd high and low, but overall it’s been brilliant. I’m sending my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to my classmates and the WordPress team. This review is for bloggers who feel tempted to register for the course and those who’ve been taking part themselves.
First, here’s a link to the official BloggingU information – read on for my inside, but unofficial view!
Blogging101 encourages you to experiment, provides support from a friendly community and helps you focus on what you want to achieve. There’s access to editor Michelle and the Happiness Engineers too.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to know exactly what you’re in for, you can find and read all the topics filed away under The Daily Post. I liked the fun of getting a new task at midnight (I’m in the UK), not knowing what it would be. The daily assignments are designed to help you grasp the basics of blogging, post more confidently and become a more thoughtful member of the blogging community, while learning a few technical skills.
Other courses are held during the year, including Photography, Poetry and Writing. Sadly, I think it’ll take more than a WordPress course to turn me into a poet, though I could attempt a bit of doggerel if you like! You’d rather hear about Blogging101? I’m not surprised.
For a free course, it’s amazing. In the first few days, I honestly thought Michelle was several people, all pretending to be one person. She’s a star.
What happens if I don’t complete all the assignments?
There’s no pressure to do tasks in the order they are set – or even to do them at all. And you’re free to retake the course any time you wish.
If I’ve been blogging for some time, will I learn anything?
I think so: one classmate recently said that they’d been blogging for two years but had achieved more in the last four weeks than during all that time.
Reasons to do Blogging101?
- Make friends
- Influence people
- Glimpse behind the scenes at WordPress
Well, you can do all that but I’m only teasing…
- Good range of subject matter covering several levels of experience and ability, plus links to useful resources.
- Access to The Commons, a private site just for people taking the course.
- Feedback from your peers who will provide affectionate support and gently point out where they think you’re going wrong.
- Access to a second dashboard, where you can see all The Commons stats (fascinating if you’re naturally inclined to be analytical, as I am).
- Technical help from the WordPress team and the more technically savvy of your classmates.
- You’ll gain some new followers and find bloggers you want to follow yourself.
- You’ll build your confidence and possibly even change your attitude to blogging.
- You may have worries or ‘daft’ questions you don’t want to share on your blog. The Commons allows you to explore ideas ‘off the record’ with others. They don’t all have magic wands, but sometimes it’s just good to know you’re not alone.
- It’s free!
Reasons not to do it
- It does take time, especially for new bloggers, to really make the most of the course. If you know you’re going to have an unusually busy month it might be better to postpone it (or expect to redo it again later, as many people do).
- If you’ve been blogging for a long time, are very satisfied with what you’re doing, like look and feel of your site, and want to concentrate on posting, perhaps this course is not for you.
- You may well find The Commons too tempting. Can you resist popping in again ‘just’ to see how your new friend is progressing with a problem, to click on a few links to read your classmates’ latest posts, or to find out if anyone has explained how to do something you’re struggling with?
- If you’re not committed, you may give up. I don’t know if that’s a good reason not to try, it’s just an observation. Your assignments are not marked or recorded and you don’t need to sign in each day. Over 7,000 people registered for the first course of 2015. I’m sure New Year’s resolutions and plain curiosity played a part in that: it seemed to have been more than WordPress were anticipating. I’d guess that 30% of the people who signed up gave up after a few days or took very much of a back seat. That’s New Year resolutions for you!
Essential tips if you’re new to Blogging101
You might know these already: I wish I had learnt them all on day 1!
- In The Commons, always right click on each link to open a new tab or window. Otherwise you’ll never find your place again which will drive you round the twist in the early, busiest days.
- You have access to The Commons dashboard to compose and view your own posts exactly as if it was your own site.
- English people only: don’t fall for the joke about running on the decking (as I did, much to my chagrin).
- Give things time to settle down – don’t judge The Commons by the first few days. Stick with it – later in the course, you’ll most likely be seeing some members of the community as wise and trusted friends. That can’t be bad.
- Accept that you’re not going to meet everyone on your course. I had the weird expectation I’d be able to do this. Think of it as being like your home town – would you seriously set out to meet everyone in 4 weeks?
- Make full use of The Commons to explore options and get feedback. Lend a hand (or reader’s eyes) where you can. Try to give more than you take.
- Don’t be worried about treating bloggers like classmates – if you form a great relationship with someone who writes on subjects you wouldn’t ever read about, it’s up to you whether you follow them or not. I think they’ll understand.
- It’s easier to use The Commons on a Mac or computer than on a phone. On the latter you might find yourself accidentally subscribing to lots of e-mails about posts and comments – just unsubscribe using the links.
How did I find the experience?
I’m happy with the progress I’ve made during Blogging101, though of course as with all intriguing subjects, the more you learn, the more you want to know. I still have a decent ‘to do’ list, and I’m considering taking the course again at some stage.
The topics are surprisingly rich and layered – you can explore any one assignment in depth, or quite superficially and still gain something.
My blog is only four months old, but I took the precaution of doing a Lynda.com course before starting out. So I had already completed some of the assignments such as experimenting with themes and setting up widgets.
Honestly, has the look and feel of my site changed much? I don’t think so, but the tweaks I’ve made have made a real difference to me. Every page of my site has changed in some way, though like any website, it’s still a work-in-progress. My blog has probably changed least of all.
Have the subjects I’m covering altered? Not in essence, though they’ve expanded a little.
The course has opened up my eyes to other approaches. Above all, it’s made me much more aware of some of the opportunities and characters in the ‘real’ blogging community. It’s helped me to look – and reach – outwards. I was nominated for an award by my fellow countrywoman, CotswoldViews, which I appreciated, though I decided not to take part. And I met some lovely people: WordPress is a community of writers, readers, thinkers, creatives and enthusiasts.
During the course, I’ve kept to my personal goal of publishing at least three posts per week. I’ve travelled a bit too, this time at home in England, and have got quite a few stories and photos from my travels that I want to share.
Which brings me to my main reason for doing Blogging101. We may think we know what blogging’s all about, but there’s always something we can learn. Keeping yourself open to new ideas, meeting new people and travel all do pretty much the same thing: they provide a trickle charge of energy and enthusiasm to our internal batteries.
So regard Blogging101 as just one more electrical charge. Don’t wait till you’re feeling depleted and looking for a miracle cure – sign up now, have a bit of fun with other bloggers, learn something new and charge up as you go!
If you’ve taken part in Blogging101 and have something to add, or if you’re considering it and have a question, please feel free to leave me a comment.