University of Southern California, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2023 Proceedings
Publication year: 2023
Pages: 780-786
ISBN: 978-84-09-49026-4
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2023.0249
Conference name: 17th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 6-8 March, 2023
Location: Valencia, Spain
Educational blogs are one way to distribute information online. Research has also shown that blog viewers tend to focus more on the content presented since readers are not usually multi-tasking (i.e., exercising, driving). Blogs are currently an option for an effective yet safe environment to share information online. COVID lockdown protocols resulted in an increase in remote learning and virtual communication globally. The aim of this study was to determine if educational blog viewership (i.e., number of views, time of reading, percentage of re-visitors) was affected by the increased use of online resources due to COVID lockdown.

Since September 2018, the USC (University of Southern California) Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry has been publishing educational blogs about orofacial pain and oral pathology on its online dental programs website. Data about total page views, unique page views, average time of reading (in minutes), and dates of publication were collected from the USC Ostrow Online Dental Programs blog analytics website. The percentage of returning visitors and the number of days since publication were calculated. In addition, the number of words per blog was determined using Microsoft Word. Blogs were further categorized, by content, into: examination/diagnostic, treatment and comprehensive blogs. Analytics were collected for the top-viewed blogs published between December 2018 and July 2022.‎ Data was collected separately based on three chronological categories: (i) before March 2nd, 2020 (i.e., pre-COVID), (ii) between March 2nd, 2020 and May 10th, 2021 (i.e., during the 1st wave), and (iii) after May 10th, 2021 (i.e., after the 1st wave). Multivariate linear regression models were employed to assess the study aims.

The analyzed blogs had a mean of 1049.5 views pre-COVID (SD (Standard deviation) = 900.4, n = 18), 3705.2 views during the 1st wave (SD = 3847.9, n = 36), and 6210.5 views after the 1st wave (SD = 4752.5, n = 24). On average, blog views were significantly higher during ‎(ß = 2531.5, P = 0.03)‎ and after ‎(ß = 4669.2, P = 0.001)‎ the 1st wave of COVID versus those before, regardless of their date of publication, discipline, and content. The mean time spent on a blog was 45 seconds longer during ‎(ß = 0.76, P = 0.001)‎ and one minute longer after the 1st wave ‎(ß = 0.99, P < 0.001)‎ compared to pre-COVID. This analysis was adjusted for the number of words, discipline, and content of the blogs. On the contrary, the percentage of blog re-visitors decreased significantly both during ‎(ß =-1.96, P < 0.001)‎ and after ‎(ß = -3.59, P < 0.001)‎ the 1st wave.

An educational blog focused on diagnoses and treatments can be a useful tool to help practitioners gain knowledge in a time-efficient, on-demand manner. This study indicated that COVID lockdown protocols increased the demand for dental specialty educational blogs at USC even beyond the 1st wave. The viewers’ tendency to spend more time on viewing blogs may be related to the decreased availability of in-person educational experiences during the pandemic. As the total number of blogs increase, viewers may be more likely to view new blogs rather than to return to previously viewed blogs. More research should be conducted to determine if this spike in reader interest is a global occurrence across all disciplines.
Blogs, learning objects, educational resources.