Micro-teaching moments

So, as you may have noticed (just perhaps) that I also run @AcadSkillsMelb and the Academic Skills Facebook Page. And I read a lot of advice about ‘engagement’ or metrics, and I’m like… ‘huh? why would I want people to spend hours and hours on my site? I want to help people research, learn and write!’

As for many of you, social media is a tiny percentage of my job description, and we have no money, and we’re a small, often overlooked, ancillary and optional part of the university.

Normally we manage to see hundreds of people in a week. But social media lets us talk to thousands of people, not in major earth-shattering ways, not in the in depth way of a one-to-one appointment, or a 3 hour workshop… but in tiny nudges.

And those nudges make a difference (I know, because students tell me so). And colleagues appreciate what we do. But I don’t think I’ve ever really explained (except in a policy document deep in a filing cabinet somewhere) what we do and why…  So, share time.

I have a strategy I call ‘micro-teaching moments’.

You’re going to see us in your stream, flicking past, in a welter of puppies, other people’s babies, new shoes, selfies and lunch snaps. We’re going to be in there with quotes from the Dalai Lama, calls to action against sexism, and links to newspaper articles. We’re going to be in there between friendly in-jokes, advice, and ads for mobile games.

You’re on social media, I’m on social media.  We accept the medium. Our motto is not, secretly, ‘get off Facebook and do some work’, but ‘social media is life, and when you’re a student or researcher, research and writing are part of life’.

So, we offer tiny ‘hey, yeah’ moments.

‘Here’s a link to a magic website to help you with your citations: Re:cite’.

‘It’s a PhD thesis, not a Nobel Prize! Don’t believe me? Read the article!

‘Who, whom, whom, who? The Oatmeal has the answer.’

and, every week, ‘What is this #shutupandwrite? Generative Writing & #shutupandwrite


Facebook is a community and a culture, and we behave appropriately there.  Facebook is visual.  We have a big undergraduate audience, many of whom are international students.  Our audience is also other academic skills pages, at Melbourne and around the world.  I have a couple of colleagues who source fantastic content for Facebook. It’s usually their stuff that goes viral.

I can guarantee a hit on Facebook with:

  1. A grammar joke. Every. Time.

  2. Something about perfectionism.

  3. Something about procrastination.

I push stuff out most days of the week, usually at 11am, that keeps things consistently interesting. I am a fan of messages that say ‘get more sleep’, ‘have a clear contention’ and ‘here’s how to get help’… and that’s pretty much it.

Our engagement stats are almost unvariable (but good), Monday-Sunday, and 10am-midnight.  Currently, our only rules are ‘don’t post at 9am and keep 3 hours between posts’.


Twitter is a different community, and a different culture, and has a blurrier relationship with my personal identity (as @katrinafee).  Twitter is textual. We have a big research student audience, and also a lot of academics and researchers. We overlap much more with the wider research cultures around @thesiswhisperer and @researchwhisper; and with the accounts around @MelbSchGradRes and @unilibrary.

There are only two rules for things being a hit on Twitter.

  1. Does the post have ‘It’? That sparkle? [Shorthand for ‘I don’t know, either’]

  2. Do you know 7-8 someones in particular who want to hear about it?

Twitter isn’t really a broadcast medium, it’s an intensely personal and interpersonal, If I can think of 7 people who will love something, that’s a sign that many more people will too. (Below that number is often a signal that it’s really for a smaller inner or in circle; they will appreciate it, but it won’t go any further than us).

I found myself on Friday night giving all my advice in one short list:

So, top @ThesisBootCamp tips? 1. You are smart. You work hard. No hating on yourself. And get more sleep.

Top @ThesisBootCamp tips: 2. Get into the writing zone and stay there. Don’t multitask with extra research, referencing, editing.

Top @ThesisBootCamp tip: 3 Get a writing buddy. Get two.

Top @ThesisBootCamp tip 4: Use the Cornell Method of note taking

— Academic Skills UoM (@AcadSkillsMelb) September 13, 2013

..and that is all.

Which means our Twitter and our Facebook accounts have very little overlap in terms of content, but only have a small number of core messages. And the kind of messages we need to hear over and over and over again.

Get more sleep. Do some writing. You’re okay. We’re here to help.


Succeeding in a Research Higher Degree

Doing a Research Higher Degree (like a PhD) is hard, but lots of people have succeeded and you can too. It’s easier if you understand how it works, this blog gives you the insider view.


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