Online platform for PhD students?
September 12, 2011 7:45 PM   Subscribe

What kind of online platform can I use to run a PhD writing/goal setting group?

Inspired by one of the ideas in this book, I'm starting a writing/goal setting group for students in my PhD program (music education, for those interested).

The idea is to get together, publicly set short term goals writing goals, and be able to hold each other accountable. I've done this in the small scale (2-3 people), and it works when we can all get in the same room. Unfortunately, as we've decided to expand the group, I'm realizing that getting everyone in the same room just won't work. Because it's an education degree, a lot of people are still teaching, or have families, or a bunch of other commitments that keep them from all being able to sit down together.

So, I need ideas for a web platform that would accomplish this (for people of varying levels of technical proficiency). My lovely wife suggested a Facebook group, but some of the people in the group aren't active on there. Same goes for a Google doc. A listserv was another idea, but I'm not sure how often I'd have to mail out.

I realize that I might not be able to meet everyone's needs. Ideally, it would be visible, but without me having to send out an e-mail every day.

In my mind, I have the idea that people would send me their short-term writing goals, I'd post them, and then I'd send out an e-mail when people have checked in with how they're doing. Or something like that. I'm moderately proficient with the technologies and whatnot, so if you have a solution that involves a bit of tinkering, I'm up for that.

If you have any experience with an online group like this, or know of a good platform for something like this, please help! Additionally, if you've run something like this before, how did you do it without it becoming a complete time suck on your part?
posted by SNWidget to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It might seem silly, but something like Chore Wares or might be fun to integrate. Our group is using Canvas:Instructure which is like Blackboard/WebCT, only a zillion times better. You can probably get a free account there. You can send out announcements, report progress in a thread, etc. Moodle would also work for this, and there's probably a free server out there somewhere.
posted by mecran01 at 7:53 PM on September 12, 2011

PhinisheD has this.
posted by k8t at 8:00 PM on September 12, 2011

I did something similar during the last year of my PhD. We called it "Motivate to graduate". Four of us decided to meet once every other week for dinner (rotating houses) where we would state goals, update each other on goals from the previous week, discuss why we weren't able to complete some of them (exchange suggestions) and also use it as an occasion to socialize. The host would then send out an email with that week's goals and we would then pull up that email at the next meeting. It worked great! We made loads of progress and had great discussions.

Until this happened:

Unfortunately, as we've decided to expand the group, I'm realizing that getting everyone in
the same room just won't work.

Friends would say "Hey I heard you guys are in a group. Can I join?" Not wanting to be rude, we said "Sure!" Soon our group expanded to 15 people and we had very little time to discuss individual goals to the point that we completely got off task. Record keeping got sloppy and people would say "haha I totally forgot what I said I would do". That's when I (and a few others) quit the group and just finished our dissertations. So my best advice to you is to not make the same mistake.

If you really want to set goals, write, and finish your PhDs, then break this up into smaller groups. You wont need any special tools to manage tasks. If you want to be polite and accomodate everyone, it might kill the original goal entirely.
posted by babby╩╝); Drop table users; -- at 10:55 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I did this with six other PhD students just using a livejournal. we would each post our goals for the week to the livejournal, and then check in with further posts as we achieved them. We aimed to always follow up by the end of the week, and used email to check up on each other when people went MIA. Sometimes one person or another would make a summary post, for example when we all set a similar writing challenge (2000 words by Friday) or something. Y
posted by lollusc at 2:27 AM on September 13, 2011

Agh, I hadn't finished typing. I was going to say

you can integrate various widgets too (polls etc), which is sometimes helpful. It worked really well for us: we kept it up for several years, and we all finished!
posted by lollusc at 2:28 AM on September 13, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice - epecially what you said, babby. That sort of insight is great.

It looks like we'll only be about 6 people (if that), so maybe it'll be ok.

I'm going to look into the platforms; I've used Moodle, and I'm not necessarily sold on that. I'm also going to play with Canvas.

Worse comes to worse, I'll end up on Facebook. I'll post when I figure out my solution (and how it's working).
posted by SNWidget at 7:13 PM on September 15, 2011

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