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The 11 Mediums of Higher Ed Communication

How do academics talk to each other?

February 17, 2020
 
 

How do academics talk to each other?

This is not a question of what we are saying. Instead, I’m asking about the mediums in which communication occurs.

I’ve been wondering about all of our different modes of communication, as I have this sense that they are proliferating. Our professional conversations within academia seem to be splitting into a plethora of platforms. At this point, I’m not even sure we can count.

So in the spirit of the Wisdom of Crowds, I’ll enumerate the mediums of academic communication that come to my mind. I hope you will add more.

  1. Face-to-Face: Are face-to-face conversations, including all in-person meetings, still the No. 1 way in which academics talk to one another?
  2. Email: Do you spend more time reading and writing email, or talking to colleagues face-to-face? What if you add up work emails at night and on weekends?
  3. Web meetings: Recently, my ratio of in-person to Zoom meetings has switched. Most of my meetings now are on Zoom. This is a function of both having more meetings with people not on my campus and my conscious attempt to move more campus meetings to Zoom.
  4. Books/chapters/articles: Reading colleagues' work in a book or a chapter or an article is not two-way communication. I can’t respond or engage in a conversation through that medium. (Save for online articles with a mechanism for response.) But the platforms of books, chapters and articles are one of the main ways that I listen to what my academic colleagues are saying.
  5. Text messages: A surprising amount of my academic communication takes place over text messaging. Or, in my case, iMessages. These are mostly messages with my research partner at another institution, but text messages are also a way to communicate with some close colleagues on campus.
  6. Slack: The main Slack channel that I participate in is our combined CTL/learning designer channel. The educational developers and learning designers are organizationally separate at my school, but functionally (and philosophically) integrated. Slack is also used a bit for a cross-institutional learning innovator channel to which I belong.
  7. Twitter: Academic Twitter is a thing. My rule for following people is that I need to know them as people. So having a curated list of 219 people that I’m following does aid in collegial communication.
  8. LinkedIn: A surprising volume of my academic communication transpires over LinkedIn. As of today, I’m connected to 3,391 people on the platform. I rarely decline LinkedIn connection requests, although if someone I don’t know tries to sell me something on LinkedIn, I’ll remove the connection.
  9. Telephone: Rarely do I speak to anyone on the phone. This is partly a response to the vast number of unwanted cold calls that I receive from vendors. Please don’t call. But one thing I’m learning is that sometimes picking up the phone and calling a colleague is a faster and more direct route than sending an email.
  10. Conference presentations: Academics communicate with each other at conferences, convenings and other gatherings. We give presentations and have Q&As. We sit on panels and participate in fireside chats. Mostly, we talk to each other outside of sessions.
  11. Blogs: Is blogging still a thing? Aren’t podcasts the new blogs? I read and sometimes comment on colleagues’ blogs, and also read everything that people write in this space.

What am I missing?

I’m not on Facebook, but I think that academics connect on that social network.

How much of academic life is about managing these various mediums of communication? Have communications channels gotten more diverse over the years? Do we ever replace one medium of communication with another, or do we add new ones on top? Are there modes or mediums of academic communication that are separate from personal communication? Is academic communication different from how people exchange information with each other in other industries?

How do you communicate with your colleagues?

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