FAQs

Active participation in social media is one of the key aspects of this programme, so if you have a question about the programme, its format, content or how it works, do feel free to leave a question in the comments section below!  (Unless we are running a livechat, comments may take a little while to appear, as we moderate them to ensure that spam doesn’t get through.)

In the meantime, we hope these FAQs might answer any initial questions you might have:

Who is STEMDigital aimed at?

STEMDigital is aimed at Cambridge early career researchers (PhDs and Postdocs) in the Schools of Physical Sciences and Technology who are interested in exploring digital and social media tools to enhance their work, but who may have varying degrees of familiarity with them. You might have heard of some of the tools, but aren’t sure how to use them, in which case the programme will talk you through how they work in easy steps, to get you up and running. You might be using some of the tools already, in which case the programme will encourage you to think more deeply about how and why you’re using them, and how to get the most out of them. Whatever your current level of confidence, the programme aims to help you develop a strategic approach to integrating digital skills into your work as an early career researcher in the STEM disciplines.

How much will it cost?

It’s free! The digital tools which the programme explores are all either free to use or download, or they have a reasonably lengthy trial period to explore it before you decide whether you want to invest (certainly enough to complete the programme).  The programme is built using free online tools, modelling the kinds of technology it aims to get you exploring, so there’s no charge for participating either!

What kind of programme is it?

STEMDigital is a mix of workshops and online activities. See the information on the Format for more details.

How much time is this likely to take?

We anticipate that you might spend an hour a week investigating the Things, completing the short tasks and discussing the experience online. You are welcome to spend more time if you wish! The tasks we set will be based around the kinds of things that you are doing anyway as part of your work.

Do I have to participate in both the workshops and the online parts?

The programme is designed as a blended learning format, with the workshops and online activities complementing and enhancing each other. It is strongly recommended that you participate actively in the online aspects, as the workshops can only raise general issues and discussions; it is through practical and interactive experimenting with the social media tools in your own time that you will learn the most. If you can’t make it to the workshops, don’t worry – we will put the materials online here, and you’ll be meeting the other participants online, if not face to face!

Who is running the programme?

STEMDigital is a 6 month initiative by the Researcher Development Programme at Cambridge University, developed and moderated by Dr Helen Webster, an academic developer. It’s based on her previous work with the Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, but is tailored for the Physical Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Maths. The programme draws on the expertise of colleagues across the university including librarians, computer officers, communications experts, careers advisers and transferable skills developers, to bring an interprofessional perspective on social media in academia.

Do I have to set up a social media presence to participate?

Reflective, open participation is a core part of the programme. This blog is only part of the content from which you can learn – the rest will be created by you, the participants! This will help you to experiment and explore with the social media, share your insights with others and also learn from the other participants.

You might be worried about privacy of your personal data, or of your online professional persona. You can use a pseudonym for your social media accounts and many other tools you register for if you wish to remain publicly anonymous (those running the course may still wish to verify who you are, but this need not appear in any online public capacity). The pros and cons of using your real name and data online are addressed in the early stages of the programme, so you can think it through.

You might already have social media accounts; you can use these for participating in STEMDigital, or set separate ones up specially for the programme.

What happens to my social media accounts after the programme?

You might choose to keep up your new accounts, to keep them as a source of useful material for yourself or others, or to deactivate your profiles. The longevity and permanence of online data is one of the issues explored in the programme.

What’s in it for me? 

You can explore some useful web 2.0 tools, come to a strategic and well-informed position on their use in your work, and join a network of other researchers doing the same. It’s also a chance to think about the  ways in which technology is impacting on academia and other sectors.

I’ve already used some of these tools – do I still have to explore them? 

STEMDigital is partly about learning how to use new tools, but its real value lies in reflecting on how they impact on your work, your research, and the wider academic sector. You might think more deeply about your use of a tool and review your practice, share your knowledge with others, compare with an alternative tool to the one you are using, or you might try using the tool in a new context, or in a new or more advanced way.

I’m pretty sure I won’t get on with some of these tools or find a use for them – do I still have to explore them? 

The purpose of the programme is not to encourage you to take up all the tools, but to develop a reflective, critical framework for exploring them and any new tools you encounter in future. It is worth exploring tools you don’t initially think will be useful to you – you may find that you like them, you may find that your initial views are confirmed but for good reasons, or you may simply increase your awareness of technologies which will impact indirectly on your work, if others around you use them.

Can someone help me get started with these tools?

STEMDigital is a self-directed course. Basic instructions for the tools are provided, and many of them are intuitive to pick up. We can’t help you download, set up or register for the tools individually, but aim, through the tools we explore, to create a networked community of participants who can swap tips or offer advice. Try reading or commenting on other participants’ blogs, post a question on the email list, or use some of the other tools you’ve learned about to ask for tips from the other participants – twitter, skype or screenleap/joinme might be very helpful, for example.

How much time is this likely to take?

We anticipate that you might spend an hour a week investigating the Things, completing the short tasks and discussing the experience online. You are welcome to spend more time if you wish! The tasks we set will be based around the kinds of things that you are doing anyway as part of your work.

Do I have to participate in both the workshops and the online parts?

The programme is designed as a blended learning format, with the workshops and online activities complementing and enhancing each other. It is strongly recommended that you participate actively in the online aspects, as the workshops can only raise general issues and discussions; it is through practical and interactive experimenting with the social media tools in your own time that you will learn the most. If you can’t make it to the workshops, don’t worry – we will put the materials online here, and you’ll be meeting the other participants online, if not face to face!

I’m not a researcher in the Physical Sciences, Technology, Engineering or Maths / I’m not at Cambridge– can I still take part?

Of course – you’re welcome to follow the blog and interact with us, although the programme is designed for the sort of activities that STEM researchers typically undertake, and workshops are open only to ECRs in the Schools of Physical Sciences and Technologies at Cambridge University.

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