Thursday, September 1, 2022 | Category: Eduvation Insider
Somewhat perversely, today is both National Beach Day and International Whale Shark Day – which seems like a recipe for Grief Awareness Day too. You might prefer to be distracted by Slinkies or Holistic Pets, or to indulge in Toasted Marshmallows or Amagwinya (South African fried dough) instead.
We’re just days from September – the annual “fresh start” in academia, and on most CdnPSE campuses this year, a long-awaited return to community after 3 years of pandemic disruption. Yet with lingering travel chaos at major airports, passport and visa delays, emerging viral outbreaks, rising fuel prices and shrinking travel budgets, that sense of community beyond the campus gates is still far from normal.
Today, I’m writing about an exciting solution – and extending an invitation for you to join me there, free…
In hindsight, I think I’ve had a lifelong reflex to act as social convenor, although I misunderstood it for many years as a journalistic impulse. From my first dittoed fanzines and fan clubs to my high school newspaper and yearbook, from my university residents’ association to the first global listserv for Shakespeareans, from computer users’ groups to Rotary clubs, and from CB radio to a fringe theatre festival – looking back at my life, I’ve been creating communities of a sort, in a range of media, for 5 decades now.
My efforts to do the same for CdnPSE produced the Academica Top Ten (which I launched and edited for nearly a decade), the Ten with Ken podcast (which will return as soon as time permits), the short-lived Eduvation at a Glance visual newsletter, and the Eduvation Insider (which became a daily thing at the height of the pandemic, and which you’re still reading today).
I’ve also been delivering conference keynotes, board retreats and campus lectures, live and via Zoom, for 3 decades now, and engaging with thousands of people in discussion and Q&A, in person and in email. And for 5 years now, I’ve been facilitating 3 national roundtables of CdnPSE marketing and communication leaders, mostly online.
All these efforts were rewarding in their own way, but somehow fragmented and incomplete, too. Newsletters and podcasts are essentially unidirectional, broadcast media – monologues, in Shakespearean terms. Aside from some cherished email correspondents, there was no feedback from the vast majority of my readers and viewers – and no opportunity for them to engage each other at all. (The linear format also made it time-consuming to revisit a newsletter or podcast topic with updates.)
Ultimately, I’ve been looking for a way to transcend monologue – whether newsletters, blogs, podcasts or lectures – to spark more dialogue in CdnPSE, to extend one-time events into ongoing conversations. To turn this newsletter into something akin to the exciting dynamic of an interactive retreat, with sharp and engaged folks like you.
As a reader of this newsletter, you’re one of thousands of intelligent, well-informed and forward-looking higher ed scholars, students, professionals and leaders. You doubtless get to engage with your colleagues on campus from time to time, and with a broader community of your peers at annual conferences (budgets and PHOs permitting). But what a tragic missed opportunity, that we haven’t been able to tap into your collective curiosity, creativity, humour and experience in this forum.
That is, until now…
This summer, I started taking community-building seriously as Eduvation’s mission, and studied dozens of new and evolving platforms. After months of beta-testing, I’m excited to introduce Eduvation Circles, an interactive virtual community that brings together my blogs and newsfeeds, livestreams and events, resource collections, threaded conversations and much more, all in a single place.
Eduvation Circles are more immediate than a newsletter, more interactive than a blog, and more searchable than social media or email. Members can read, comment, share, chat, and even post their own quick polls to get immediate feedback from the community. You can access Circles with any web browser or the sleek mobile app, and customize notifications for scores of post types, topics, or events: from pop-up alerts in your browser or mobile device (even your smartwatch!) to real-time or once-daily email digests of new activity and announcements. sleek and efficient mobile app on your smartphone or tablet. (If you would prefer a video introduction, see #ICYMI below.)
Eliminate inbox clutter entirely – or configure your own personal daily newsletter!
From the beginning, I’ve written the Insider and Ten with Ken with several quite different audiences in mind, from the marcom professionals working on brand campaigns or recruitment materials, to senior administrators considering strategic planning, to student services staff looking for bright ideas from other campuses, and faculty members curious about new developments in pedagogy. My clients and audiences have a wide range of interests, but not always as wide-ranging as mine, and while some might want a stream of items throughout the day, others prefer a daily email. On Circles, I can post videos, blogs, news stories, and compelling graphs throughout the day, and you can choose to see as much – or as little – of it as you wish, in a real-time feed or a customized daily email. The platform reduces the hurdles that have kept me from publishing consistently, while allowing you to follow the specific topics, people and conversations that matter most to you. And of course, you can easily comment, question or contact me.
Become a “Reader” today, for FREE, and access real-time news, trends, blogs and more, customized for you! (Log in with LinkedIn and much of your profile will be created automatically.)
Where the Circles platform will really shine, of course, is in building virtual communities for shared discussion. I’ve designed the “Inner Circle” for the most engaged readers of the Insider newsletter, who want to engage with me and with each other. Right now, I’m offering these Insiders regular Zoom office hours, and considering some livestreams and webinars as well. (The next of these “Ask Ken Anything” sessions is Wednesday.) My hope is to develop sufficient value for this group that they’ll happily pay a monthly subscription to participate, but until we get a better sense of its value, we’re offering it free for the first 6 months. (You can always downgrade to the free “Reader” Circle before any payments kick in.)
Become an “Insider” today, FREE for 6 months, and get all the “Reader” benefits, plus post, poll, engage in conversation, and attend free livestreams and events! (Log in with LinkedIn and much of your profile will be created automatically.)
If you’re a higher ed marketing or communications practitioner, professional or leader, you have several other Circles to consider. These groups have been up and running for 5 years already, so their value is already clear to the 83 existing members – and institutions can purchase annual memberships for their teams at a discount.
Check out the MarCom Circles Brochure for more information.
Eduvation Circles has been in beta for 2 months now, but it will continue to evolve in the months ahead. This is an ambitious experiment, which I hope will host a forward-looking community of my favourite readers, viewers, clients and colleagues. You can expect more dedicated groups to form over time for senior leaders, and perhaps board members, teaching faculty, webmasters, and more. I’m expecting Circles to streamline my communications efforts, or perhaps even allow me to ramp them up further. I’m planning some exclusive Masterclasses, too, and ways to integrate pre-work courses for my live events, or private post-retreat discussion groups.
That sums up what I’ve envisioned so far for Eduvation Circles, but my own ideas are still evolving – and the whole point of the community is that everyone else gets to share their ideas too! I hope you’ll take the leap and join us, to explore and help shape the future of this community for forward-looking higher ed leaders.
Engage today at circles.eduvation.ca
Since this issue is devoted to my grand experiment…
The Eduvation Circles Vision
In this 5-min overview, I provide a quick introduction to the concept and structure of Eduvation’s new virtual community, including the MarCom circles. (Otherwise, I’ve covered a lot of it in the newsletter above.) For a 10-min demo in more detail, though, check out the Eduvation Circles Guided Tour.
As always, thanks for reading – although I hope you’ll start doing more than that, by joining Circles!
Hopefully you now have a better sense of “how I spent my summer vacation” – and why this newsletter’s publication schedule has been a bit spotty in recent months. Getting Eduvation Circles up to speed will likely distract me for a while longer, but I am already polling Circles members to find out what stories they think I should research and write about next!
To “make it so” you’ll have to “engage!” 😉
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