Saturday, June 23, 2012

Using 'SMS' in PhD Supervision

For the social media crazed PhD students out there (including myself), I have personally found so far that supervisory support via SMS/text messaging is greatly beneficial. It is quick, easily accessible and any excuse to use the Samsung Galaxy Note to its maximum capacity is fine by me (beautiful gadget). Some people may read this and think “why not just use email?” and I would argue that there is nothing more frustrating than having no Wi-Fi or internet access when you’re out and about and the need to reply to a super busy supervisor cannot be achieved *pulls hair out*. With the use of SMS you can normally guarantee some form of network signal and the communication between supervisor and supervisee can therefore be timely and harmonious.

I agree that technology in PhD study cannot replace ‘Face to Face’ contact with the supervisory team but I feel it is about what is appropriate for the area that needs to be discussed. Let’s face it, when somebody rings us, more than likely we rush to the phone (like the intro to Baywatch) and miss the call resulting in a voicemail that says “call me back”. When you call them back it then goes to voicemail *blood pressure rising*.  I have found small issues can easily be dealt with via SMS. The bigger issues can be discussed through pre-planned meetings.

I imagine that it would be useful if someone could invent an ‘out of office’ tool for the use of SMS as currently I believe we have one of two things in the world; no reply = I am busy or don’t want to talk to you; or the little box you can tick in your settings that lets you know when the message has been successfully received by the recipient and you sit waiting for a response with baited breathe!

Someone said to me recently that the use of SMS has resulted in a loss of spoken human communication and the rapport with the supervisory team can become fragmented; but in my experience so far this is not the case. I think what is most important is discussing at the beginning of your studies how the ‘supervisee’ wants supervision to occur and in what form. Some prefer the use of social media and some do not but if we add the use of SMS to our communication toolkit, it will only have a positive impact on the doctoral research.

One needs to be cautious though that they check their contractual message allowance as no PhD student wants the horror of paying out a humongous bill at the end of the month especially with the small amount of pennies in the bank account. I would also stress that users be aware of the character allowance in their SMS as I have noticed that if you type too much in one SMS it will convert to MMS resulting in an unexpected charge! However this can be resolved through splitting messages into two and it doesn’t take an academic to work that one out!

Reap the benefits of all forms of communication is my opinion and SMS is only one of them. Please be sure though to rest your fingers and eyes as much as possible, text induced finger ‘ache’ and headache is a killer!

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