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Thing 1: Getting started

Updated: May 4, 2023


a wooden lifebuoy ring with the words ‘welcome on board’.
Welcome to the programme! (Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash)

Welcome to 23 Things International!

This Things is designed to get you fully set up for the course and ready to get started! This week we’ll be setting up your pods and contacting everyone to make introductions; it’s also a chance to answer any questions you have, such as….


What have I signed up to?

  • Programme overview and aims

23 Things International introduces researchers from all disciplines to tools and techniques that can help them to boost their productivity, raise their professional profile, and connect with other researchers. By signing up to this course you will be able to experiment with several resources or approaches in a structured way, helping you discover if something is ‘for you’. You will also meet researchers from around the world to share your expertise and experience with; we create ‘pods’ of researchers from similar fields and invite them to work together through the programme content.


By the end of the programme you should feel more confident in using online tools and communicating your research, planning and managing projects, and have considered some fresh perspectives on what it means to be part of a research community.

  • The blogs and timetable

The programme runs for 14 weeks (including 2 break weeks), with 2 ‘Things’ being released each week. Each Thing introduces a specific topic, with links, helpful examples, and further reading. Links to more local resources at each institution are provided via the website forum.


You can find a calendar for the ‘Things’ on the home page. The programme is semi-structured, meaning that you can engage with the Things at your own pace, and return to any interest whenever you like, but some aspects of the course are timetabled, such as the live events.

  • Expert contributors

Each blog is written by an academic or other expert in the topic covered, supporting a technical introduction with their own experience. Some blogs bring together experts from multiple institutions to provide you with an even broader overview. Throughout, we are conscious of the differences between educational cultures around the world, and hope this variety of voices will encourage you to reflect on your own context and those of others in the pods.

  • Tasks and discussion

Each Thing ends with some suggestions for further exploration. This might be to apply the topic yourself (such as setting up or updating your Linked-In profile) or a discussion point that can guide conversations with your pod. You can also use the members’ forum to meet other people on the programme and hear about their research.

  • Completing the course

We do want to acknowledge your time and effort in taking part in 23 Things International, so if you complete the programme you will be awarded a certificate and unique digital badge. Completion is based on a self-declaration that you have read all the Things and completed at least half of the tasks. You are welcome to complete the course after the official run-time, too: the website will remain up for at least 6 months after the end of the programme. We do not check up on or evaluate the tasks – it’s entirely up to you which topics are most useful and interesting – but we can say that the more you invest in the programme, the more value you will extract from it!


Your task for Thing 1: Setting yourself up

This Thing is all about getting started. We’ll run through the essential steps to make sure you receive all the communications from the programme and can access the resources.

  • Take some time to explore the website – you may find the FAQs section particularly useful.

  • Register as a website member

A screenshot of the 23 Things International homepage, with the login area in the top-right corner circled
A screenshot of the 23 Things International homepage

  • Subscribe to the blogs

  • Introduce yourself on the forum

  • Get ready to meet your pod


What happens next?

This week you will receive an email from Mike (m.rose@surrey.ac.uk) introducing you to your pod. The email will contain some basic introductions and links, and invite you to start connecting with your fellow participants. Please use the email addresses in that email to get in touch.

Your pod will have a nominated chair. Essentially their job is to get the ball rolling and ensure that the pod makes a good start to the programme, especially facilitating the first meeting. However, it can happen that the chair is not able to fulfil this role or doesn’t see the email, so if you have not heard anything further in a couple of days, please feel free to take the initiative yourself.


After that, it’s really up to you and your pod! The 2 Things will pop up for your each week, with suggestions for discussions, tasks or further reading; you can meet how and when works best for you. Do bear in mind that not everyone in your pod will have the same level of engagement, and you don’t need everyone in the group to take an active part. Like any online programme, some people prefer a more individual route, or can only dip into the course on occasion. Ideally each pod will have a core who can network and collaborate throughout, with other members as present as they feel able to be. And our Engagement Mentor is on hand if you have any complications along the way.


The Engagement mentor is a current doctoral researcher who is available to advise on getting the pod up and running, questions you have about the course, or staying motivated through the programme. You can contact them directly, and they will occasionally be in touch with chairs or pods to see how things are going.


One black male, three black female, and one white female talking to each other at a table
Enjoy the stimulating conversations in your pod! (Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash)

Some comms platforms you might try

Everyone has different preferences about how they communicate, whether it’s the ease of email, the speedy informality of messaging programmes, or the versatility of packages such as Google Drive and Teams. We ask every pod to agree on what they communication preferences and priorities are and to set up regular meetings. Do you want to be able to meet for live chats, or does time-zone differences make non-synchronous communications easier? Will you share files or even collaborative documents?


How to get the most out of the programme

  • Emphasise experimenting; give yourself the opportunity to try things out. None of our blogs will make you a world expert in the topic but they might just get the ball rolling on something special.


  • Pods are a friendly resource but need your input to thrive. Your pod chair will get the ball rolling and take some role in arranging the initial meetings, but don’t leave all the work to them!


  • Be realistic about your time commitment and priorities. We know you’re busy. Like, really busy. We’ve aimed to make the time commitment about 1 hour per week, but sometimes you will need to prioritise other things, or will want to spend more time with the Things and your pod. A good approach is to plan in a regular weekly slot for reading the blogs and meeting or interacting your pod.


  • The live events are optional but great fun. Whether you’d like to meet some other participants for a friendly chat, or can make use of our online writing retreat to get some work done, everyone is welcome.


  • Completion badge and certificate: we don’t carry out any formal checks on your participation, since this will be different for everyone and we want to emphasise individuated experimentation and connections. However, we do want you to have some reward for sticking with it. If, at the end of the programme, you notify us that you have read the blogs and attempted at least half of the tasks, you’ll receive a special certificate and digital badge. The badge details all the topics and skills involved in complete 23 Things.

  • Staying motivated can be tough – 23Things lasts for several weeks and some Things will be more interesting than others. Keeping going will be easier and more fun if you have a clear plan with your pod, if you know what you want to get out of the course, and give yourself the time to get involved as much suits you personally. This would be a great topic for discussion in your first pod meeting.


  • Have fun, discover!


(a gif: Jean Luc Picard endorses adventure)




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