Considerations for Implementing an Online Doctoral Program

Considerations for Implementing an Online Doctoral Program

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2656-9.ch017
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This chapter discusses the challenges of implementing the online doctoral program as it should have been developed according to the guidelines described in Chapter 14. Special attention is paid to those aspects of implementing an online doctoral program. Lists are included of what things must be the same as on-ground programs and what things must differ from on-ground programs. Highlights include technology use to support interaction, mentoring, and pedagogy. Perhaps the most important idea in Chapter 17 is the idea of availability of professors for ongoing support and interactions comparing on-ground availability and the equivalent forms of online availability.
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The Parts That Should Not Differ

Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the transition, it is wise to return to the four basics elements of the framework for implementing effective doctoral programs:

  • Establishing coursework that represents both the basic expected elements of doctoral program, including the development of expertise within the specialized field

  • Keeping in mind the goals of the doctoral students as they enter and exit the program

  • Setting goals for in-course or beyond-course experiences in joining professional communities of practice

  • Balancing the work of the doctoral program in such a way as to encourage the development of adaptive expertise

First and foremost, the content of the basic program should not be affected by the form or locus of course delivery. In other words, all of the content of each portion of the doctoral program of study should not change depending on whether the program be on campus, online, or blend of the two formats.

The goals of the doctoral students should still be considered from an individual perspective. The same mentoring into communities of practice towards the doctoral student’s career intentions must still be completed. The participation in the appropriate communities of practice are still needed regardless of whether your student is on campus, in another state, or in another country somewhere in the world. The program should still lead the doctoral student into a balance of existing knowledge and the ability to innovate. All of these basic tenets hold true.


The Parts That Must Differ

From a logistical point of view, there is a shift between maintaining physical facilities and maintain the course platform, standard software, and computer servers. From a pedagogical perspective much more must change:

  • The open office door must be replaced by electronic accessibility

  • The informal discussions that happened before or after class must now be accomplished electronically

  • The pedagogy of the live classroom must be replaced by the long list of effective online pedagogical tools and best practices

Things that we once did automatically, we must now engage in purposefully through alternative means. Open communication must be maintained. Regular check-ins with doctoral students must now be done via email, texts, online course discussions, one-on-one and/or group video chats.

For the professor that has taught online for years, these interactions are just as automatic as they were in the on-campus environment. If we care, we check in with our students. If they trust us, they reach out to discuss difficulties. As for changes in pedagogy, there are many effective books, courses, and online resources to support your faculty as they work to enhance their online teaching and mentoring. Plan workshops in computer labs. Co-teach courses. Encourage, support, and expect the professional development of the faculty members.


Comfort Levels With Technology And Forms Of Communication And Pedagogy

For the student that has grown up in the digital age, these interactions are very natural and a part of their everyday lives. For the older student or one with less access to technology, these interactions must be taught and cultivated.

All people have personal preferences for communication, including doctoral faculty members and doctoral students. Each professor should be direct and explicit about what kinds of interactions they prefer, which types are required, and when alternative forms of communication are allowed.

Finally, allow time for your faculty to adjust to the new environment while continuing to show your deep respect for the expertise and their desire to share it through any means to benefit the students.

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