Design Considerations for Online (and On-Ground) Programs

Design Considerations for Online (and On-Ground) Programs

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2656-9.ch014
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This chapter examines design considerations for online doctoral programs. Although the methods of course delivery and interpersonal interactions are different, the rigor of the online programs must equal those of the on-ground programs. Interactions among classmates, fellow doctoral students, and the faculty members must be purposefully designed and supported in order to attain the same enhancements that those equivalent interactions in on-ground courses support. Support mechanisms for encouraging and facilitating beyond course experiences must be created and periodically assessed.
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Content And Processes Of Online Doctoral Programs

Most of us agree with the statement about rigor. Quality content is the often the first thing written into the design of a program. The knowledge base of the program will be taught and tested. A checklist of assignments will be posted and graded.

  • Does the doctoral student know the general knowledge and history of philosophy of education?

  • Can they name the big researchers in education in the last century and identify what they contributed?

  • Does the doctoral student know the standard set of facts within the specialization?

  • Do they know how to write research papers in APA format?

  • Can the doctoral student name the parts in a research study?

  • Can they identify the parts of a dissertation and what each contributes to the process?

It is the processes that are more likely to be missed in an online program. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Can the doctoral student turn a research paper into an original and useful practitioner article?

  • Do they have a deep understanding of the synthesis process so that their reviews of literature represent their unique understanding of the connections within the body of research on a specific topic?

  • Can the doctoral student identify where their experience base fits within the body of existing research literature and how to identify the next level of their development?

  • Does the student know how to collaborate in such a way as to make individual contributions while allowing the product to be a true collective effort?


Dispositions, Interactions, And Apprenticeships Into Communities Of Practice In Online Doctoral Programs

The content and processes listed above represent a small portion of the overall lessons learned in an effective doctoral program. Here again are the four foci of a balanced program:

  • Establishing coursework that represents both the basic expected elements of the 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

Most doctoral programs are designed around the first focus in the form of standard coursework and a working knowledge of the content of the field. They may also begin with the end in mind by anticipating the goals of the students. A few programs, however, do little more than this. Professors and doctoral graduates from existing, rigorous programs often express doubt about the quality and rigor of online doctoral programs. Perhaps they are anticipating that online doctoral programs will be limited primarily to a knowledge base and coursework and little else.

Based on my own experience, this is a legitimate concern for those who develop doctoral programs for profit and for those programs being developed by those that may not be well-established and recognized in their field. This does not need to be the case!

If those designing the doctoral programs will adhere to all of the principles outlined in this book, rigor and quality are more likely to be the outcome. In order to gain the level of depth expected by universities of any kind, the developing program must pay attention to the aspects that give it this depth.

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