Exploring Online Support for Doctoral Students: To be or not to be...Online?
This paper investigates online support for doctoral students at the Institute of Education at University of Warwick in the UK. It reports on their use of ICT tools; their attitudes to online support and the experience of studying for a doctorate in general. It goes on to describe some best fit solutions to developing online support. This is an action research study that uses mixed methods including surveys, focus group, interviews and an exploration of wider literature and online resources. This research offers valuable insight into the process of studying for a doctorate highlighting opportunities and constraints in the use of ICT and possible paradoxes in students’ attitudes to their own development. This research provides the opportunity to record the development of online support for doctoral students at the institute that can be beneficial in other faculties and universities. It offers a view of innovation as an iterative process and it provides valuable insight into how doctorate students go about their work. Work in progress highlights critical issues for doctoral support in particular the role of a research supervisor. There is a clear potential in offering online materials to support research methods training to address access and language issues. Existing use of blogs, online discussion and e-portfolios is uneven with some students sceptical about the benefits each may bring to the research process. This contrasts with students’ expressed concern to develop more channels of communication with their research community and to seek other ways to gain constructive feedback and to voice their work.
Keywords: Doctoral Students, Online Support, Action Research
Dr. Michael Hammond
Warwick Institute of Education
Doctoral student/Research Officer, Warwick Institute of Education, University of Warwick