McChesney et al. Study on Doctoral Research by Distance

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Jonathan Whatley, Sep 6, 2023.

  1. Jonathan Whatley

    Jonathan Whatley Well-Known Member

    Distance doctoral students ‘invisible’ to universities: People were remotely studying for higher degrees long before Covid, researchers say, and universities should pay them more attention (John Ross, Times Higher Education, September 5, 2023) [viewing full article may require free registration] (website for the study)

    Katrina McChesney (University of Waikato faculty page)
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  2. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    This supports my contention that pursuing a doctorate by distance puts aspiring academics at a disadvantage when aspiring to an academic career. It's not just having the degree, nor from where, but HOW you earned it. Not because DL is inferior, but because it is a different set of experiences. You don't have the networking, teaching, and other collaborative experiences that help apprentice you into higher education while earning your degree.

    That's why I've always been skeptical of people who come here saying they want a doctorate so they can change careers to academia. Yes, it can be done and people do accomplish it. (Our peer, Chris, has done a fine job of demonstrating that with innumerable anecdotes, job listings, faculty listings, etc.) But it is not ideal and certainly not a quid pro quo.

    This is also why I'm such a fan of the professional doctorate vs. the scholarly doctorate, with the former being much more suited for people using the doctorate to advance their careers in practice.
  3. chrisjm18

    chrisjm18 Well-Known Member

    I agree that earning a doctorate nontraditionally does not provide you with the same opportunities as those afforded to students pursuing their degrees traditionally. Overall, I think it has more to do with the individual than the method of obtaining the degree. Many people who earn their doctorate online have done nothing that will make them attractive to a hiring committee, i.e., no publications, no teaching experience, no committee experience, no conferences, etc. When I failed to secure a college teaching position in 2018 (primarily 2-year college applications), I decided to become a business & criminal justice teacher at a college preparatory high school. I served on school-level committees, published a book review in an international journal, and became an adjunct in 2020. In addition, I had law enforcement and juvenile justice experience.

    My dissertation chair (a Walden graduate) was hired as a Professor of Practice and Director of Online Graduate Program at Arizona State University. After he was hired, he was told that they hired him because he had peer-reviewed publications. Hence, they overlooked that he graduated from Walden with his Ph.D.

    I also had two other colleagues from Liberty who secured TT positions.

    Mitzie also was an awardee for ACJS 2023 Summit

    My view is that if the individual is motivated enough to achieve some of the qualities hiring committees are seeking beyond a doctorate, there is no way they won't be successful in securing a full-time career in academia.
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  4. wmcdonald

    wmcdonald Member

    It's not just the degree that opens doors in the academy. What else have you accomplished? Opportunity is often of our own making!
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  5. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    But I think we can agree that doing one's doctorate by distance learning, especially if employed outside of academia, makes doing these things much harder. And that's the point.
  6. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Yes, and it's important to clearly understand the "what else" here.

    I had a fun exchange with an academic a few years ago regarding this very subject. I asked her why there was so much literature about migrating from academia to practice, but almost nothing (and certainly no discernable body of knowledge) on going from practice to academia? "It's because we don't want you," she said. She went on to explain that because most mid-career professionals had not done the traditional academic things growing up--teaching, publishing, committees, symposia presentations, etc.--they were too foreign in academics' eyes. "You're not one of us," she said.

    It doesn't mean there aren't exceptions. It doesn't mean it can't be done. And it doesn't mean you can't find opportunities where your practical expertise and education will be valued. You can. But the naive notion that you can just get a doctorate and go teach at a university just like that is absurd. I've been on this board for more than 20 years--since its inception--and I have heard that a LOT.
  7. chrisjm18

    chrisjm18 Well-Known Member

    A lot has changed since a few years ago, Rich. Snobbery exists, but some condescending academics have no say in the hiring process. Also, such elitism may be more likely at R1 (maybe R2), which only makes up 7% of universities and colleges.

    Maybe I'm exceptional because I turned down numerous interviews and campus visits during my last job search. I was offered two tenure track positions, one at an R2, which I accepted. I was also offered an assistant professor/program director non-tenure track position.
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  8. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I'm not talking about any snobbery, nor have I ever. I'm talking about process. It takes a lot to make up for what you miss by doing your doctorate in residence. And I get that there are anecdotes to the contrary. But there is ZERO research on this phenomenon, and I have to think that's because it isn't a thing.
  9. chrisjm18

    chrisjm18 Well-Known Member

    Whether it is a "thing" is irrelevant to the many individuals motivated enough to create their own path to enter the academy full-time (TT or NTT) with their distance learning doctorate. I didn't need research to tell me that it was or wasn't possible. I made it happen, and so have hundreds of others!

    Also, neither path guarantees you a career in higher education. Most Ph.Ds. do not end up with full-time tenure track positions. In many disciplines, the odds are extremely low.
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  10. chrisjm18

    chrisjm18 Well-Known Member

    For those aspiring to enter the academy with a distance learning doctorate, do not be discouraged. As I mentioned before, you need to accomplish things beyond the degree to be attractive to hiring committees.

    Screenshot 2023-09-08 084322.png
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  11. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    C'mon. Be reasonable. I've tried to be. But if you set out to become an academic by taking a DL doctorate after a career in practice (public or private sector), then you've got your work cut out for you.

    The reality is that such a pursuit is fraught with peril. How does one explain the lack of literature on how to do it?
  12. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    This is a problem with D/L at every level. It's what I've called "a degree with an explanation". Life is easier when no explanation is needed.
  13. chrisjm18

    chrisjm18 Well-Known Member

    It's a pity some have had to explain their distance degree. I haven't had to. But I'll share two scenarios where I was asked questions about my school.

    1. My soon-to-be dean at UVI asked how I dealt with the Jerry Falwell Jr. scandal—nothing to do with my degree itself.

    2. At dinner (after the campus activities were over), the search committee was chatting about their grad school experience. The committee chair asked what my grad school experience was since I studied online. The formal process was over, and I know I would have been hired if I hadn't declined to do a Zoom interview with the new dean since the one I interviewed with on campus had quit. This was a professor of practice position at a Catholic university.

    I was never asked to explain my degree when I was hired as a high school business and criminal justice teacher. Not when I was hired at UVI or for my current TT position at an R2 university.
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  14. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I'm returning to my point that it's not just the degree or source that is exclusionary, per se, but the process of earning it. And, as Chris has both explained and demonstrated, that can be overcome.
  15. jonlevy

    jonlevy Active Member

    I have a traditional PhD and have instructed online at the graduate level since 2006. Anyone who claims an online PhD is the equivalent of going to two or three years of classes in person, passing a comp exam in person, dealing with an advisor and thesis committee in person, definding a thesis in person, doing research assistant and teaching assistant assignments in person is biased. Discussion boards now mainly fueled by ChatGPT, multiple choice quizzes, and papers cobbled together from the Internet may meet minimal standards no doubt but unless the candidate has additional experience, they are not going to be shortlisted for mainstream positions. The online degree job candidate needs first to go forth and get the expereince they are lacking however they can which means doing something other than teaching as an adjunct online unless that was the goal. That may mean relocating, even overseas to get actual experience. Remember DL has been around long before the Internet but consuming courses are not the same as activiely participating. And if online was so great, we have ask outselves why most online classes still depend on canned syllabi, asynchornous lessons and discussion boards which make them essentially non participatory.
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  16. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    The built in presumption there is that campus based and online programs are each necessarily alike, and I don't believe that. I would much more readily believe that there's a difference between endowed institutions and tuition driven institutions, regardless of mode of instruction.

    (And yes, I realize that I have a dog in this race.)
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  17. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    As far as academic content and quality goes, the key to the doctorate is the dissertation. Criticisms of online classes are not really all that relevant. (Although I agree with them.)

    I trust independent study more than I do asynchronous online "classes." But remember, delivery is not the only factor. There is also content and assessment. And that's where the true learning lies.

    And, because I do so much work related to distributed workforces, I disagree with all that "in person" jazz. It's way more about how you are integrated into the traditional academic structure than it is your home zip code. DL doctoral students are renters, but they could be owners even if they live someplace away from the campus. It's a question of integration and engagement more than it is physical presence.
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  18. Dustin

    Dustin Well-Known Member

    Candidates for TT positions are not selected on the basis of their PhD coursework and I'm not sure how you came to the conclusion that they are.

    Online classes are designed to respond to the needs of people with flexible schedules. Why are you equating asynchronous with bad? Universities can obviously deliver online, synchronous courses and many programs do but they lose the advantages that cause people to seek out asynchronous programs in the first place.
  19. jonlevy

    jonlevy Active Member

    Nothing wrong with online studies or asynchronous classes but they are very thin preparation for actual work at a university that require people skills and understanding office politics and dealing with students and administrators. I would also dare suggest that an online student PhD candidate who produces a dissertation is not going to have the adequate skills to conduct archival research, interviews, data collection, observation etc. These are learned craft skills which cannot be replicated solely online.
  20. Dustin

    Dustin Well-Known Member

    Most students taking online programs are working full-time which provide opportunities to navigate bureaucracy, administration and office politics.

    Very few people manage to get to the PhD without any B&M education.

    While some skills may be more difficult to accomplish, no researcher is going to be an expert in every methodology. The mere fact that you're doing your PhD by distance doesn't preclude you from working with archival data, conducting interviews or collecting data.

    You seem to have made an enormous amount of assumptions about online programs while admitting you have no experience with them.

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