University of the Cumberlands Online PhD in Information Technology

Discussion in 'IT and Computer-Related Degrees' started by Marcus Aurelius, Jan 29, 2018.

  1. learningnut

    learningnut New Member

    Hello everyone. I am in this program and am currently going through the dissertation process now. I just want to drop some observations and tips:

    I largely agree with many of the observations posted. I know one major concern is the quality of discussion posts in pre-dissertation courses, which indeed can leave you wondering if you are in fact in a doctoral program at all, let alone a legitimate one. With that said, I noticed that there is a significant uptick of quality once you get in the dissertation process (particularly after 736) and it became very obvious who put in the work to get there and who didn't. The "am I in a doctoral program?" question eventually goes away as the weeding-out occurs.

    The one thing that has to be kept in mind is that the dissertation process is NOT the time to be a superhero. Your goal is to get the Dr. before your name, then go solve all of the world's problems afterward that. Your goal is to add to something useful to the body of knowledge, not be the next Einstein. Numerous professors emphasized this throughout the program, but it feels like many ignored the advice.

    If you try to be a superhero, there's a significant chance that you'll set yourself up for failure. Your chair will NOT stop you from trying to do too much. They can guide you, they can tell you you're doing things wrong, but ultimately you own the decisions you make.

    You may also fall into the "I know I shouldn't be doing this but I'm doing it for some reason" trap. You can go into the dissertation knowing full well exactly what you should do, yet find yourself trying to do too much. Take breathers and think about what you're doing to reset things. It's very, very easy to overthink and overcomplicate things, and it can become very necessary to just stop and re-assess the situation.

    UC doesn't directly tell you, but the professors indirectly do (as well as some in this thread): there is a relatively clean, straightforward path you can take. I'm still working my way through the dissertation, but here's how my experience has played out thus far:

    • If you can, go quantitative and adopt (not adapt, adopt - if you adapt, you may be subject to a pilot) a pre-validated survey instrument to bypass the need for a pilot study. You have to get IRB approvals to do pilots, which only further complicates things, especially when you have what feels like a narrow time-window to get final approval.
    • If you have the money for it, use SurveyMonkey's panel to collect responses for you. It is pricey, especially if you want to target certain demographics that command a higher rate, but the turnaround time is usually a day or two.
    • There's other benefits by having SurveyMonkey collect the data for you. Your study becomes Exempt when you use a third-party to gather data since you're not recruiting or interacting with participants. You don't have to plead and beg for people to take your survey
    • The easier you make things for yourself, the easier you make things for the chair and the rest of the committee.
    • You may be wondering "why would I take the easy way out when I can prove how good I am?" My response: Do you want to be stuck paying $1600 every 16 weeks to retake courses because you're trying to do too much?

    Above all though, it is critical to actually understand what it is you're supposed to be doing. Your theoretical framework is not your research design, your research questions are not your survey/interview questions, and you're not going to get very far if you decide to ignore the advice given to you by your professors and chair.
    Dustin, SweetSecret, datby98 and 2 others like this.
  2. AsianStew

    AsianStew Moderator Staff Member

    Wow, awesome work, that's a great review! Hope you're doing well in the program and update us further with any extra details in addition to what has been provided. Very good feedback in terms of what is needed and required.
  3. Atlas

    Atlas New Member

    Good write up!

    I definitely agree you need to just write a dissertation that'll pass you. Don't try and reach perfection. Don't try and write the best dissertation the world has seen. I'm several weeks out from defending my dissertation and there are quite a few things in it I wish I could do over - add some things, remove things, change the way my survey went, etc. - but at this point, I just want to be done successfully and while I could go back and fix things in previous chapters, it's just not worth it since it's already been blessed off by my chair. My chair has been pretty decent overall - although I do question if they have read my dissertation in its entirety since I've asked questions related to what I wrote and they seemed like they had no clue what I was talking about.. but I digress there. As for those who asked me about reporting the plagiarism I found.. at this point, I'm being entirely selfish and just focusing on getting my dissertation completed and don't want to get wrapped up in that if I report it. Maybe after I complete it, I'll say something and/or maybe staff from the university silently stalk this board and will see. But, I also think "man this got signed off and blessed off by the school, so..." .. I don't know if anyone else got the generative AI training from the school, but they basically said it's cool to use, just cite it. I am willing to bet citations will be non-existent in most cases and the use of generative AI will be rampant. That will likely lead to more incidents like I found and/or extremely similar wording for universal paragraphs like introductions, summaries, etc.

    Quantitative surveys are probably easier since you're using someone else's survey. I went qualitative for my dissertation and created my own survey - didn't want to deal with statistics, closed-ended questions/ranked questions, g*power, etc. I am on an Expedited approval. It was very straight forward to do, and no pilot study was needed. Just ensure your RQ's align with your survey questions and you'll get through the IRB. Dr. Hendon with the IRB provided valuable insight to this process, so people should definitely reach out to her through your chair if you have questions/concerns. If you have access to your target population, it's also helpful, otherwise, yeah you need to pay for a service like SurveyMonkey. But with social media like LinkedIn, there's more than likely a group on there with your target population.
    learningnut likes this.
  4. learningnut

    learningnut New Member

    I'm with you on the "do over" statement. One of the things that constantly goes through my head is "is this really good enough?" because, to be quite frank, I feel like I'm writing something that is of little to no value to anyone on the planet.

    That's one of the biggest hurdles that's been difficult to overcome and sort of goes back to what I said about how oftentimes it's necessary to stop and re-think about what it is we really need to do. Your "Don't try and write the best dissertation" is certainly worthy of a post-it note stuck to the bottom of the monitor because a constant reminder is needed for what the real goal of the program is, which is to contribute something, anything, of substance to the body of knowledge. It doesn't need to be the best in the world. "The best dissertation is a done dissertation" is a quote I've seen around as well and is something I try to keep in my mind, no matter how difficult it is to not try to be perfect (perfectionism is a real detriment with this process).

    I initially was going to go qualitative, but there were things that ended up influencing a change in methodology. Now that I think about it, making the initial decision itself was tricky because there was plenty of conflicting advice from professors throughout the program. "Qualitative is easier," "quantitative is easier," "IRB approval can be harder to get with qualitative," "IRB approval can be harder to get with quantitative..." The advice given wasn't consistent.

    The start of the dissertation process is also very, very rocky and doesn't help out a whole lot. When you're dumped into 736 with no real idea of what it is you'll be doing, yet still asked to choose your topic, methodology and research questions before you've even downloaded Zotero to start your lit review, things can get very dicey. Ultimately, I changed to quantitative largely in part to the theoretical framework I chose which lends itself quite well to quan. The lack of a 45k word count requirement, in addition to working with numbers rather than people (I'm not a fantastic people-person), also played a role. There's just many different factors and it can be quite the mess to sort out.

    Best wishes on your defense! From what I've gathered (I may be mistaken), the defense is a formality, and the school highly discourages chairs from allowing you to schedule a defense unless they're practically certain you'll pass. I hope it works out for you :)
  5. Dustin

    Dustin Well-Known Member

    Returning to my PhD! I took a few months off while I got things situated with my health and family, but looking forward to starting a couple courses in the Spring second bi-term (March 2024.)
    Xspect and Jonathan Whatley like this.
  6. learningnut

    learningnut New Member

    Welcome back! Which courses if I may ask?
  7. Dustin

    Dustin Well-Known Member

    ITS 836 - Data Science & Big Data Analytics with Prof Jess Schwartz and ITS 532 - Cloud Computing with Prof Gideon Nwatu
  8. learningnut

    learningnut New Member

    I can't speak to ITS-532 (I'm in a different specialty), but I can say Dr. Schwartz was a great professor to work with in 836. Is 836 your remaining core course?
  9. Xspect

    Xspect Member non grata

    I'm pleased to see you're back in action. Just so you're aware, there's been a surge in IT Ph.D. candidates facing consequences for academic dishonesty, often involving platforms like Course Hero and AI. Interestingly, a member of the IT department has written AI detection software that is course specefic. While I'm uncertain about its inner workings, they have been caught red-handed.

    8 students in my advanced stats class got caught for basic tasks like analyzing and reporting Cronbach's alpha and Guttman lambda in APA 7 format. In my opinion, if you don't understand advanced statistics focus on qualitative methods. In other words, if it don't fit, don't force (a line from the song Tutti Fruiti) - little Richard.
    Dustin likes this.
  10. Dustin

    Dustin Well-Known Member

    I'm only 15 credits in so I have a ways to go.
  11. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Gotta like anyone who quotes Little Richard - always! And quoting him is never plagiarism - it's veneration. :)

    The first time I heard Tutti Frutti was in 1955. I was 12 and heard it in a movie theatre, at intermisson. That was the year the song came out. I think 12 was a good age to hear that. For me it was a fortuitous - and formative experience. The kind that stays with a person forever.

    A-lop bop-a-woo-bop! :)
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2024
  12. learningnut

    learningnut New Member

    A solid chunk of progress! Keep it up :)
    Dustin likes this.
  13. Atlas

    Atlas New Member

    I would love to hear about this AI detection software tool that professor wrote. These tools are highly inaccurate, even well-known versions such as Copyleaks which boasts like a 99% accuracy statement. I think even UC's recent generative AI training tells us all we need to know about the AI wave and the inability to truly know if something was AI written or not. I have previously shown colleagues how I can open a notepad and write a paragraph, dump it into GPTZero, ZeroGPT, etc., and it returns as AI-generated. I question whether a 100% accurate AI checker is truly even possible, due to inherent bias, which is why UC and other schools are now just accepting that student's will use these tools, so they assume the position of "just cite it and it's cool."

    If you had Dr. Benson for stats, then yeah, I fully believe people got caught with his tests because he makes new tests for each course and never repeats them, so answers on cheating sites are not accurate. So, if he sees people using the same answers then it's pretty obvious in that sense.
    Xspect likes this.
  14. Xspect

    Xspect Member non grata

    BINGO !!! He is very anti-cheating and anti-AI, and he gets pretty worked up about it. No mercy, No quarter.

    Sorry I have no info on the AI or cheating software. Mainly because it doesn't apply to or affect me. I got my own PhD woes
    Atlas likes this.
  15. Atlas

    Atlas New Member

    And his class is so easy if you just attend the live sessions! He literally tells you exactly how to do the calculations and the website to use. But if you don't attend, you're in trouble! haha
    Yeah, I was just curious about that tool, as it's within my line of work, so always intrigues me to see them, test them out.
    Xspect likes this.
  16. learningnut

    learningnut New Member

    One thing I continue to be perplexed by is how brazen the obvious cheaters are that I observed in this program. From a student perspective, the sheer volume of baadddd discussion posts that are openly made boggles my mind. A lot aren't even trying to hide the fact that they look exactly like a hallucinating AI that completely misses the mark and addresses an entirely different subject than what was prompted. It's not easy to ignore either because you end up having to go through every single discussion post made to find two that are coherent enough to respond to.

    I'm definitely glad to hear that there are professors cracking down on cheating. I don't want the integrity of my degree (once I get it) to be stained by whatever it is that's driving such a weird volume of obvious cheating, and those observations are just from the limited visibility that we have as students...

    The biggest saving grace is that once you're knee-deep in the dissertation, the obvious cheaters go poof. I do want to stress to those who are still going through the program, especially those in pre-839 courses: if you see blatant cheating in your courses, do know that it essentially disappears once you're past 736. 736 is a wall, but 839 is even more cheater-unfriendly since you cannot progress beyond that course without passing comps (proctored) and getting IRB approval.
    Atlas and Dustin like this.
  17. wingshot

    wingshot New Member

    Completely agree here. 736 weeded out academic dishonesty. 839 finished the job because of the proctored comps requirement. Apparently, when the webcam is on and they can't navigate to other sites, they just can't write. ;) Then again, we knew that when we saw them in the core and concentration courses. If you want to cheat in the early courses, the university is willing to take your money. They'll take your money right up to 736 and 839 where the brick walls are. In 839, we have 4-5 left from our original group in 736. Apparently, telling ChatGPT to write your literature review doesn't work!

    learningnut likes this.
  18. wmcdonald

    wmcdonald Member

    The best Dissertation is one that is done! No such thing as a perfect one!
    JBjunior, TEKMAN, Dustin and 3 others like this.
  19. TEKMAN

    TEKMAN Semper Fi!

    I agree! After several years, a Dissertation becomes stale.
    learningnut likes this.
  20. Dustin

    Dustin Well-Known Member

    ITS 532 - Cloud Computing has labs, that's pretty interesting. The first one took me about 90 minutes, to set up a networked virtual machine using Microsoft Hyper-V. Both these courses are taking a lot more effort than I expected from my previous ones, eep. Next term I will probably drop down to 1 course at a time since I also got a promotion at work and am doing some other learning.

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