A technology-based coach for the dissertation
Concurrent Session 7
Completing a dissertation online is challenging, often compounded by feelings of isolation and uncertainty. To support online students as they dissertate, we designed an app—akin to theknot.com or thebump.com—to provide customized support and resources in a calendar. This session will provide innovative ideas about this pilot project.
Doctoral students finishing their long sequence of coursework are often faced with a new challenge: How can they stay organized and motivated now that their coursework is finished? How can they stay “on track” in their progress without the ongoing support found in a typical classroom? These struggles are universal in any doctoral program, but they are often exacerbated in an online doctoral program, where interactions with others are lessened and other competing commitments (both personal and professional) are magnified. There are some open-access dissertation calendars available online, which are useful in specifying deadlines a student must meet in order to stay on track, but those calendars provide little customized feedback or scaffolded support for each milestone.
Inspired by the apps of www.theknot.com and www.thebump.com, which both provide planning checklists and customized development updates for couples who are getting married and for expectant mothers, respectively, we collaborated with a digital innovation company to build a similar app with one important distinction: It would be for dissertation students. This app would provide customized, weekly guidance for students from Day 1 of their doctoral work to the day of graduation. Each week, a student will receive friendly reminders about past deadlines, encouraging messages about upcoming deadlines, and customized support from curated resources across our university on how to maintain demonstrable progress.
At the time of this proposed presentation submission, we are finalizing a beta version of this app for a small group of faculty and students within our university’s college of education. The aim is to gather qualitative feedback on the utility of this app before expanding its reach across the institution. Our hope with this Emerging Ideas session is to share the ideas of this pilot project, elicit critiques about how it could be rolled out and tested, and welcome feedback on its utility in other arenas (e.g., other online institutions, brick-and-mortar institutions, or for any other ambitious academic project with many broad deadlines).