Preparing doctoral candidates through a fully remote virtual residency experience

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This session describes a virtual residency model to help doctoral students start their research. Participants will learn hybrid strategies to engage students using synchronous and asynchronous techniques. Participants will experience the residency through the lens of a student to develop a researchable topic for their home institution.


Dr. Curtis Brant is the Dean of the Research & Scholarship and oversees Capella’s doctoral programs. Dr. Brant has served as a core faculty member, faculty chair, associate dean, and Dean. His professional background is in organizational consulting, decision-making, strategic planning, research, and assessment. Dr. Brant earned his B.A. in Psychology from Kent State University and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Bowling Green State University. His concentration while at Bowling Green was in Decision-Making and Quantitative Analyses.
Dr. Iverson currently serves as Associate Provost and VP of the Academic and Faculty Affairs department at Capella University. She leads multiple teams with broad responsibilities and critical portfolios in driving learner experience, faculty performance, academic program quality, and outcomes. Dr. Iverson regularly drives enterprise-level initiatives and partners with internal and external stakeholders in a highly matrixed environment. She has a diverse background in corporations, city and state government, healthcare, and higher education, with extensive experience and expertise in organizational effectiveness, leadership development, and change management. Originally from China, Dr. Iverson received her MA in Comparative and International Development Education and a Ph.D. in Human Resource Development from the University of Minnesota.

Extended Abstract

This session will focus on a new way to approach the doctorate in the United States, one that proposes to meet the needs of our communities and address some of the long-standing challenges of doctoral education. While there have been steady increases in enrollments and conferrals over the last 20 years, doctoral education has experienced persistent challenges. These challenges include relatively high attrition rates, low graduation rates, limited resources, and a long time to degree completion. In response to these challenges, the university developed a remote virtual residency experience that allows students to complete critical deliverables of their doctoral project using a remote hybrid course model. Participants engage with the new model's history, development, implementation, and outcomes to develop strategies to launch new models at their home institutions.


Background: The Council of Graduate Schools, the American Academy of Education, and the National Science Foundation suggest that while there are some incremental improvements in student outcomes, innovation is needed across doctoral education. Specifically, early development of the research project using innovative curricular models is required to reduce attrition and improve graduation rates. The pandemic has accelerated this change to meet the need for accessible remote delivery models of doctoral education.


Virtual Residency Model: In response to the pandemic, the university shifted from offering a hybrid course experience in which students met in person for a 4-day intensive experience to one that was fully remote. Students participated in both 1-1 and synchronous group sessions with faculty to apply research, critical thinking, and writing skills needed to finalize an appropriate research topic. Teams developed synchronous sessions and other course activities to approximate the engaging real-time interactions experienced through in-person residency without the need for travel or added expense. Session participants learn about the experience of launching a virtual residency experience in which students. 


Outcomes: Initial data suggests that the remote hybrid model of virtual residency changed the trend of decreasing course success with a 2.5% improvement quarter over quarter. Additional data will be presented to illustrate the efficacy of the model.  


Session Goals: Individuals attending this session will:

1. Learn about strategies to improve doctoral student preparation to complete the degree.

2. Discuss synchronous and asynchronous models to engage students in an online, competency-based course. 

3. Share experiences and innovations from their institutions regarding remote synchronous contact with students. 

4. Develop a Research Plan to take back to their home institution.


Level of Participation: Participants will engage with the virtual residency model from a student's perspective. Participants will be guided through the experience and develop a researchable topic to return to their home institution. Along the way, participants will share best practices for remote synchronous and asynchronous student engagement.