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Embracing Authenticity and Vulnerability in Online PhD Studies: The Self and a Community

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Publication date1/01/2022
Host publicationOnline Postgraduate Education in a Postdigital World: Beyond Technology
EditorsTim Fawns, Gill Aitken, Derek Jones
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9783030776732
ISBN (Print)9783030776725
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Publication series

NamePostdigital Science and Education
ISSN (Print)2662-5326
ISSN (Electronic)2662-5334


There are a growing number of online PhD programmes across the globe. Many online doctoral students are working professionals with multiple social responsibilities. Although they often choose to study online due to the flexibility and accessibility it offers, these part-time distance students can suffer from a lack of social interactions and a subsequent sense of isolation and loneliness during their study. To address these issues, some online tutors in these programmes have strived to build a learning community among distance students by encouraging learner-to-learner interactions. However, it can be hugely challenging to develop a genuine sense of community among this group of students, especially when they make a continuous effort to present the best possible version of themselves to each other. This chapter presents an online tutor’s autoethnography on her teaching experiences in a research methodology module in an online PhD programme. The author’s honest and critical reflection on her pedagogical practice provides an invaluable insight into the complexity of online teaching and learning at postgraduate level. The story vividly captures important moments of how a group of online doctoral students overcame their initial sense of insecurity and uncertainty and successfully grew into a genuine community that embraced mutual vulnerability. The chapter concludes by stressing its contextual specificity, which readers must approach holistically and critically.