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Socialization and social capital in online doctoral programs

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Abstract

Online doctoral programs are gaining in popularity, both among students and institutions. However, research to date on the effectiveness and popularity of such programs has looked largely at either measures of student satisfaction or of administrative effectiveness and design. Further, previous research has also tended to focus on the early part of doctoral study, particularly coursework. This mixed method study that will be conducted on three different online doctoral programs in one university in UK is aimed to contribute to the literature in two important ways. First, we aim to look specifically on current and recently graduated students’ experiences of doing their thesis using a demographic and experiential survey. It will follow up with more in depth interviews to better understand what kinds of academic experiences and knowledge they both bring to, and receive from their program. Second, we aim to analyse the data through two lenses, that of academic socialization to help explore how academic identity changes over time, and that of social capital to help us understand the individual trajectories of students through their programs. Results will contribute both theoretically and practically to our understanding of student experience of the thesis process in online doctoral programs.