Private Online Workspaces for Doctoral Learners - Enhanced Communication and Reduced Isolation

Ronald Berman, Cathy Ames
InSITE 2015  •  2015  •  pp. 101-112
This quantitative exploratory study, a continuation of the university’s four year research initiative that addresses the high national rate of doctoral student attrition, investigates whether a private online workspace for doctoral students and their dissertation committee will enhance communication and reduce learner’s feelings of isolation during the dissertation phase. Private doctoral workspaces provide a virtual platform for learner and committee collaboration, manuscript review, and milestone planning. The purpose of this study is to offer preliminary feedback to guide in the further development of the virtual workspace. To assess effectiveness of the private doctoral workspace, a seven question online survey was created to address usage, communication, and isolation. Two surveys were distributed to 803 doctoral candidates at a private southwestern university in the United States, resulting in 328 respondents for the first survey, and 190 respondents for the second survey. Doctoral learners completed the survey at the onset of the private doctoral workspace implementation, and again four months later. The results indicate that doctoral learners regularly access their private dissertation workspace, communicate more frequently with their dissertation committee, and have reduced feelings of isolation. These results may provide similar benefits to other academic groups working together on long-term projects in other disciplines.
attrition, communication, dissertation, dissertation committee, doctoral community, network, isolation, private doctoral workspace, retention
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