Digital technologies for doctoral dialogues at a distance

Petre, Marian; Minocha, Shailey and Barroca, Leonor (2014). Digital technologies for doctoral dialogues at a distance. In: 2014 IEEE Frontiers in Education: Opening doors to Innovation and Internationalization in Engineering Education Conference, 22-25 Oct 2014, Madrid, Spain, pp. 2432–2439.



The part-time PhD is attracting increasing interest in the face of modern economic pressures, particularly in the engineering and computing disciplines. This paper considers how we can ensure that part-time PhD students studying at a distance engage fully with the research discourse, when distance presents obstacles to communication and interaction. Focusing on the use of social software to support research discourse and dialogues, the paper identifies a framework of key communication functions. It reports on a repeated survey (2010 and 2014) of part-time Computing PhD students' use of digital technologies to support them in engaging in formal and informal doctoral dialogues, documenting and reflecting on their research, engaging with the community, and keeping themselves informed. This longitudinal study highlights both changes in technology use (e.g., the increasing use of tools in the public domain) and persistent phenomena (e.g., that despite the widespread adoption of social media technologies, email remains the most important tool for both researchers and supervisors). The paper reports on both what technologies are adopted, and how they are used. The real key to successful application of technology in research dialogues is fitness-for-purpose; this paper provides evidence of 'what works' in students' deployment of technologies.

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