Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Great Doctoral Degree Hunt: Part VI

By Leah MacVie

Mission 10: Apply to Scholarships

Going into the scholarship process, I didn't realize there were so many specific scholarships out there for individual differences. I found scholarships for left handers, triplets,  little people, tall people, duck calling, and animal care experience.

I wondered if there was a scholarship out there for a Buffalo bred, writing, Star Trek TNG loving, cupcake connoisseur?

Probably not, but I am working to dwindle down application possibilities. I'm finding a bit of time this week and next week to apply. Before I begin the application process, I decided to set up a chart, much like the one's I used to keep track of doctoral applications. This chart will help me to organize the scholarships by due date and awards. Some I have already applied for and I think it's important to keep track of those as well to find out which one's were awarded. Scholarship Search
  Have you ever applied for scholarships before? Do you have any scholarship application tips? 

Leah MacVie is a blogger, instructional designer, photographer, and former graphic and Web designer. She possesses a BFA from the University at Buffalo and a Master’s in Educational Computing from the SUNY College at Buffalo. In her spare time, she is focusing on finding out more about DIY and informal learning. You can read more at

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Now is the Time

By Annie Saint-Jacques, Ph.D. (ABD)*

A few days ago, my friend Will asked me if I wanted to contribute to his blog as a guest blogger. He was interested in my perspective as a Ph.D. Candidate, my experiences as a doctoral student and my advice to those considering this journey. I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to share my story and perhaps help people “think outside the box”.

My background
As a young adult, I did not get the chance to study due to personal circumstances. Nevertheless, being resourceful, computer-savvy and bilingual, I was offered good positions and was able to make a decent living for myself, but I always regretted not having a degree. To make a long story short, I managed to overcome all these hurdles and with a graduate diploma in Multimedia Instructional Design and a master’s degree in Distance Education. In 2008, I decided to make my old dream come true and to embark on the (at times crazy) journey of doctoral studies.

My studies
I was strongly interested in educational technology and the closest institution offering such a program was a thousand kilometers from home (I live in Canada). As much as I wanted to get accepted, a year-long residency or moving to another city was not on my radar. I contacted the professor with whom I wanted to work, made an appointment and went to meet him. I explained my circumstances, demonstrated my potential and asked for his help: I wanted to enroll in the on-campus program as a regular student, but I would take online courses from home. The key is to know what you want/need and contact the right person. Had I written to my university’s registrar, I doubt that the outcome would have been the same. Thankfully, my future supervisor was very supportive, and in September 2008, I started in the program.

The ups and downs on a Ph.D. life
Working full time and studying full time is not something I would recommend.  I did it for the first term and at Christmas, I quit my position as an instructional designer and academic advisor at a local university. I had no idea how I was going to make it, but I just knew that was the proper thing to do. For the next six months, I struggled to make ends meet, but I felt freer and happier than ever in spite of all the challenges.

Indeed, there were multiple challenges as my institution did not offer my program at a distance and from an administrative perspective, it was a nightmare. Secretaries would contact me to “pop in and sign a form”, I did not have access to the library, I missed out on helpful workshops and training sessions… But I was extremely lucky: my supervisor introduced me to a wonderful woman who was the Dean of Graduate Studies (she is now Vice-President) here at a local university. She literally took my under her wing, introducing me to key people, making sure that I was on their graduate students’ listserv, keeping me informed, allowing me to attend numerous workshops, giving me access to the library. I was even invited as a Researcher-in-Residence at one of their faculty. As a result, I did not miss out on all the exciting opportunities that on-campus studies can offer and would certainly recommend getting involved in an institution’s life, even if it is not yours.

Being the lucky girl that I am, I applied for a bursary, and in the Spring of 2009, I was awarded a substantial bursary from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for the next three years. Needless to say that I was thrilled – all my financial worries were over and I could just concentrate full-time on my doctorate. To me, this is probably the most important step to success. It also confirmed what I truly believe: make things happen and the rest will take care of itself!

So this is basically the “what went well” rubric. Are there things that I would do differently? Most definitely. From a personal point of view, I would say very few though: I am always extremely happy to get up in the morning and embark on another day of reflection and discoveries. With time, I have learned that stressing over deadlines, comprehensives, conferences, writing, is totally counterproductive. Your life will be crazy from now on, better get used to it. I make a point of setting aside time every day to go for a walk and/or exercise and I try to take my weekends off as much as I can. One awesome advantage of working from home is that you don’t waste time telecommuting and you are not disturbed. Being very self-disciplined, this is a winning situation for me, although I confess to feeling isolated at times, hence my strong interest in social media and personal learning networks.

From a Ph.D. studies point of view, yes there are many things that I would do differently. I designed my research so that I would work with various North American universities, both in English and in French. This basically means that I doubled up my workload, having to translate everything all the time. And this lovely idea of “hey, let’s study what’s happening out there” translated in ten Institutional Review Board applications. If you are not familiar with those, they are mandatory if you are to do research in a university and follow a very rigorous and time-consuming process (45 pages is not uncommon – but then nobody has the same requirements, which only adds to the confusion). In retrospect, one application in one language should have been enough for a doctoral study, and I strongly recommend keeping things simple. A dissertation is “only” a dissertation!

Another thing that I would certainly do differently is involving students in a doctoral research. This was probably the most difficult thing for me. My data collection relied on student interviews, a mid-term online survey and a post-term online survey, among other things. They strictly participated on a voluntary basis. In one class, after having gone through the IRB process, met the faculty requirements, met the students in their virtual classroom, carried out observations, taken field notes (and dozens of friendly reminders), I could not get any data from the students. In another class, only one kindly participated in the study. I was shocked. Altogether, full participation in the study would require an hour of their time, I was very flexible in terms of schedule and communication channels and yet they totally ignored me. If you are asked to participate in such a research, please volunteer to help a peer, so much is at stake.

So that is basically it. If you are considering doing a Ph.D., I would definitely encourage you to start “making things happen”. Now is the time. You cannot get anywhere if you don’t take the first step. There will be challenges, there will be stressful moments, there will be awful days. It will also be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life and you will push your limits in ways that you cannot even imagine. You will be proud of yourself. I am. 

Annie's research interests include increased and open access in higher education, learning communities, synchronous (real time) online learning, efficient online teaching practices, and higher education policies (see her blog: Completing her graduate studies at a distance, she is currently writing the conclusion of her dissertation, which is titled: “Effective Teaching Strategies for a Virtual Graduate Seminar: Developing a Community of Inquiry in Synchronous Mode within a Blended Online Learning Design Approach”. Annie is hoping to defend in June-July. Addicted to Twitter, you can find Annie @A_Saint_Jacques

*ABD means “all but dissertation” and may be used by Ph.D. candidates who are at the stage of writing their dissertation.

The Great Doctoral Degree Hunt: Part V

By Leah MacVie

Next up, scholarships. I actually didn't apply for any scholarships for my past few degrees, but this time it's something I must do. First things first:

Mission 9: Develop a Scholarship Strategy

After reading up a on a few different strategies, I choose to stick closely to the easy steps outlined on
  1. Make a list.
  2. Assess each individual opportunity.
  3. Prioritize your opportunities.
  4. Begin applying.
Most of the students who succeeded in earning scholarships did so for two reasons:
  1. They met the criteria outlined by the scholarship sponsor.
  2. They approached the application process strategically and were selective in their pursuit of scholarship opportunities. It’s that simple.
I'll be utilizing two sites:
Have you or anyone else you know applied for a scholarship for your doctorate? What tips do you have for me? Leave a comment below.

Leah MacVie is a blogger, instructional designer, photographer, and former graphic and Web designer. She possesses a BFA from the University at Buffalo and a Master’s in Educational Computing from the SUNY College at Buffalo. In her spare time, she is focusing on finding out more about DIY and informal learning. You can read more at

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Great Doctoral Degree Hunt: Part IV

By Leah MacVie

It's official- the applications have arrived at the schools of choice! Mission 8 is complete! Please read on to learn more about my applications. Also, I found another series of interest. Although a few years old, Eric Schwitzgebel wrote a great application series on his blog, The Splintered Mind. It is filled with some great tips and I love his candidness. You can find it here.

Mission 8: Apply!

Getting my application materials together was harder than I thought it would be! I only applied to 2 schools, Michigan State University and Union Institute & University, but each school had a different set of requirements. As I mentioned the last time, I kept the information organized in my handy 'application press kit' chart: Application Press Kit

 MSU and Union wanted two completely different statements of intent. Here's what I came up with: MSU: Statement of Research Goals Union: Statement of Purpose I  included a very fun get-to-know-me "press release bio" with a photo and fun facts they might not find in the paperwork. Press Release Bio Then, each press kit had a resume in it, as well. Resume Lastly, each location was sent a writing sample.  I never got an original copy of the hard bound version and just handed in the two prints to my college.

I am still searching for more individuals who have documented their hybrid Ph.D. searches and hybrid programs, but this info is not easy to come by. If you know of anyone or programs not currently listed, please send me the info. I will be very grateful!

Leah MacVie is a blogger, instructional designer, photographer, and former graphic and Web designer. She possesses a BFA from the University at Buffalo and a Master’s in Educational Computing from the SUNY College at Buffalo. In her spare time, she is focusing on finding out more about DIY and informal learning. You can read more at

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Now Frontier: Posting Dissertations Online

By Will Deyamport, III, Ed.D. Candidate

This article was originally posted on

This digital world we live in isn’t going anywhere. We pay bills online, we shop online, we make phone calls online, we date online, and now we’re streaming movies and going to school online. So why wouldn’t I post dissertation online?

Has the academy become so insular that it has failed to understand and embrace the realities of this digital age? Has it become so arrogant that it believes that it can remain the sole guardian of academic knowledge? Or has the academy so blindly held on to its beliefs of what it is scholarly work that it refuses to see the scholarly work being published on a daily basis on blogs around the globe?

Whatever its reasons, I plan to publish my dissertation online and here’s why:

  • I happen to have a passion for digital media and most of what I read is read online.
  • What I do and want to do for a career is done online. I’ve been a social media strategist, I blog, and I am earning my doctorate online. So for me the online space isn’t some separate entity. It’s a part of who I am and how I express my ideas.
  • I am a digital citizen. As such, I see the online world as the way for mobilizing the world towards a common humanity.
  • I routinely seek out information online. Whether it is via Youtube, LinkedIn, or my personal learning network on Twitter, I am able to gain access to experts from a variety of fields and disciplines.
  • I believe that academic knowledge belongs to the masses and should be made available and given freely to those who seek it.
  • My dissertation is on teachers using Twitter to support their own professional development. The topic doesn’t belong is some bound book. It was meant to be posted online and shared with scholars and practitioners alike.

The ivory tower and those who worship at its feet need to understand that education is no longer insular. Holding information hostage does nothing for the academy or the betterment of society. In order to truly build a thriving academic knowledge-base and further the continued and expansive research expected in academia, technology has to be a part of how that research is shared and disseminated. Using emerging technologies, schools have the capacity to expose its students’ research to every corner of the globe. It is with this type of free exchange that the academy can reinvent itself and lead the way in today’s growing global economy and workforce.

Moving forward, I would like to see every doctoral student publish their dissertation on ProQuest or some other online platform. Just like TED has revolutionized the conference model, as current and future scholars, we have an opportunity to revolutionize the way people think, learn, and are taught about academic research.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Twitter as a Professional Development Tool

This is my presentation for MECA 2012. I led a hands-on session on using Twitter as a professional development tool.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

So You Want to Be a Doctor When You Grow Up: Tips for Educators Considering Doctoral Work

By Douglas W. Green, EdD

I find that have a number of Twitter friends out of 1500+ (as of this writing) involved in doctoral work or considering it. For educators contemplating this adventure, I offer the following guidance.

Know What You are Getting into: It is important that you do your homework on any program you are considering. Typically you will have to take some number of courses with a mix of requirements and electives. Try to download syllabi of required courses to get some idea of what is expected in terms of reading and writing. Some schools make it easier to get this degree but in general, the better the school’s reputation, the more work you can expect to do. Try to get to know some of the professors and see if you can sit in on some classes. At some point you will need to find a dissertation advisor and members for your dissertation committee. These need to be people you can work with and take criticism from.

Full-Time or Part-Time: I did mine totally part-time and it took nine years. I viewed it as a hobby and it meant that I had to give up some of my other hobbies. Just don’t give up attention to your family and friends and keep up with your exercise plan. The part-time approach wasn’t a problem when it came to taking courses, but it was trickier for collecting data during the research phase of my dissertation. You will need understanding colleagues and superiors. As a principal, my work slowed down in the summer, which is when I did the bulk of my dissertation writing. If you can afford to go full-time you can get this done a lot faster, but you should plan on at least four years.

Dissertation Topic and Approval: For most people this is the most difficult part of the process. Be sure to pick something you are passionate about. If you don’t you are less likely to enjoy the process. You might get some tips from your professors, but you might have to find your own topic as I did. Once you find a topic you will need to come up with a research plan and get it approved. Don’t be shocked if your first ideas aren’t accepted. Your proposal will include the questions you want to answer and the research methodology you plan to use. Be sure to take more than one research course along the way and pay attention. You will need to use what you learn. Once your committee gives you the go ahead, its time to do what you said you were going to do. It’s now time for the perspiration part once the inspiration part is finished. It can be difficult coming up with a big data set for a quantitative study so don’t be surprised if you do a qualitative effort. This is what happened to me even though I am good with numbers. The closer you work with your advisor, the less likely you are to get shot down.

The Support Issue: Don’t be surprised if you feel like giving up somewhere along the way. There are lots of people with ABD (all but dissertation) on their resumes. This where support from the people closest to you is essential. I might have packed it in were it not for the support I received from my wife.

Money, Money, Money: It shouldn’t be too difficult to determine the cost of tuition for your degree. Don’t forget to add in the cost of continuing enrollment during the time you are working one your dissertation, which in my case was five years. Look for scholarships and check your contract to see if your school district will chip in with tuition or enhanced pay for the additional coursework and degrees. Start by assuming that your new degree will gain you nothing more in the way of future compensation and you won’t be disappointed. Your doctorate can pay off if it allows you to move up the food chain towards the superintendent’s office. For me I was happy being a principal so my salary only went up a few thousand due to the impact of the coursework and the degree in my union contract. It has allowed me to teach college level courses and do consulting that probably wouldn’t have come my way, but if money is your motive, you may not be thrilled with where you end up.

You Better Be Intrinsically Motivated: The topic of motivation is one that all educators should attend to. I suggest you start with Daniel Pink’s book on the subject (“Drive”) or at least read my summary at If you are not into learning for its own sake, the grind of doctoral work may not be for you. Ideally you aren’t solely motivated by the idea of having EdD or PhD after your name, but I must admit it is pretty cool when people call me Dr. Green. I never introduce myself that way, but when it came time to pick a domain name for my blog, I found that variations of my name were taken but DrDougGreen.Com was available. By the way, EdD degrees tend to be more practical but I wouldn’t worry about which title your university uses. In addition to becoming a better educator, the experience should also make you a better person, which can enhance your life and those you touch in many ways. If you do take the plunge, I applaud you, I wish you the best, and I’m here for you if you want my advice. Good Luck.

If you find that you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to send an email to Doug@DrDougGreen.Com or you can find me on Twitter @DrDougGreen.

DrDougGreen.Com is all about Bite-Sized Self-Development. It focuses on book summaries that present the main concepts of important books in about 15 paragraphs. More than an expert online resource, Dr. Green has been an educator since 1970. After teaching chemistry, physics, and computer science, he became an administrator for the next 30 years with experience at the secondary, central office, and elementary levels. He has also taught a number of leadership courses for The State University of New York at Cortland and Binghamton University and authored over 300 articles in computer magazines and educational journals. In 2006 Dr. Green gave up his job as an elementary principal to care for my wife who had Lou Gehrig’s disease. After her death in March of 2009 he decided to see how he could use my expertise to help busy educators and parents hone their skills and knowledge.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

MECA 2012

By Will Deyamport, III, Ed.D. Candidate

Today marked the first time I presented at a state conference. There was a good vibe in the air, and the attendees were actively engaged and eager to learn. I was surprised to see so many people up at 8:30 in the morning to sit through and hour and twenty minute presentation.

The presentation focused on teaching the attendees how to use Twitter as a professional development tool. I covered the features of Twitter as well as walked the attendees through creating an account and sending out their first few tweets. We discussed hashtags, the weekly live-chats, and how to find and follow people according to the subject or content areas of their choosing.

Overall, I had a great time at the conference. I attended workshops on Using the Ipad to Reach all Learners, 40 Free Tools for Educators, Skype in the Classroom (Presented by my wife, Elvira Deyamport, Ed.S.), and I connected with other teachers whom I hope to be able to build lasting relationships. I had a blast. I hope to be able to present next year.

Here is a snippet of video from the presentation:

Here is the actual PowerPoint presentation:

Twitter as a professional development tool

View more PowerPoint from peoplegogy

The entire video of the presentation will be posted on Youtube.

The Great Doctoral Degree Hunt: Part III

By Leah MacVie
Harvard, Boston, USA
Photo by
I feel great that I am at this stage. Some things I've learned from a few weeks ago:
  • Tips and tricks from people you know can make a huge difference. Whenever people would ask me what I was up to, I always answered that I was working on narrowing my selections to apply for my doctorate. I received so many helpful tips and pointers- way more than if I simply responded with 'same old, same old'.
  • Don't be afraid to ask people for help. I work at a college so it was pretty easy to find people to help with specific issues I was unclear on.  I knew exactly the right person to talk to when it came to figuring out accreditation and getting a second opinion on my final selections.
  • Testimonials are invaluable when it comes to really learning what the program is about. Someone I work with is a Ph.D. candidate at one of my final choices. Her comments about the program were invaluable in finding out more about the general program atmosphere.
  • Look for tips in unlikely places. (Or possibly not so unlikely.) William and Matt Eventoff recently wrote an article, The Best Defense ..., their advice for defending a dissertation.

Mission 6: Final Choices

I continued to work on the spreadsheet I mentioned in Part II.  I found that I really didn't need to formally rank the rank the schools as mentioned in Mission 5, as a lot of the schools eliminated themselves: the program was too narrow, the program was too expensive or too long, and with one, I couldn't really figure out if the exact concentration I was looking at was indeed a hybrid program. I found that the final two selections were a great fit in academic and college atmosphere, had a reasonable price and reasonable credit hours, and had a solid hybrid structure.

Mission 7: Work on Application Pieces

Next, I realized that in order to apply to these schools, I really needed to have a separate spreadsheet to organize the information. I also decided to work on an 'application press kit' to hopefully make it easier for the selection committees to make a decision. It's helping me to keep all of the information organized. I also have a little pile going at home for each school. I am choosing to send some things in that are not required, for example, a brief bio with photo and a link to a video I record for each school. I think it's important to help the committees to get to know my passion for learning and my commitment to attaining this degree.

I am still searching for more individuals who have documented their hybrid Ph.D. searches and hybrid programs, but this info is not easy to come by. If you know of anyone or programs not currently listed, please send me the info. I will be very grateful!

Leah MacVie is a blogger, instructional designer, photographer, and former graphic and Web designer. She possesses a BFA from the University at Buffalo and a Master’s in Educational Computing from the SUNY College at Buffalo. In her spare time, she is focusing on finding out more about DIY and informal learning. You can read more at

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Don't Forget the Social part of Social Media Part 2

By Will Deyamport, III, Ed.D. Candidate

I am on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn and a few other social networking sites. I not only run and manage this blog, I am also a regular contributor to a college and career advice and information site. And the one thing that still baffles me is how so many companies, individuals, and so-called experts have no clue about what to do with social media.

Even after being told that social media is about engagement, empowerment, relationship-building, and collaboration, folks still get on Twitter and the like and do nothing but try to sell their crap. The worst offenders are those who fill their feeds with scripted autotweets.

Social media isn't the traditional form of internet communication. Don't treat it that way. If you must address customer complaints, do so in a way that involves people in making changes to how complaints are handled at the company. If you must send out autotweets, set aside some time to actually build relationships with people. And if you must focus on selling, then create chats on Twitter or stream live chats on Youtube or create a group on LinkedIn. The point here is to get your "customers" intellectually and emotionally involved in what you do.

When I worked as the Chief Social Strategist for StrengthsFactors, there was nothing more important to me than informative content and creating a space for sharing. I didn't want the site to be just another one-way conversation; I wanted it to be a community of ideas.

My 2 1/2 years researching and consulting in social media has made me a believer. Through back-channeling, I've been able to keep up with conferences, follow debates, and keynote addresses. By being actively involved in conversations, I've also been able to connect and collaborate with folks like Robin Roffer, Kristan Cunningham, and Shelly Terrell. By focusing on connection over self-promotion, I've been able to develop an inspiring Personal Learning Network, comprised of educators, journalists, tech enthusiasts, leadership junkies, doctoral students, and social media geeks. That's what makes social media so dynamic and so much more than the one-dimensional website.

I hope companies, individuals, and marketing execs understand that social media can't be coddled and controlled like traditional media. Yes, social media can be used for marketing, but social media isn't a marketing tool. Just like movies, journalism, and the arts can show us the best within ourselves, social media can connect us in ways that facilitate real change and movement.

My advice is simple: Forget about Return on Investment; start thinking about Return on Engagement.

Will Deyamport, III, is an Ed.D. Candidate, a social media leader, and digital academic. His blog, PEOPLEGOGY, was born out of the idea to curate expert voices. In addition to his 11 years of experience in education, he has interned with the likes of Ingrid Stabb and J. T. O’Donnell. Currently, Will is working on his dissertation, which focuses on using Personal Learning Networks to support the individual professional learning needs for teachers.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Great Doctoral Degree Hunt: Part II

Photo by Weedah 
By Leah MacVie

A few things I have learned so far:
  1. Although I started out searching for 'hybrid' programs and had some decent results, I found out another applicable search term is 'low residency', which is a term I have never heard of before.
  2. You have to specifically search for Ph.D. or Ed.D. if you want one or the other. 'Doctoral' can be used for both types of programs.
  3. I am surprised to see how much the credit hours range with the programs. Most are 60, but one in my search is over 100.
  4. I plan on having a colleague help me out with the accreditation category because I'm not sure how to easily rank the results.
Great resources: Curtis Bonk's list of Instructional and Ed Tech Programs:

Mission 4: Organize Results

For the past few weeks I have been collecting Ph.D. programs in my Google bookmarks list. To organize the information, I started a simple Google Spreadsheet to compare the programs. This will make it easy to order the programs when it comes down to the final ranking.

Mission 5: Ranking

I believe that I should first rank the categories by order of importance to me, and that will help me to attribute the scores. These are my top categories:
  1. Accreditation
  2. Degree
  3. Cost
  4. Credit Hours
I am still searching for more individuals who have documented their hybrid Ph.D. searches and hybrid programs, but this info is not easy to come by. If you know of anyone or programs not currently listed, please send me the info. I will be very grateful!

Leah MacVie is a blogger, instructional designer, photographer, and former graphic and Web designer. She possesses a BFA from the University at Buffalo and a Master’s in Educational Computing from the SUNY College at Buffalo. In her spare time, she is focusing on finding out more about DIY and informal learning. You can read more at