Pondering the PhD

By | Tue July 15, 2014

(This article is cross-posted on http://rjh.goingeast.ca).

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, one of my first decisions was to put my PhD on hold. I had the opportunity to take a one year (maybe longer) leave of absence in the program (that is, to stop the clock). This was a pretty clear decision as my data collection was not complete, and in order to complete it, I would need to travel to Ottawa once per month over the next 6-8 months, which was no longer going to be possible.

With the stop in my PhD data collection, my current research study is coming to an end. I have a few loose ends to tie up, but, unfortunately, I do not believe there will be enough data or enough of a study to complete a dissertation (I may get one or two journal articles out of the data).  I am proud of the current state of the first phase of the study, which resulted in the content on the website http://ipad-fm.ca and the eBook “iPadagogy: Employing the iPad as a Clinical Teaching Tool”, which is now available in the iBooks Store.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I finish treatment. Treatment just began (20 weeks of chemotherapy, which will be followed by at least two surgeries that will take another 6 months for recovery).

I am pondering my options. In an ideal world, I would go back and begin a new project. One that only takes 3-4 months in data collection, and that would allow me to then get to data analysis and writing of the dissertation. I’ve already spend three and half years doing coursework, writing comprehensive exams, and writing a research proposal. I’ve done small research projects and written and published several peer-reviewed conference papers. I just need to do a good research study that allows me to demonstrate that I can do this, and that gives me enough useful data to write a dissertation.

Looking at going forward options, I am wondering about transferring to another university. I am wondering if there is any way in which to transfer that doesn’t requires a complete ‘restart’. I’m not particularly interested in going back to do two more years of coursework. I’m OK with repeating some stuff, but I’d like a streamlined process. If I’m studying in Canada (or the US I think), I may still be able to access the last two semesters of my SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship – so I even bring with me some funding although not enough to finish the degree. I live in California, and now for medical reasons, a relocation within the next 3-5 years would be complicated and is not really something I’d consider. I’d like to be able to complete my PhD (or EdD for that matter) at a distance – and I’d like to look at some aspect of distance education, the use of new technologies, and faculty development. I also have developed a side interest in medical education – so if there is any cross section of distance education, new technologies, faculty development, and medical education that would be even more interesting – although the medical education aspect is not essential (I’m not an MD).

Today I came across Terry Anderson’s post on “Online Distance Education – Towards a Research Agenda“. My particular areas of interest are identified as:

  • The Use of Technology in distance education
  • The Cost and Economics of Distance Education (although I’d need to do a lot more reading in this area before I could study it).
  • Professional development and faculty support

Actually, I find it interesting that the topics that most interest me all fall within the area categorization of “Meso-level research: Management, Organization, and Technology”.

So, I shall ask anyone reading my blog – any suggestions for Doctorate programs that might allow someone with special circumstances such as mine to transfer in?  I’m not 100% certain that this is what I will want do when I’m done treatment, but I do want to explore the options so I know what is feasible / realistic. Thanks.

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