technology globeI started my PhD in the late 1990s. I got to the stage where I was about to collect data when, after yet another baffling interaction with my supervisor – a long story but after  he forgot that he had  asked me to spend three months doing a chunk of writing and then told me he must have had a bad hair day at the time –  I decided to withdraw.  I was starting a new job, I could never get a straight answer about what was wrong with my research and, well, decided I didn’t have to put up with it any more – I was doing the PhD for me, not because I wanted an academic career.

In 2003, I tried again, and was accepted to another university. Same topic – administrators and academics, this time by distance education (which I’ve done before). No problems, until I tried to interact with my supervisor – another baffling experience. I didn’t actually start because I was told I had to go to the university and well, I couldn’t right then. I was working and it was peak season for me. Next time I attempted to get in touch with my supervisor – no response. Ah well, maybe next time. I withdrew.

So third time lucky, or not as it turned out. I started a professional doctorate in Higher Education in October 2011. The course was offered 100% online, which is what attracted me to it. I like online learning, having had what I regard as one of the most intense learning experiences of my life in the first year of the Masters in Strategic Foresight at Swinburne University of Technology.

I had started my own business, Thinking Futures, in 2007, and that has absorbed much of my brain space, and it will to come. After some pondering, I decided that a traditional PhD was probably not the right way for me right now. While I know I am disciplined, it’s too easy to put off the research, the reading, the writing, particularly when you are a part-time student, and when there’s another client deadline to meet. The online doctorate was supposed to provide me with structure which I think I need if I was going to balance running my own business with studying again.

I set up this blog to record my learning and reflections on my online learning journey. My reasoning was that not only is sharing experiences what you do in this Web 2.0 era, but also because I hope it will widen the community that accompanies me on my doctoral journey – and I suspect, the more help I can get, the better it will be! And of course, I’m not the only person writing about their online education experience – and the more that online students share that experience and our learnings, the less frequently we will hear about why only face-to-face learning is authentic learning.

When I thought about putting the learning log online, I also remembered that my friend and colleague, Heather Davis, had told me about her aim to use online technologies during her PhD – which she has done at her blog on leadership literacies. I decided to emulate her, so thanks Heather!

Alas, my 2011 online PhD experience fell over, for a couple of reasons – one was the restricted way in which the learning management system (LMS) was used, and the second was my very belated realisation that I wanted authentic conversation in my learning process. Not conversation structured by restrictions to post this many times, reference everything, don’t talk about that, oh, and don’t use social media, just the LMS. I lasted five weeks, and wrote about my experience here.

I promised myself I’d finish this PhD, and as the universe would have it, the day after I withdrew from the online doctorate, an email arrived telling me that the new PhD by Professional Practice was available at Swinburne. I’m enrolled, I’m liking it, and I’m still blogging about the experience.