Best practices: An online doctoral learning experience

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1 Best practices: An online doctoral learning experience Tracy Christianson & Tracy Hoot ABSTRACT Online education offers students the flexibility to attend to course work when personal or work commitments conflict with learning. Students who do not have the ability to commute to classes have the opportunity to continue their education online through distance learning. Other benefits to online learning are that students are not limited in their decision based solely on program suitability or availability. This paper reviews the literature on best practices for asynchronous online learning and the factors that students should consider when choosing to enroll in an online program. The authors personal journey, beginning at their decision to enroll in an online doctoral education program, to factors that contributed positively to their online experience is discussed. Keywords:0 Online Education, Best Practices, Doctoral Education, Personal Journey Tracy Christianson, RN, BSN, MN, DHEd (c) Lecturer, School of Nursing 900 McGill Road, FAN INTRODUCTION0 Best0Practices:0An0Online0Doctoral0Learning0Experience0 Whenchoosingadoctoralprogramthecandidatemusttakeintoconsiderationanumberoffactors. Forinstance,howresponsiveisthetypeofprogramtothecandidate slearningneeds?somestudentsmay preferthetraditionaltypeofprograminwhichthestudentattendsfacegtogfaceclassroomsessionsoncampus whileotherstudents,duetotheirgeographicallocation,wouldchoosethemorenongtraditionalapproachof anonglinelearningenvironment.otherfactors,suchasfamilyresponsibilities,workcommitment,feasibility, andtuitioncostsmayalsodeterminethetypeofdoctoralprogramthestudentchooses.thepurposeofthis briefpaperistodiscussbestpracticeindoctoraleducationbysharingtheauthors personallivedexperiencein attendinganonlinedoctoralprogram. Thepromotionofonlinelearningindoctoraleducationhassteadilyincreasedoverthelast10yearsin theunitedstates.allenandseaman(2005)reportedthat65%ofpostsecondaryinstitutionsthatcurrently offerfacegtogfacecoursesalsoofferthesamecoursesonline.thetermonglinelearningisusedsynonymously bysomewhendescribingdistanceeducation(tallentgrunnels,thomas,lan,ahern,&liu,2006).whileany coursethatisdeliveredtostudentswhoarenotpresentinaclassroomcanbedefinedasdistanceeducation, onglinelearningusuallymeansthatcoursedeliveryiscompletelyadministeredontheinternet.moore, DicksonGDeane,andGalyen(2011)defineonlinelearningasan improvedversionofdistancelearning (p.130) andthatitmaybedescribedaseglearningorwebgbasedlearningwithonlinebeingtheenvironmentusing computermediatedcommunication(finch&jacobs,2011).learningisfacilitatedthroughstructuredlearning activitieswhichincludesconsistentinteractionswithfacultyandpeersthroughonlinetransactions.single parentsandworkingprofessionalsnowhavetheabilitytoenrollingraduatestudieswhereprogramdeliveryis 100%online.Studentstendtobeappreciativeoftheconvenienceofthistypeofprogrammingasitprovides theflexibilitythatallowsthemtoworkfullgtimewhileobtainingadoctoraldegreewheregeographicalaccessis limited(leners,wilson,&sitzman,2007).althoughonlinehighereducationremainsacontroversialand debatabletopicinsomeacademiccircles(adams,2009),researchconductedbysikoraandcarroll(2002) 92

2 demonstratedthefavorabilityofthistypeofeducationamongststudents.researchresultsrevealedthat studentswhoparticipatedinonlinelearningwereequallyormoresatisfiedthanthestudentswhowere enrolledinthesamecourseinatraditionalclassroomsetting(sikora&carroll,2002)withoftenhavingbetter successthanstudentsinfacegtogfaceclassrooms(means,toyama,murphy,bakia,&jones,2009ascitedin Finch&Jacobs,2012).Ontheotherhand,thedownsidetoonlineeducationasperceivedbysomerelatesto insufficientopportunitytointeractwithpeersandfaculty(adams,2009).however,thisconcerncancertainly beaddressedthroughcoursedesign. Althoughtheliteratureonbestpracticeforonlinedoctoralprogrammingislimited,researchhasestablished thenecessityofcertainelementstobeconsideredduringcoursedesign(moore,2011;tallentgrunnelsetal., 2006).Considerationssuchaslearnercharacteristics,pedagogy,facultyexpertise,coursetechnology,learner resources,learnerinteraction,andlearnerengagementhavethepotentialtoinfluencetheeffectivenessofan onlineasynchronouslearningenvironment(moore,2011).lim,morris,andkupritz(2007)identifiedlearner engagementandcourseinvolvementasadrawbacktoonlineinstruction;unlessthelearnerisselfgmotivated andpossessesstrongorganizationalskills,learningonlinemayprovetobeachallengeforsomelearners.in ordertobesuccessfulinthistypeoflearningenvironment,learnersmustbeengagedintheexperience(rao& Giuli,2010).Evidencesuggestsfacultymemberswhohaveexpertiseinonlinecourseinstructionhavetheskill toenrichthelearningexperienceforthelearner(kumar&dawson,2012;schifter,2000).thestudent s exposuretoonlinelearningmaybelimited;thereforehe/shemayrelyonthefaculty sexpertisetohelpwith thenavigationofthecourse.postgsecondaryinstitutionsthatofferonlinecoursesneedtoprovidestudents withadequateaccesstotechnicalsupport,academicadvising,libraryandbookstoreservices,andregistration. LaoandGonzales(2005)notedthatstudentswhowereenrolledinonlinecoursesbelievedthataccessand understandingofthetechnologywasinstrumentaltotheirsuccess.studentsexpectfacultytoguideand supporttheirtransitionfromafacegtogfaceclassroomlearningenvironmenttoonethatissolelyadministered throughtheinternet.sinceonlineclassroominteractionsarefacilitatedthroughcomputers,studentsshould haveabasicunderstandingonhowtoaccesstheinternetandparticipateinanonlinecoursebyusinglearning managementsystems,suchasblackboard.notonlyarefacultyexpectedtoprovidestudentswithan orientationtotheonglinecoursebutalsoonhowtouseunfamiliarcomputertechnology.sincesuccessinan onlinecoursemaydependonthestudent scomputerskills,facultymemberswhohaveexperiencewithongline teachingcanhelpstudentsovercomethetechnologicalobstaclesoftenassociatedwithonlinelearning (Sampson,Leonard,Ballenger,&Coleman,2010). HavingateachingpresenceintheonGlinelearningenvironmentcanincreasestudentsatisfactionwithlearning askumarandcolleagues(2011)discoveredinthedevelopmentofanonlinedoctorateofeducation(edd) program.basedonstudentfeedbackthestrengthofthiseddprogramwastheteachingpresencethatfaculty hadwiththeirstudents.studentsatisfactionwasdirectlycorrelatedtofacultyexpertiseinonglineteachingand learning,instructionaldesign,course/programstructureandorganization,andtimelyfeedbackandsupport (Kumar,Dawson,Black,Cavanaugh,&Sessums,2011).Furthermore,So(2005,ascitedinLowenthal&Parscal, 2008)reportedthattherewas adefinite,consistentandstrongrelationshipamongstudentperceptionsof interaction,socialpresence,andlearning (p.4).studentsaremorelikelytoactivelyengageinmeaningfulong linediscussionsiftheinstructorhasapresenceinthediscussionforum(anderson,rourke,garrison,&archer, 2001,p.5).Forinstance,insteadofwaitingfortheweekendtocontributetoadiscussionthread,studentsare moreapttoparticipatethroughouttheweekbycriticallyreflectingandrespondingtoquestionsposedbytheir peersandinstructor.facultymemberswhofacilitateandcontributetotheonglinediscussionscreateasocial presenceintheforumthathelpsguidediscussionsthatstudentsarehavingdifficultywith.wheninstructors areinvolvedinthediscussionforumtheycanposeadditionalquestionswhenstudentresponsesbecome repetitiveand/orminimal.however,instructorscandisrupttheflowofthediscussionresponseswhentheir involvementintheforumbecomesexcessiveandintrusive.researchersingraduateonlinecoursesconcluded facultygstudentinteractionscancreateahighdegreeofmutualsupport,andincreasenotonlystudentlearning butparticipationintheonlinelearningcommunity(varnhagen,wilson,krupa,kasprzak,&hunting,2005). 93

3 TallentGRunnelsetal.(2006)concludedintheirreviewoftheliteratureofonlinelearningthatfacultyshould strivetopromotebothteacher studentandstudent studentinteractiontohelplearnersconstruct knowledge.furthermore,instructorsneedtoparticipateinthediscussionsandprovidescaffoldingtohelp studentsintheirdiscussions. Onlinelearningenvironmentsthatestablishasenseofcommunity,offermultipleinstructionalstrategies, promotevariedlearningstyles,andprovideopportunitiesforselfgdirectedandcollaborativelearningpromote thequalityofonlineeducation(kumar&dawson,2012;yang&cornelious,2005).acommunityofonline learnerscanbecreatedbysettingclearexpectationsabouthowstudentscommunicatewithinthecourse. Studiesrevealedthatfrequentinteractions/discussionswithfacultyandpeershadtheabilitytobuildtrust, clarifyideasorissues,demonstratelearningthroughreflectionandcriticalskilldevelopment,andincrease motivationandsatisfaction(butcher&sieminski,2009;moore,2011).designinganddeliveringanonline coursethatisinteractiveyetcultivatesstudentselfgdirectednessiscriticalforinfluencinglearning.usingthe SloanConsortium smetricsforonlinelearningeffectiveness,moore(2011)highlightedthatonglineprograms andcoursesshouldbeinteractiveandtakeadvantageofthemediumtoimprovelearning;learningoutcomes becomparabletotraditionalcourses;andshouldenhancecommunicationtoestablishtrustandbuildasense ofcommunity.whenchoosingadoctoralprogram,studentsshouldquestionwhethertheprogramfitswith theirpersonalsituationandlearningneeds.forinstance,arethetuitioncostsreasonable?doesthe institutionofferfinancialassistance?isthestudentexpectedtoattendafacegtogfaceorientationoncampus? Isfacultyinvolvedinthedevelopmentofthecourse?DoesfacultyhaveexpertiseinfacilitatingonGline instruction? A0Doctoral0Learning0Experience0 AsRaoandGiuli(2010)havestated,tryingtobalancework,family,andothercommitmentscanbeasignificant challengewhenundertakingadoctoralprogram.theseconsiderations,alongwithgeographicallocation, learningneedsandgoals,andtheoverallfinancialimplicationswerefactorsthattheauthorsconsideredwhen beginningtheirsearchforasuitabledoctoralprogram.intheirstudyofphdnursingstudents,jordanghalter, Kleiner,andFormanekGHess(2006)foundthatthelackofproximitytothetraditionalfaceGtoGfacedeliverywas asignificantdeterrentforthosestudentswholivedatadistancefromtheinstitution.fortheauthors,the opportunitytoundertakeadoctoralprogramthroughdistanceprogrammingwasanattractivealternative sincegeographicallytheircommunitywasisolatedfromsuchlearningopportunities.inaddition,theflexibility toworkathomeandatone sownpacearoundabusypersonalandprofessionallifewerefeaturesthat appealedtotheauthors.unfortunately,somestudentsmaychooseaprogrambasedonhowtheprogramis deliveredandnotnecessarilyonthedoctoraldegreebeingoffered(lenersetal.,2007).bothauthorsbegan theprocessofidentifyingasuitableprogrambyfirstlistingandrankingwhichconsiderationsweremost important.onceitwasdecidedwhichfeatureswereimportanttotheauthors,researchintoavailableongline doctoralprogramsbegan.extensiveresearchintodoctoralprogramsofferedworldwide,ledtheauthorstoone ofthefewaccrediteduniversitiestoofferadegreeinhealtheducation(dhed). A.T.StillUniversity(ATSU),inKirksvilleMissouri,wasestablishedin1892byDr.AndrewStillasthefirst osteopathicmedicaltrainingwiththephilosophyofmind,body,andspiritualwellbeing(atsu,2013a).today accreditedbythecommissiononinstitutionsofhighereducationofthenorthcentralassociationofcolleges andschools,atsuoffersavarietyofprogramsthroughitssixschools,includingadoctorateofhealth education(dhed)programwithintheschoolofhealthmanagement(shm).thedhedprogramisaunique credentialtoatsuasstudentslearninacompletelyvirtuallearningenvironment.asoneofthefewonline doctoratedegreesinhealtheducation,studentsexaminethecurrentstateofhealtheducationandtheir individualrolesandresponsibilitieswithinit(atsu,2013b).themissionoftheshmalignswiththatofthe universitybybeingalearninggcenteredschoolfocusedonpreparingstudentstobecomehealthcareleaders whowillpromotesociallyresponsiblepractice,policy,andresearchtoimprovehealthandwellness(atsu, 94

4 2013b).TopromotethisgoalandthemissionoftheUniversity,SHMendeavourstoprovidehighqualityand applicableinstructionthroughinnovative,onlineeducation;andsupporthealthprofessionsstudentsasthey participateinscholarlyactivitiesthatbothanticipateandaddressthehealthcareneedsofadiversesociety (ATSU,2013b).TheDHEddegreeisa78Gto84GcreditGhourprogramwithanapplieddissertationcomponent. ThedegreecurriculumisnowalignedwiththeCertifiedHealthEducationSpecialist(CHES)andMasterCertified HealthEducationSpecialist(MCHES)competenciesdefinedbytheNationalCommissionforHealthEducation Credentialing(NCHEC);thenationallyrecognizedagencyforhealtheducationcredentialing. TheDHEdprogramtheauthorsenrolledinintegratedmanyofthebestpracticesforonlinelearningsuchas supports/resources,learnerengagementandinteraction,flexibility,andlearneroutcomes(kumar&dawson, 2012;Moore,2011).OneofthefeaturesoftheATSUonlineDHEdprogramisitsfocusorconnectionto practicethatallowsforexplorationofhealtheducationissuesandthelearners roleswithinhealtheducation; andwasakeydecidingfactorastheauthorswereworkingaseducators.suchemphasisonpracticegbased learninghasbeencitedbysomeasanimportantelementtoonlinedoctoralprogramsasitmakeslearningall themorerelevant(kumar&dawson,2012;woodrowwilsonnationalfellowshipfoundation,2005).tolearn newconceptsimportanttopracticecanhaveapositiveimpactonthewidereducationandpractice community.asreported,thereisopportunityfordoctoralstudentstosharenewideasandimprove professionalpracticewithintheircommunity(butcher&sieminski,2009;lenersetal.,2007;selmer,graham, &Goodykoontz,2011).Labaree(1997)discusseshoweducationcanbeapublicgood.Studentscanbring aboutsocialchangebyapplyingconceptsthattheylearnedinpostsecondarytoneedsidentifiedintheir community.fortheauthors,thispermittedthemtofocusmanyoftheirassignmentsonissuesthey experiencedintheireducationpracticeorcouldbeimplementedasteachingstrategiesincoursestheywere currentlyteaching.also,eachoftheirdissertationresearchisfocusedinwaystoimproveteachingand learningforhealthcarestudents. Thetechnologyofbeingonlinecreatesalearningenvironmentthatisdifferentthanthetraditionalclassroom, makingsupportsandresourcesforstudentscritical(finch&jacobs,2012).atsuoffersstudentsanonline preparationminicoursetohelppotentialstudentsunderstandthenuancesofonlinelearning.moore(2011) describesthisintroductiontothelearningenvironmentasbestpracticefordistanceeducation.berge(2001, ascitedinbozarth,chapman,&lamonica,2004)supportstheconceptofinstitutionsofferingaminicourseto helpfamiliarizestudentstothedeliveryofcourselearningthroughtheuseoftechnology.doingsoprepares studentsbyintroducingthemtothelearningskillsnecessarytoovercometechnicalproblemsthatmayoccur whenenrolledinanonlinecourse.oftentimesstudentsdonotrealizehowimportantbasiccomputerliteracy skillsaretothesuccessofonlinelearninguntiltheyparticipateinanorientationcourse.suchinitialcourse offeringscanensurestudents understandingofthecommitmentrequiredforonlinelearning;promoting studentsuccessbyensuringthereisagoodfitforthestudent.bothauthorsfeltthattheminicourseoffered throughatsuappropriatelyalleviatedfearsrelatedtodistancelearning.applyingstudyandlearningskillstoa minicourseprovidedtheauthorswitharealisticexpectationtoonlineeducation. FacultyencouragedstudentGtoGstudentsupportbycreatingaqualityonlinelearningcommunity.StudentGtoG studentsupportcanbecreatedbybuildingacommunityofpracticeorofferingopportunitiesforstudentsto participateandinteracteitherthroughcoursediscussionsand/oranonlineplatformfornongcoursedialogue. Ineachoftheauthors onglinedhedcourses,therewastheopportunitytomeetstudentsinthe coffeeshop, aseparateplacefordiscussionunrelatedtocoursecontentdiscussions.thecoffeeshopofferedthestudentsa placetogettoknowmoreabouteachother,shareinformationaboutpasteducationalexperiences,askcourse relatedquestions,andtoreceivefeedbackonideas.fortheauthors,the coffeeshop discussionscreateda socialconnectionasmorewaslearnedaboutpeersonapersonallevelthanhadbeentheirexperiencesin traditionalclassroominteractions.glisanandtrainin(2006)reportedahighpositivecorrelationbetween studentsuccessandsocialconnectedness.studentswhofeltliketheybelongedintheclassweremorelikelyto finishthecoursethanthosestudentswhodidnotfeelconnectedwiththeirpeersorfacultymember(finch& 95

5 Jacobs,2012;Glisan&Trainin,2006).ToenhancethesocialconnectednessforonGlinestudentsatATSU,the facultymemberwouldjointhe coffeeshop discussions.oftenfacultymemberswouldshareappropriate personalinformationwiththeclassandprovidestudentswithasynopsisoftheirprofessionalbackground. Eventhoughthe coffeeshop providedstudentswithaninformalchannelfordiscussionsnotatanytimedid theauthorsfeelthatfacultyand/orstudentscrossedprofessionaland/orpersonalboundaries. TheauthorsnotedthatstudentGtoGstudentsupportwasalsoprovidedtostudentsthroughopportunitiesto participateinpeerfeedbacksessions.forinstance,duringacourseonproposalpreparationstudentswere askedtoassessandevaluateapeer songoingwrittenfundingproposal.havingtheabilitytoreadandrespond tofeedbackfromavarietyofpeersnotonlyhighlightedproblemsthatexistedintheworkbutalsoimproved thecomprehensionofthelearnedcoursematerial.asidentifiedintheliteraturebyanumberofauthors,peer feedbackengagesandfacilitatesstudentlearning,allowsstudentsthechancetoputprevioushealtheducation learningintopractice,andpermitsfacultytheabilitytoevaluatestudentlearning(butcher&sieminski,2009; Ertmeretal.,2010;Lu&Law,2012).Inaddition,facultyatASTUcreatedaqualityonlinelearningcommunity byhelpingstudentsadjusttotheirrolesaslearnersbyprovidingstudentswithpromptwrittenfeedbackon courseassignments,incorporatingtechnologytofostersocialconnectedness,andbycreatingapresencein onlinediscussions.facultyestablishedclearexpectationsforengagement,criteriaforassignments,and ensuredstudentsknewhowandwhentocontactthem.oneofthemoreinterestingaspectsoffacultyutilizing technologytosupportteachingandlearningwaswhensomefacultychosetouseaudiofeedbackasaformof evaluation.theuseofsuchtechnologyimprovedlearningfortheauthorsbydecreasingisolationand improvingengagementwiththefacultymembers.theuseofaudiofeedbackpersonalizedtheonlinelearning experiencesfortheauthorsandthus,demonstratedbestpractices(moore,2011). KumarandDawson(2012)identifiedstudentsupportsandresourcesasimportantelementsforthe developmentandimplementationofanonlinedoctoralprogram.asmentionedpreviously,supportto studentscancomefromfacultywhohaveaclearunderstandingabouttheoveralldoctoralprogram,expertise inonlineteaching,andwhocanchallengestudentstothinksuccessfully(kumar&dawson,2012;varnhagenet al.,2005).othertypesofsupportincludeinformationtechnology(it)servicesandacademicsupports.the virtualclassroomatatsuwasmadeaccessiblethroughtheitdepartment.itserviceswereavailable24hours aday;sevendaysaweekshouldstudentshaveanytechnologyissues.moore(2011)describedhow organizationsthatfacilitateaccessforstudentsaredemonstratingeffectiveonlinepractices.onlinesupport servicesthatareconsistentandincludeacoherentitframeworkarejustasimportanttostudentsuccessas actualteaching(commissiononcollegessouthernassociationofcollegesandschools,2000).theauthors experienceoftheitservicesatatsuwasexcellentwithverylimitedaccessissues.whentheuniversity updatedthelearningmanagementsystem,studentswereprovidedwithtutorialstohelplearnthesystem changes.whatmadethisprocessgoeasierfortheauthorswasthatanyitchange,suchastheimplementation ofadifferentversionofalearningmanagementsystem,wasintroducedduringamidgsemesterbreak.the onlyotheritchallengeencounteredbyoneauthorwasoutoftheuniversity scontrol.thisauthorlivesina rurallocationwithnoaccesstohighspeedinternetserviceswhichmadeitchallengingwhenaccessingsomeof thelinkstocoursematerialsorwhencoursesrequiredasynchronousactivity,suchasgooglehangout.ithas beenstatedthatcommunicationtechnologiescannotonlyincreaseaccessandflexibilityincoursedelivery,but canalsofosterstudentinteractionandcollaboration(finch&jacobs,2012;moore,2011).atatsu,therewasa feelingofinclusionfortheauthorsastheuniversityregularlycommunicatedandengagedstudentsthrough ,googlehangout,and RockstarFridays wherestudentswererecognizedforvariousprofessionalor personalaccomplishments.anotheropportunityforstudentstofeelsupportedwashowtheuniversitycreated accessandflexibilityfordoctoralcandidatestodefendtheirdissertationsonline.thisprocessnotonlyallows studentstopresentfromhomebutalsoprovidesotherstudentstheopportunitytoobservethepresentations; offeringsupporttotheirpeers. 96

6 AtATSUanAcademicSuccessTeamisusedtosupportitsstudents.Theteamusesacademicsuccess coordinators(asc)alongwiththeshmprogramchairpersoninprovidingresponsiveservicetothestudents, supportingstudentsindevelopingtheiracademicprogressplans,communicatingimportantdatesandpolicyor procedurechanges,andaregenerallythefirstpointofcontactforsupport.atsuoffersanextensiveresource ofdatabasesthroughthelibraryforonlinestudents.thelibraryprovidesaccesstofulltextjournals,textbooks andotherreferencesandwiththeavailabilityofthe CyberLibrarian whoofferssupportforstudentssuchas onlinelunchandlearntutorialswhichhavebeenvitalinkeepingstudentsupgtogdateonlibraryresources. AnotherimportantsupportprovidedatATSUistheOnlineWritingCenterthatoffersresources,tools,and tutorialsforstudents.thecenterprovidesstructure,formatting,citation,andorganizationfeedbackon students writtenassignmentsanddissertationspriortosubmissionforgrades.whenthisservicewasusedby theauthorsthefeedbackreceivedwasdirectedtowardscorrectapaformattingorstructuralchangestothe writtenwork.feedbackwasprompt,within24to36hours,whichwashelpfultotheauthorssincethe assignmentsinthecoursesweredueweekly. Learnerengagementandlearneroutcomesaretwoelementsofbestpracticeforonlinedoctoralprogramsfor whichtheauthors DHEdweresuccessfullyincorporated.TheDHEdprogramhadanappliedresearch componentthatofferedtheauthorstheopportunitytoexploreandresearchhealtheducationissuesinalocal context.olsonandclark(2009)reasonedanappliedresearchdissertationcreatesnewleadergscholaridentity instudentsaswellashelpstoclosethegapbetweenwhatislearnedinuniversitybyempoweringstudents to useresearchtoguideandstudytheirownpractices (p.219).butcherandsieminski(2009)alsodiscovered thattheonlineexperiencerequiredstudentstoreflectontheirrolesasprofessionalselveswhichincreased confidencetousethenewunderstanding,knowledge,andskillintheirprofessionalroles.thishasbeenthe casefortheauthorsastherehasbeenaboostinconfidencetoapplynewknowledgeandskillsgainedinthe DHEdprogramintheirrolesasuniversityeducators.Thebenefitofsuchapedagogicalapproachisthatit engagesstudentsbyprovidingdeeplearningtooccur;suchpersonaljourneyscantransformstudents understandingandideasrelatedtoeducationandpractice(selmer,graham,&goodykoontz,2010). Summary0 Therearemanywhobelievedoctoratedegreesearnedonlinearesubpartothoseearnedinthetraditional settings.thereexiststheperceptionthatonlinedoctoralprogramsofferpoorqualityinstruction,lackrigorous discourseandmentoring,andaredegreemillsduetolackofaccreditation(columbaro&monaghan,2009; DePriest&Absher,2013;Karl&Peluchette,2013).Byunderstandingwhatbestpracticesareforonline degreescandispelsuchmisperceptions.however,currentevidenceissuggestinguniversitiesthatofferquality accreditedonlinedoctoralprogramscanprovidestudentswithexcellentlearningexperiences.groupssuchas thesloanconsortiumhavebeeninstrumentalinestablishingthequalitiesandbestpracticestandardsfor onlinelearningwhichacademicinstitutionsshouldincorporateintotheirprograms. Theevidenceonbestpracticesforonlinelearninghasbeenhelpfulfortheauthorsinreflectingontheironline learningjourney.reflectingonwhatfactorshavemadetheonlinedoctoralexperiencepositivewasestablished byreviewingtheevidenceonbestpracticeforonlinelearning.bymakingcomparisonsbetweentraditional classroomeducationandonlinelearninghasvalidatedfortheauthorsthattheymadetherightchoicefortheir doctoraljourney.highqualitydoctoraleducationcanbeaccessedonlineandoffersanexcellenteducational experienceforstudentswhomaynototherwisehaveotheroptions.bestpracticestandardsforonline academicprogramscanensurestudentsaregettingthebestdoctoraleducationwhilemeetingalltheother commitments,suchaswork,family,andgeographicalbarriersthatstudentsmayhaveintheirlives. 97

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