Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Great Doctoral Degree Hunt: Part 1

365 Days: day 28
Photo by ~John~
By Leah MacVie

Hello everyone! My name is Leah MacVie and I'm going to be guest posting on my 'Great Doctoral Hunt' over the next few weeks. This is a cross-post series from my site I'd love to hear about your experience, so please feel free to comment here on Peoplegogy or at
Going back to school and 'finishing up' has been something on my mind for a while. I was the first on both sides of my family to complete even a Master's, but I still don't know if that's enough. When I've asked great people like Gardner Campbell or Scott Chadwick this question, they usually reply with "Well, what do you want to do?" and my answer always is "I'm not sure." Their eyes get quizzical and then they usually reply with "That's actually OK, and probably better." Though I don't know what my future holds for me, I don't want to be in a situation where I'm limited if I don't have a doctoral degree. After countless conversations with my hubby about what is the best cost and time choice for us, I've decided to start narrowing down my search, but to keep it open to different degree options. This series will document my progress over the next few weeks.

Mission 1: Identify an Ideal Situation

Because I am employed full time, my ideal and preferred situation is to enroll in hybrid program where I visit the campus at least once a year to connect with peers and instructors in the program and attend the rest of the classes online. Because attending classes outside of my institution is in no way covered by my employer, I will be cost-conscious during my search. I will also be on the lookout for other financial-coverage perks, such as applying for scholarships or financial aid opportunities. As for the subject, I am looking for a topic that combines all my interests (education, informal learning, social media, technology) or allows me to customize my degree. Although I would prefer a Ph.D. program, I will also be on the lookout for exceptional Ed.D. programs as well.

Mission 2: Connect with Individuals Who Performed Similar Searches

I thought it would first be helpful to read first hand accounts by individuals who have gone through this type of search before in order to see what search methods they used. These are the resources I found:

Mission 3: Begin to Collect Programs

I am using my Google Booksmarks to collect hybrid programs in the states and programs I am interested in abroad.  Although the list is public and you can search for it ("doctoral programs" by leahmacvie), Google has not built in the sharable URL feature yet which prevents me from linking it here on the post. However, here is a bit of the list I have going so far: My goal over the next few weeks is to keep accumulating options. Then I will compare them in spreadsheet so that I can dwindle it down to the final 3 that I will apply to. 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


  1. I my case I waited until they opened a program at my local university (Binghamton University). I then took one course a semester and two in the summer. The doctoral seminars featured about ten students and lots of reading. That is when I started summarizing books like those I post at http://DrDougGreen.Com. The hard part came next, which was finding a dissertation topic and getting it approved. As I was studying how teachers and students use the Internet, I had to find committee members who were willing to learn with me. I was lucky that the ideal district to study was next to mine. Once I finished collecting my data it took a year and two summers to finish the writing. Total time was nine years and 100% part time. It was like a serious hobby. To make it work I just had to give up some other hobbies. You will need support from family and friends to keep going when you get discouraged, and you probably will. Bottom line, it was really worth it. Good luck and don't hesitate to ask me for advice at Doug@DrDougGreen.Com.

  2. Oh, thanks so much Dr. Doug. I'd like to hear more about your dissertation topic- via Twitter?!9 years seems like such a long time- I'm hoping that I can get it done sooner and get on with my life. But, more importantly, I'm hoping to just get it done! Thanks for the offer for help...I WILL take you up on that!

  3. How long do you plan on searching for more options, Leah? I think comparing all of those you've found would take you quite a long time. You should also consider getting advice from the people you've connected to from your 2nd mission. Good luck on your search. I hope you find what you're looking for.

    Stephania Eckstrom

  4. Hiya Stephania,
    Well I searched for about 1 month. As you'll see in the following posts, I did take my time gathering the info before I applied and packaging my info together in order to tailor it to my top two programs. I should have mentioned it, maybe I do in the following posts, but I did reach out and start to form a little 'search PLN' on Twitter and whathaveyou. I definitely recommend hearing the info from the student perspective! Thanks so much for your comments and writing in Stephania.