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Creative Ways Online Faculty Can Use Technology When Advising Doctoral Capstone Writers

Tips and tools help foster success during the research and writing process.

In online doctoral programs, faculty members have an evolving and expanding technology tool kit to use for mentoring doctoral capstone writers. To learn more about these tools, two Walden University faculty members conducted a general qualitative study to explore the types of technology online university faculty members are using, how they are using them, and why they are using them to help students successfully complete their capstone projects.


Dr. Darci J. Harland, academic coordinator in The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Human Sciences, and Dr. Joseph J. Gredler, lead faculty in the Office of Academic Support, interviewed 10 doctoral faculty members at a fully online university for the study Online Faculty’s Use of Technology When Advising Doctoral Capstone Writers.

“Findings indicated faculty use asynchronous tools (Microsoft Word, course discussions and announcements, emails) and synchronous tools (phone calls and webcam calls) to provide instruction, ensure accountability, enhance communication, increase motivation, and promote self-regulation,” Harland and Gredler said.

Faculty members shared some of the effective and creative ways they’re using these and other tools to mentor doctoral capstone writers. Here are some of the study’s findings:1

What technology-aided activities do faculty at online universities perform when mentoring doctoral capstone writers?

Faculty members provide instruction and offer resources to help promote research, writing, and critical thinking skills. At university writing centers, for example, doctoral candidates find a stellar repository of resources. To further the goal of instruction when reviewing capstone projects, faculty use tools like balloon comments to highlight concerns. “If it’s an APA issue or something like that, I’ll provide a link to a resource for them,” one faculty member said.

Ensuring accountability is another faculty goal, and using tools like “compare docs” helps them to do just that. “I have found students trying to not answer specific questions of mine by just deleting whole sections … so I let them know I do pay attention to those things,” one respondent said.

Why do faculty at online universities choose to use certain technology when mentoring doctoral capstone writers?

Faculty select technology and techniques that will enhance communication, increase motivation, and promote self-regulation. One faculty member said framing written feedback as a conversation helps facilitate communication with doctoral candidates and offered this example: “I’ve gone through it, so let me help you. Let me give you the benefit of my experience.”

Faculty find creative, techy ways to increase motivation by using humor and providing positive feedback. “I started calling anthropomorphism ‘anthros,’” a participant said. “Then I found a little emoji … a picture of a made-up monster … and I would stick that in the comment bubbles so that every time you saw that little pop-up monster you knew you had to fix an anthropomorphism—things like that to make it a bit more playful and a bit less word heavy.”

How do online faculty use their preferred technology when mentoring doctoral capstone writers?

Faculty communicate with and mentor doctoral capstone writers using synchronous and asynchronous tools that they select to meet individual student needs. A variety of factors come into play in selecting preferred methods of technology. Time zones, for example, can make one tool a better choice than another. Faculty also accommodate students’ preferences to simplify the process.

Synchronous touchpoints include options like WhatsApp, phone calls, screen-sharing manuscripts while talking on a call, VOIP calls with webcams activated, live meetings, and webinars. Faculty use asynchronous tools like discussion boards, email, document sharing, comments and track changes in Microsoft Word, screen recordings, videos, webinars, and audio recordings.

Earn a Doctoral Degree or PhD At Walden

When you choose Walden as your academic partner for earning a doctorate or PhD online, you’re choosing an accredited university that offers exceptional student support to help you achieve your goals. Walden faculty members are skilled in helping guide you through the successful completion of your dissertation or capstone project.

Enrollment Specialists can help you get started, and you can count on having Walden’s student support services by your side throughout your higher education journey. From financial aid advisors to academic writing support to research support services to Walden’s innovative Doctoral Degree Coach and more, Walden provides personalized student support dedicated to the completion of your dissertation and academic success.

As the No. 1 granter of doctoral research degrees in the U.S.,2 Walden offers more than 20 online doctoral programs and over 135 specializations to support your goals. And as a leader in distance learning for more than 50 years, Walden has developed a student-centered online learning platform that gives you the flexibility to earn a degree while you balance work and family life. If you aspire to earn a doctoral degree, Walden can help you make it happen.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering online doctoral and PhD degree programs. Expand your career options and earn your doctoral degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.

2Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Integrated Postsecondary Education Database (IPEDS). Retrieved March 2020; includes 2017–18 provisional data and all classifications of instructional programs (CIP) codes. A doctoral research degree is a PhD or other doctoral degree that requires advanced work beyond the master’s level, including the preparation and defense of a dissertation based on original research or the planning and execution of an original project demonstrating substantial artistic or scholarly achievement. Some examples of this type of degree may include EdD, DMA, DBA, DSc, DA, DM, or others, as designated by the awarding institution.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,