Correlation between Mentors and Learners Perceptions of Competency Model in Completing Online Doctoral Dissertations

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Correlation between e-Mentors and Learners Perceptions of Competency Model in Completing Online Doctoral Dissertations Kate Andrews, Ph.D. Associate Faculty/Research Fellow School of Advanced Studies Center for Educational and Instructional Technology Research August 2014 Abstract The advent of completing doctoral dissertations in an online environment is to be considered a natural extension of the technological process change in today’s world of technology permeating our lives. The process followed for centuries of completing a dissertation conducted over years with intensive in-person consultation with committees has given way to the completion of doctoral dissertations in a collaborative online learning environment. However, there is little evidence gathered to measure the importance ratings of e-mentoring core competencies in an online environment and it is unclear if there is any disparity between e-mentors and learners’ perceptions about importance of e-mentors’ core competencies. Guided by the theory of e-mentoring competencies, the focus of this research study will be to identify importance of e-mentor competencies based on e-mentors and learners’ perceptions. Additionally, the determination will be made to examine the relationship between the importance of e-mentor competencies as perceived by the learners and e-mentors through a quantitative method with a correlational design. The purposeful sample will be 68 e-mentors and learners from university online doctoral programs volunteering through social media groups. Spearman’s rho will be used for data analysis. The results will be useful to identify important E-M competencies and share them with e-mentors to improve the quality of dissertation e-mentoring. Problem Statement As one scholar to another scholar, the completion of the dissertation signals the passing of the torch (Davidhizar, 1988) as learners today become mentors of tomorrow. Through the process of completing a dissertation, learners advance to the state of understanding scholarship as the scholarship of integration, application, and teaching (Boyer, 1990). As learners grasp the meaning of scholarship, they understand the significance of passing the torch (Irons, 2008). Across the decades, from 30 to 50% of those who enter graduate work dropout before completing their degrees and these failure rates have been tracked to dissatisfaction with supervision rather than academic ability (Armstrong, 2004; Brill, et al., 2014; Mason, 2012). The self-paced process of dissertation work has been seen as one of the issues related to dropout rates where the addition of intense facilitation through mentorship can help to increase the graduation rate to 73% (Ewing, Mathieson, Alexander, & Leafman, 2012). Therefore, the self-paced process should give way to a mentorship founded in collaboration between mentors and learners (Lee, 2011). In fact, the relationship that learners have with mentors is a vital component of a successful experience for the learner (Holley & Caldwell, 2012). Researchers have detailed the categories of mentor and learner expectations from mentors in face-to-face (F2F) campus dissertation processes; however, in an online environment, the comparison of e-mentor competency and learners’ ratings of importance has not been ascertained (Erwee, Albion, van Rensburg, & Malan, 2011; Florczak, Collins, & Schmidt, 2014; Radda, 2012). Currently, there is little evidence gathered to measure the importance ratings of e-mentors required competences in an online environment; either qualitatively or quantitatively (Anderson & Anderson, 2012; Andrew, 2012). It is unclear if there is any disparity between e-mentors and learners’ perceptions of e-mentors’ core competencies. There are numerous qualitative studies investigating the perceptions of learners and e-mentors in online educational doctoral programs in regards to expectations of E-M (Bolliger & Halupa, 2012; Combe, 2012; Kumar, Johnson, & Hardemon, 2013) but little research has been conducted in the narrower scope of identifying e-mentors and learners perceived importance ratings for e-mentor core competencies (Brill, 2014). Similarly, limited information has been obtained from quantitative methodological studies focusing on the correlation of e-mentors and learners’ perceptions for e-mentor core competencies (Schichtel, 2010). As of yet, it is not known what relationship exists between e-mentors and learners’ perceptions of importance ratings of core competencies including developmental, social, cognitive, teaching, communication, and managerial. A quantitative method with correlation design will be used in this proposed study to examine such relationships. A purposeful sampling method will be used to recruit e-mentors and doctoral learners who work on their doctoral dissertations in an online setting in a university in the United States. Theoretical Framework Just as mentoring is being used in F2F campuses, mentoring is being used in online environments. What transpires as E-mentoring (E-M) in the university represented by this study are the possibilities of blended E-M with not only asynchronous communication via discussion boards, email, message boards, and feedback but also synchronous communication (e.g., video conferencing, phone calls; Brill, 2014). There have been different definitions of E-M. The definition used in this research is “a computer mediated, mutually beneficial relationship between a [e-]mentor and a protégé [learner] that provides learning, advising, encouraging, promoting, and modeling, that is often boundary less, egalitarian, and qualitatively different than traditional F2F” (Bierema & Merriam, 2002, p. 214). The term boundaryless is applicable in the sense of being without geographic and time boundaries. Egalitarian implies an environment that has open and free dialogue. The qualitative differences between F2F and online are in communication that is synchronous or asynchronous, with visual cues or without, and with immediate feedback or not. Through the egalitarian pattern of communication inherent in online higher education (Griffiths & Miller, 2005; Mueller, 2004), E-M of learners has been captured as requiring competencies of developmental learning, social, cognitive, teaching reflectively, communication, and managerial (Schichtel, 2010). Schichtel (2010) developed the first digest of the model consisting of competencies necessary for online e-mentors based upon analysis of research in 25 databases. Although Schichtel’s results mentioned the competencies as necessary for medical educators, the analysis he used in deriving the competencies was in a breadth of educational arenas not limited by medical education. The competencies are the major component for this survey investigation of learner and e-mentor perceptions of importance in the dissertation process. The developmental learning competence describes the level of the ongoing learning process that uses scaffolding in order to increase knowledge and skills. This is accomplished through timely and thorough feedback. Social competence is the level of building interpersonal relationships through a style of empathic understanding and connecting to others. The cognitive competence is the level of expert knowledge that is not only held but can be conveyed to the learner. Thoughtful self-analysis coupled with self-examination of teaching effectiveness is considered the competence of teaching reflectively. The ability to listen empathically and to hear others and use skills in order to reach mutually beneficial goals is the communication competence. One’s level of being able to mobilize resources is the measurement of the managerial competence. The six competencies are defined in Table 1. Table 1. Definitions of Six Competencies Competency Definition Developmental Learning Ongoing learning process that uses scaffolding in order to increase knowledge and skills to the level of one’s ability [includes timely feedback; critique for improvement; and suggestions to continue to enhance current knowledge and skills] Social Interpersonal relationships through style of empathic understanding and connecting to others Cognitive Expert knowledge that can be conveyed to the learner Teaching Thoughtful self-analysis; self-examination of teaching effectiveness Communication Ability to listen empathically and to hear others and use skills in order to reach mutually beneficial goals Managerial Level of being able to mobilize resources Several factors can be measured to gauge the effectiveness of the online dissertation process including learner satisfaction, learner expectation, importance ratings, e-mentor performance, retention rates, completion rates, and career enhancement. Because the measurement of learners’ opinions of importance of behaviors is essential in online learning environments (Schichtel, 2010), this proposed study will examine e-mentors and learners’ perceptions about the most important e-mentor competencies. However, just as significantly as importance levels with competencies are measured, the perceived importance of each competency should be compared between learner and e-mentor. If the learner perceives a different importance level than the e-mentor then a disconnect will occur between what will be developed by the e-mentor and what is desired by the learner. The competence model developed by Schichtel (2010) will be used as the foundation of this proposed study. The theory will be used to develop the surveys and thus explore the participants’ perceptions about the importance of competency components. Literature Review E-M in online education, according to Suhonen and Sutinen (2014), can compensate for not having the typical F2F interaction between student and teacher. With E-M, there may be a student-centered approach intertwined with attention to faculty-centered philosophies in examining both learner and e-mentor needs and competencies (Brill, 2014). The benefits of E-M are the lack of geographic and time boundaries, enhanced privacy (Knouse, 2001), stable accomplishment of student learning when compared with F2F (Esgi, 2013), and improved psychosocial factors (Phinney, 2011). On the other hand, as feedback is part of the necessary formative assessment required for learners to monitor their progress (Heinze & Heinze, 2009), Brace-Govan (2003) found an increased difficulty level for e-mentors to provide beneficial feedback in a text-based communication system more than in a F2F environment. Not only is there an increased difficulty in communication for e-mentors, there are additional characteristics of the doctoral dissertation process that are extremely new to the learner. The doctoral dissertation passage can be “lonely and isolating because, by the nature of doctoral education, it is a personal journey and the ultimate demonstration of skills, which tasks the budding scholar with an increased requirement for rigor beyond any previous level of performance experienced” (Brill et al., 2014, p. 34). Effective E-M encompasses competencies (Schichtel, 2010; as shown in Figure 1). Each competency will be addressed from the literature as needed for satisfactory E-M to occur. Schichtel included a competency of technical ability but this is assumed to be present in an e-mentor who is approved to work in the dissertation process. Figure 1. Depiction of six competencies required of e-mentors when working with doctoral dissertation students. In recognizing that age makes no difference in the desire or ability to learn, e-mentors are cognizant of the importance of continuous, developmental learning as the first competency. They uphold the importance of bringing support to learners’ fascination and passion with a research topic and recognize that support for learners during university years enhances their life-long learning (Bierema & Merriam, 2002). Social competence is the facility for putting oneself in the presence of E-M by sharing the e-mentor’s full personality in projecting socially and emotionally through whatever communication style is chosen (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). This social competence is about the overall level of interpersonal skills and is directly related to overall teaching effectiveness (Hassan et al., 2015). Therefore, the process capitalizes on the personal potential (Schichtel, 2010). This social support includes serving as a link to the knowledge, people, and places where learners can excel (Gutierrez, 2012). These psychosocial needs of doctoral learners have direct relationship to their motivation (Brondyk & Searby, 2013; Mason, 2012). A competence that has been recognized as essential in the e-mentoring of learners in the dissertation phase is cognitive competence, which is the ability to facilitate “the analysis, construction, and confirmation of meaning and understanding through sustained discourse and reflection” (Schichtel, 2010, p. e253). When transferring mentoring to the idea of E-M, one must accomplish this discourse and reflection primarily through text-based communication. The use of reflective teaching methods is the fourth competence. Three techniques of teaching reflectively are modeling, coaching, and scaffolding, which are used to encourage reflective consideration of product, actions, and thoughts. Teaching reflectively is different from formal, didactic teaching and is an essential component of adult learning principles (Collison, Elbaum, Haavind, & Tinker, 2000). Inherent in asynchronous E-M is the ability to think and to reflect before answering (Knouse, 2001). Communication skills comprise the fifth competence. Salmon (2004) defined this competence as one having the ability to use communication skills in order to stimulate engagement between people in an online environment. It is this engagement that must be individualistic for each learner and e-mentor’s relationship (Kuk & Banning, 2014). Managerial competence is concerned with structuring activities and expectations for synchronous communication and time lapses that will occur with asynchronous communication (Salmon, 2004). Additionally, e-mentors must maintain records in monitoring student progress as Lee (2011) reported “out of sight is out of mind” and therefore tasks should be tracked openly. The managerial tasks include the development and maintenance of the structure of interactions (Kumar et al., 2013). These competencies are necessary because one does not want to be driven to make decisions based upon technological capabilities but upon learner needs and educational principles (Schichtel, 2010). The competencies required are known but which competencies are most closely related to the learners’ perceived level of importance? What specific qualifications and abilities of the e-mentor are considered important by the learner? Measuring the importance has been elusive in the culmination of the doctoral work, the dissertation process, and with the competencies of the e-mentor. The relationship between e-mentors and learners’ perceptions of the importance of competencies is unknown (Schichtel, 2010). Research Questions and Hypotheses The over-arching research questions are: What are the most important e-mentors’ core competencies from e-mentors and learners’ perspectives based on E-mentoring competence model? What is the relationship between e-mentor ratings of importance of the six competencies with the learners’ ratings of importance of the six competencies? The sub-research questions and hypotheses are listed below. The first two questions are answered descriptively while the remaining questions are answered with a quantitative method with correlation design. 1. What are the most important e-mentors’ core competencies from the learners’ perspectives based on E-mentoring competence model? 2. What are the most important e-mentors’ core competencies from the e-mentors’ perspectives based on E-mentoring competence model? 3. To what extent is there correlation between e-mentors and learners’ perceptions of importance rating of developmental learning? Null Hypothesis (H30): There is no correlation between e-mentors and learners’ perceptions of importance rating of developmental learning. Alternative Hypothesis (H3a): There is a correlation between e-mentors and learners’ perceptions of importance rating of social competence. 4. To what extent is there correlation between e-mentors and learners’ perceptions of importance rating of social competence? Null Hypothesis (H40): There is no correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of social competence. Alternative Hypothesis (H4a): There is a correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of social competence. 5. To what extent is there correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of cognitive competence? Null Hypothesis (H50): There is no correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of cognitive competence. Alternative Hypothesis (H5a): There is a correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of cognitive competence. 6. To what extent is there correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of the competence of reflective teaching? Null Hypothesis (H60): There is no correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of the competence of reflective teaching. Alternative Hypothesis (H6a): There is a correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of the competence of reflective teaching. 7. To what extent is there correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of communication competence? Null Hypothesis (H70): There is no correlation between e-mentors learners’ importance rating of communication competence. Alternative Hypothesis (H7a): There is a correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of communication competence. 8. To what extent is there correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of managerial competence? Null Hypothesis (H80): There is no correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of managerial competence. Alternative Hypothesis (H8a): There is a correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of managerial competence. Research Methodology There are numerous studies investigating the perceptions of learners and e-mentors in online educational doctoral programs in regards to approval (Bolliger & Halupa, 2012; Combe, 2006; Kumar et al., 2013). However, no information was that that had been obtained from quantitative methodological studies focusing on the dissertation aspect of the doctoral process in investigating the relationship of importance and a core set of e-mentor competencies. Thus, a study with quantitative method and correlation design is proposed to identify e-mentors and leaners’ ratings of importance of essential E-M core competencies (Brondyk & Searby, 2013) as well as the importance ratings correlation between e-mentors and learners’ perceptions of E-M competencies. A correlation design will be used because the desire is to show the relationship of agreement between e-mentors and learners. A survey will be created and a final draft piloted with a preliminary group of participants, and refined before being administered to the final group of participants (see initial draft survey in Appendix A). Sample. A purposeful sampling method will be used to recruit e-mentors and doctoral students who work on their doctoral dissertations in an online setting from social media groups. A sample size of e-mentors and learners, over age 21, numbering 68 as was calculated from G*power 3.1.9.2 calculator software with an effect size of 0.3, power of 0.80, and alpha set at 0.05 (Cohen, 1992). At least 34 e-mentors and at least 34 learners will complete surveys as participants. University e-mentors who are teaching in the dissertation process and learners who are enrolled in the doctoral dissertation process will be asked to participate. The inclusion of e-mentors and learners was decided upon because the e-mentors and learners are inherently qualified for providing the information desired through this research project. In order to ensure there are at least 68 participants, social media postings will request e-mentors and learners involved in the dissertation process volunteer to participate by clicking on a link to the online survey. Instruments. As there is no instrument developed measuring Schichtel’s (2010) e-mentor competencies, the six competencies will form the basis for a Likert-type scaled survey assessing both e-mentor and learning importance ratings. The survey will be developed by a subject matter expert and a methodology expert. Competency questions will be created from Schichtel’s operational descriptions of the competency sets (see Appendix A). The initial draft survey will have three behavioral descriptions for each competency based upon the operational definitions provided by Schichtel. The initial draft survey will be assessed by a doctorate scholar in education. Two forms of the survey will be created. One form is for the e-mentors assessing the importance of behaviors associated with each competency. The other form is for the learners assessing the level of importance of e-mentor behaviors associated with each competency. The initial draft surveys will be piloted with 4 students and e-mentors. The initial draft surveys will be adjusted based upon feedback and responses from the pilot group of participants. A Cronbach alpha will be used to calculate inter-item correlation as a form of reliability for the survey. If the data analysis indicates, adjustments to the initial draft surveys will be made before the final surveys are distributed. Validity of the surveys will be secured from the direct connection between Schichtel’s (2010) operational definitions of the competencies and the survey components. Schichtel will be contacted to review the survey components for validity with his theoretical competencies. Process. The surveys will be created and reliability ascertained. Invitations to participate in the survey will be distributed via school email to e-mentors and doctoral learners by the university’s administration. Distribution of the survey will occur via an online survey host. Information explaining the intent of the survey, right to withdraw from answering questions at any time, and that no personal identification will be asked before participants answer any survey questions by selection of acknowledgement of the information provided. Participants will complete the survey according to being either an e-mentor or a learner enrolled in an online dissertation process. Data Analysis Plan. Data will be collected and SPSS used to calculate the difference in importance means for each of the six competencies. Relationships between learner ratings of importance of competencies and e-mentor ratings will be ascertained. All variables will be interval data averaged from ordinal items in the subscales of the survey. There are no predictor variables identified in the study as all will be analyzed computing the relationship of variable to variable. The specific variables are the following: 1. e-mentor perceived importance level of developmental learning competence 2. e-mentor perceived importance level of social competence 3. e-mentor perceived importance level of cognitive competence 4. e-mentor perceived importance level of competence of reflective teaching 5. e-mentor perceived importance level of communication competence 6. e-mentor perceived importance level of managerial competence 7. learner perceived importance level of developmental learning competence 8. learner perceived importance level of social competence 9. learner perceived importance level of cognitive competence 10. learner perceived importance level of competence of reflective teaching 11. learner perceived importance level of communication competence 12. learner perceived importance level of managerial competence Variables 1-6 will be paired with the corresponding variable in 7-12 to seek relationships, if any. Percentages of importance ratings by e-mentors and learners will be used to determine the most important competencies in the first two research questions. Spearman’s rho, a nonparametric measure of relationship, will be used to investigate H3-H8 as a linear relationship cannot be assumed and the measures are ordinal data. Ethical Concerns Confidentiality of the participants in the research will be guaranteed in that no name or identifying information will be provided in publications or presentations without written permission to use the name or identifying information. IRB approval will be received from the university. The primary investigator’s CITI certificate is valid through June 2016. The informed consent (see Appendix C) for those completing the survey online will be obtained from electronic agreement with the information in the informed consent. The online survey will be built so that no one can access the survey without agreement to the informed consent. Confidentiality of all participants is guaranteed so that the name of the survey reviewers will be withheld from publication, names of the pilot survey participants will not be collected in any way, and identifying information on the final participants will not be collected by the researcher. All data will be kept in a locked office facility for 3 years and then destroyed. A code number will be given to each participant’s informed consent linking the data to the code. Only the chief researcher will have access to the code and corresponding name from the informed consent. The purpose in retaining the coded data is if a respondent decides to withdraw his or her data before publication. Dissemination Plan The following conferences and journals will be used for dissemination of the work in progress and final results. • 2015 Hawaii International Conference on Education proposal on survey development in 09/14; presentation 1/15. (Accepted for Presentation). • CLUTE Education Conference Hawaii proposal on survey development in 10/15; presentation 1/15 • American Educational Research Association (AERA) proposal in 10/14; presentation in 4/15 • The British Journal of Educational Technology submittal 4/2015 • Other potential journals include The Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, EDUCAUSE Quarterly, European Journal of Open and Distance Learning Primary Investigator The primary investigator will provide oversight of the entire research project. It is her responsibility to develop the survey, compute the inter-item reliability, and ensure the survey is reviewed and refined. She will recruit the pilot group for the draft and the final participants who will complete the finalized survey. The primary investigator has responsibility for the data analysis and reporting the results of the survey. She has full responsibility for maintaining the confidentiality of the information and the safety of the data for the 3 years before destruction. Budget The grant will cover the cost related to the instrument, time, and effort on the research. Timeline A proposed timeline is provided: • Project proposal including the first draft of the survey August 2014 • IRB permission and COR permission to contact participants September-October 2014 • Draft survey distributed and data collection December-January 2014 • Final survey distributed and data collection February-March 2015 • Data analysis April 2015 • Project report May 2015 • Dissemination of results May-June 2015.   References Andrew, M. (2012). Supervising doctorates as a distance: Three trans-Tasman stories. Quality Assurance in Education: An International Perspective 20(1), 42-53. Anderson, S., & Anderson, B. (2012). Preparation and socialization of the education professoriate: Narratives of doctoral student-instructors. 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Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/cdie20/current#.U8wNErF24tA Boyer, E. L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Stanford, CA: Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Education. Brondyk, S., & Searby, L. (2013). Best practices in mentoring: Complexities and possibilities. International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, 2(3), 189-203. doi:10.1108/IJMCE-07-2013-0400 Brill, J. L., Balcanoff, K. K., Land, D., Gogarty, M. M., & Turner, F. (2014). Best practices in doctoral retention: Mentoring. Higher Learning Research Communication, 4(2), 26-37. Retrieved from http://journals.sfu.ca/liu/index.php/HLRC Cohen, J. (1992). Quantitative methods in psychology: A power primer. Psychological Bulletin, 112(1), 155-159. Collison, G., Elbaum, B., Haavind, S., & Tinker, R. (2000). Facilitating online learning: Effective strategies for moderators. Madison, WI: Atwood. Combe, C. (2012). Developing and implementing an online doctoral programme. International Journal of Educational Management, 19(2), 118-127. doi:10.1108/09513540510582417 Davidhizar, R. E. (1988). Mentoring in doctoral education. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 13, 775-781. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/%28ISSN%291365-2648 Erwee, R., Albion, P., van Rensburg, H., & Malan, R. (2011). Dealing with doctoral students: Tips from the trenches. Southern African Journal of Higher Education, 25(5), 889-901. Esgi, N. (2013). Comparison of effects of e-learning types designed according to the expository teaching method on student opinions. International Journal of Academic Research Part B, 5(5), 443-450. doi:10.7813/2075-4124.2013/5-5/B.69 Ewing, H., Mathieson, K., Alexander, J. L., & Leafman, J. (2012). Enhancing the acquisition of research skills in online doctoral programs: The Ewing model. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 8(1), 34-44. Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org Finch, J. K., & Fernandez, C. (2012). Mentoring graduate students in teaching: The FCCIC Model Teaching Sociology, 42(1), 69-74. doi:10.1177/0092055X135007781 Florczak, K. L. Collins, E., & Schmidt, L. (2014). The mentor-mentee relationship: An intricate dance. Nursing Science Quarterly, 27(2), 103-107. doi:10.1177/0894318414522660 Garrison, D. R., & Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet Higher Education, 2, 87-105. Retrieved from http://www.journals.elsevier.com/the-internet-and-higher-education/ Griffiths, M. D., & Miller, H. M. (2005). E-mentoring in schools: A brief review. Education and Health, 23, 6-8. Retrieved from http://sheu.org.uk/content/page/education-and-health-journal Gutierrez, L. M. (2012). Recognizing and valuing our roles as mentors. Journal of Social Work Education, 48(1), 1-4. doi:10.5175/JSWE2012.334800001 Hassan, N., Jani, S. H. M., Som, R. M., Hamid, N. Z. A., & Azzizam, N. A. (2015). The relationships between emotional intelligence and teaching effectiveness among lecturers at University Teknologi MARA, Puncak Alam, Malaysia. International Journal of Social Science and Humanity, 5(1), 1-5. Retrieved from http://www.theijhss.com/ Heinze, A., & Heinze, B. (2009). Blended e-learning skeleton of conversation: Improving formative assessment in undergraduate dissertation supervision. British journal of Educational Technology, 40(3), 294-305. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2008.00923.x Holley, K. A., Caldwell, M. L. (2012). The challenges of designing and implementing a doctoral student mentoring program. Innovative Higher Education, 37, 243-253. doi:10.1007/s10755-011-9203-y Irons, J. G., & Buskist, W. (2008). The scholarships of teaching and pedagogy: Time to abandon the distinction? Teaching of Psychology, 35, 353-356. doi:10.1080/00986280802373957 Knouse, S. B. (2001). Virtual mentors: Mentoring on the internet. Journal of Employment Counseling, 38(4), 162-170. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1002/%28ISSN%292161-1920 Kuk, L., & Banning, J. H. (2014). A higher education leadership distance Ph.D. program: An assessment using Blocher’s Ecological Learning Theory. Creative Education, 5, 701-712. doi:10.4236/ce.2014.59082 Kumar, S., Johnson, M., & Hardemon, T. (2013). Dissertations at a distance: Students’ perceptions of online mentoring in a doctoral program. Journal of Distance Education, 27(1), 1-11. Retrieved from http://www.icde.org/American+Journal+of+Distance+Education.9UFRvWWo.ips Lee, K. P. W. (2011). Making a success of a self-directed study: Tackling the dissertation. British Journal of Midwifery, 19(3), 193-197. Retrieved from http://www.magonlinelibrary.com/toc/bjom/current Mason, M. M. (2012). Motivation, satisfaction, and innate psychological needs. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 7, 259-277. Retrieved from http://www.informingscience.us/icarus/journals/ijds/ Mueller, S. (2004). Electronic mentoring as an example for the information and communications technology in engineering education. European Journal of Engineering Education, 29(1), 53-63. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/ceee20/current#.U8wO0bF24tA Phinney, J. S., Campos, T., Cidhinnia, M., Kallemeyn, P., Delia, M., Kim, Chami. (2011). Processes and outcomes of a mentoring program for Latino college freshmen. Journal of Social Issues, 67(3), 599-621. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.2011.01716.x Radda, H. (2012). From theory to practice to experience: Building scholarly learning communities in nontraditional doctoral programs. InSight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching, 7, 50-53. Salmon, G. (2004). E-moderating: The key to teaching and learning online (2nd ed.). London, England, Kogan. Schichtel, M. (2010). Core-competence skills in e-mentoring for medical educators: A conceptual exploration. Medical Teacher, 32(7), e248-e262. Retrieved from http://www.medicalteacher.org/ Suhonen, J., & Sutinen, E. 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Correlation between e-Mentors and Learners Perceptions of Competency Model in Completing Online Doctoral Dissertations

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kate Andrews, Ph.D.

Associate Faculty/Research Fellow

School of Advanced Studies

Center for Educational and Instructional Technology Research

 

 

 

 

August 2014
Abstract

The advent of completing doctoral dissertations in an online environment is to be considered a natural extension of the technological process change in today’s world of technology permeating our lives. The process followed for centuries of completing a dissertation conducted over years with intensive in-person consultation with committees has given way to the completion of doctoral dissertations in a collaborative online learning environment. However, there is little evidence gathered to measure the importance ratings of e-mentoring core competencies in an online environment and it is unclear if there is any disparity between e-mentors and learners’ perceptions about importance of e-mentors’ core competencies. Guided by the theory of e-mentoring competencies, the focus of this research study will be to identify importance of e-mentor competencies based on e-mentors and learners’ perceptions. Additionally, the determination will be made to examine the relationship between the importance of e-mentor competencies as perceived by the learners and e-mentors through a quantitative method with a correlational design. The purposeful sample will be 68 e-mentors and learners from university online doctoral programs volunteering through social media groups. Spearman’s rho will be used for data analysis. The results will be useful to identify important E-M competencies and share them with e-mentors to improve the quality of dissertation e-mentoring. 

                                                                                                                        

 

Problem Statement

As one scholar to another scholar, the completion of the dissertation signals the passing of the torch (Davidhizar, 1988) as learners today become mentors of tomorrow.  Through the process of completing a dissertation, learners advance to the state of understanding scholarship as the scholarship of integration, application, and teaching (Boyer, 1990). As learners grasp the meaning of scholarship, they understand the significance of passing the torch (Irons, 2008).

Across the decades, from 30 to 50% of those who enter graduate work dropout before completing their degrees and these failure rates have been tracked to dissatisfaction with supervision rather than academic ability (Armstrong, 2004; Brill, et al., 2014; Mason, 2012). The self-paced process of dissertation work has been seen as one of the issues related to dropout rates where the addition of intense facilitation through mentorship can help to increase the graduation rate to 73% (Ewing, Mathieson, Alexander, & Leafman, 2012). Therefore, the self-paced process should give way to a mentorship founded in collaboration between mentors and learners (Lee, 2011). In fact, the relationship that learners have with mentors is a vital component of a successful experience for the learner (Holley & Caldwell, 2012).

Researchers have detailed the categories of mentor and learner expectations from mentors  in face-to-face (F2F) campus dissertation processes; however, in an online environment, the comparison of e-mentor competency and learners’ ratings of importance has not been ascertained (Erwee, Albion, van Rensburg, & Malan, 2011; Florczak, Collins, & Schmidt, 2014; Radda, 2012).  Currently, there is little evidence gathered to measure the importance ratings of e-mentors required competences in an online environment; either qualitatively or quantitatively (Anderson & Anderson, 2012; Andrew, 2012).  It is unclear if there is any disparity between e-mentors and learners’ perceptions of e-mentors’ core competencies.

There are numerous qualitative studies investigating the perceptions of learners and e-mentors in online educational doctoral programs in regards to expectations of E-M (Bolliger & Halupa, 2012; Combe, 2012; Kumar, Johnson, & Hardemon, 2013) but little research has been conducted in the narrower scope of identifying e-mentors and learners perceived importance ratings for e-mentor core competencies (Brill, 2014). Similarly, limited information has been obtained from quantitative methodological studies focusing on the correlation of e-mentors and learners’ perceptions for e-mentor core competencies (Schichtel, 2010). As of yet, it is not known what relationship exists between e-mentors and learners’ perceptions of importance ratings of core competencies including developmental, social, cognitive, teaching, communication, and managerial. A quantitative method with correlation design will be used in this proposed study to examine such relationships. A purposeful sampling method will be used to recruit e-mentors and doctoral learners who work on their doctoral dissertations in an online setting in a university in the United States.     

Theoretical Framework

Just as mentoring is being used in F2F campuses, mentoring is being used in online environments. What transpires as E-mentoring (E-M) in the university represented by this study are the possibilities of blended E-M with not only asynchronous communication via discussion boards, email, message boards, and feedback but also synchronous communication (e.g., video conferencing, phone calls; Brill, 2014). There have been different definitions of E-M. The definition used in this research is “a computer mediated, mutually beneficial relationship between a [e-]mentor and a protégé [learner] that provides learning, advising, encouraging, promoting, and modeling, that is often boundary less, egalitarian, and qualitatively different than traditional F2F” (Bierema & Merriam, 2002, p. 214). The term boundaryless is applicable in the sense of being without geographic and time boundaries. Egalitarian implies an environment that has open and free dialogue. The qualitative differences between F2F and online are in communication that is synchronous or asynchronous, with visual cues or without, and with immediate feedback or not.

Through the egalitarian pattern of communication inherent in online higher education (Griffiths & Miller, 2005; Mueller, 2004), E-M of learners has been captured as requiring competencies of developmental learning, social, cognitive, teaching reflectively, communication, and managerial (Schichtel, 2010). Schichtel (2010) developed the first digest of the model consisting of competencies necessary for online e-mentors based upon analysis of research in 25 databases. Although Schichtel’s results mentioned the competencies as necessary for medical educators, the analysis he used in deriving the competencies was in a breadth of educational arenas not limited by medical education.

The competencies are the major component for this survey investigation of learner and e-mentor perceptions of importance in the dissertation process. The developmental learning competence describes the level of the ongoing learning process that uses scaffolding in order to increase knowledge and skills. This is accomplished through timely and thorough feedback. Social competence is the level of building interpersonal relationships through a style of empathic understanding and connecting to others. The cognitive competence is the level of expert knowledge that is not only held but can be conveyed to the learner. Thoughtful self-analysis coupled with self-examination of teaching effectiveness is considered the competence of teaching reflectively. The ability to listen empathically and to hear others and use skills in order to reach mutually beneficial goals is the communication competence. One’s level of being able to mobilize resources is the measurement of the managerial competence. The six competencies are defined in Table 1.

Table 1.

Definitions of Six Competencies

Competency

Definition

Developmental Learning

Ongoing learning process that uses scaffolding in order to increase knowledge and skills to the level of one’s ability [includes timely feedback; critique for improvement; and suggestions to continue to enhance current knowledge and skills]

Social

Interpersonal relationships through style of empathic understanding and connecting to others

Cognitive

Expert knowledge that can be conveyed to the learner

Teaching    

Thoughtful self-analysis; self-examination of teaching effectiveness

Communication

Ability to listen empathically and to hear others and use skills in order to reach mutually beneficial goals

Managerial

Level of being able to mobilize resources

 

Several factors can be measured to gauge the effectiveness of the online dissertation process including learner satisfaction, learner expectation, importance ratings, e-mentor performance, retention rates, completion rates, and career enhancement. Because the measurement of learners’ opinions of importance of behaviors is essential in online learning environments (Schichtel, 2010), this  proposed study will  examine e-mentors and learners’ perceptions about the most important e-mentor competencies. However, just as significantly as importance levels with competencies are measured, the perceived importance of each competency should be compared between learner and e-mentor. If the learner perceives a different importance level than the e-mentor then a disconnect will occur between what will be developed by the e-mentor and what is desired by the learner.  The competence model developed by Schichtel (2010) will be used as the foundation of this proposed study.  The theory will be used to develop the surveys and thus explore the participants’ perceptions about the importance of competency components.

Literature Review

E-M in online education, according to Suhonen and Sutinen (2014), can compensate for not having the typical F2F interaction between student and teacher. With E-M, there may be a student-centered approach intertwined with attention to faculty-centered philosophies in examining both learner and e-mentor needs and competencies (Brill, 2014). The benefits of E-M are the lack of geographic and time boundaries, enhanced privacy (Knouse, 2001), stable accomplishment of student learning when compared with F2F (Esgi, 2013), and improved psychosocial factors (Phinney, 2011). On the other hand, as feedback is part of the necessary formative assessment required for learners to monitor their progress (Heinze & Heinze, 2009), Brace-Govan (2003) found an increased difficulty level for e-mentors to provide beneficial feedback in a text-based communication system more than in a F2F environment. Not only is there an increased difficulty in communication for e-mentors, there are additional characteristics of the doctoral dissertation process that are extremely new to the learner. The doctoral dissertation passage can be “lonely and isolating because, by the nature of doctoral education, it is a personal journey and the ultimate demonstration of skills, which tasks the budding scholar with an increased requirement for rigor beyond any previous level of performance experienced” (Brill et al., 2014, p. 34).

Effective E-M encompasses competencies (Schichtel, 2010; as shown in Figure 1). Each competency will be addressed from the literature as needed for satisfactory E-M to occur. Schichtel included a competency of technical ability but this is assumed to be present in an e-mentor who is approved to work in the dissertation process.

 

Figure 1. Depiction of six competencies required of e-mentors when working with doctoral dissertation students.

 

            In recognizing that age makes no difference in the desire or ability to learn, e-mentors are cognizant of the importance of continuous, developmental learning as the first competency. They uphold the importance of bringing support to learners’ fascination and passion with a research topic and recognize that support for learners during university years enhances their life-long learning (Bierema & Merriam, 2002). Social competence is the facility for putting oneself in the presence of E-M by sharing the e-mentor’s full personality in projecting socially and emotionally through whatever communication style is chosen (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). This social competence is about the overall level of interpersonal skills and is directly related to overall teaching effectiveness (Hassan et al., 2015). Therefore, the process capitalizes on the personal potential (Schichtel, 2010). This social support includes serving as a link to the knowledge, people, and places where learners can excel (Gutierrez, 2012). These psychosocial needs of doctoral learners have direct relationship to their motivation (Brondyk & Searby, 2013; Mason, 2012).

A competence that has been recognized as essential in the e-mentoring of learners in the dissertation phase is cognitive competence, which is the ability to facilitate “the analysis, construction, and confirmation of meaning and understanding through sustained discourse and reflection” (Schichtel, 2010, p. e253). When transferring mentoring to the idea of E-M, one must accomplish this discourse and reflection primarily through text-based communication.

The use of reflective teaching methods is the fourth competence. Three techniques of teaching reflectively are modeling, coaching, and scaffolding, which are used to encourage reflective consideration of product, actions, and thoughts. Teaching reflectively is different from formal, didactic teaching and is an essential component of adult learning principles (Collison, Elbaum, Haavind, & Tinker, 2000). Inherent in asynchronous E-M is the ability to think and to reflect before answering (Knouse, 2001).

Communication skills comprise the fifth competence. Salmon (2004) defined this competence as one having the ability to use communication skills in order to stimulate engagement between people in an online environment. It is this engagement that must be individualistic for each learner and e-mentor’s relationship (Kuk & Banning, 2014). Managerial competence is concerned with structuring activities and expectations for synchronous communication and time lapses that will occur with asynchronous communication (Salmon, 2004). Additionally, e-mentors must maintain records in monitoring student progress as Lee (2011) reported “out of sight is out of mind” and therefore tasks should be tracked openly. The managerial tasks include the development and maintenance of the structure of interactions (Kumar et al., 2013).

These competencies are necessary because one does not want to be driven to make decisions based upon technological capabilities but upon learner needs and educational principles (Schichtel, 2010). The competencies required are known but which competencies are most closely related to the learners’ perceived level of importance? What specific qualifications and abilities of the e-mentor are considered important by the learner? Measuring the importance has been elusive in the culmination of the doctoral work, the dissertation process, and with the competencies of the e-mentor. The relationship between e-mentors and learners’ perceptions of the importance of competencies is unknown (Schichtel, 2010).

Research Questions and Hypotheses

The over-arching research questions are: 

What are the most important e-mentors’ core competencies from e-mentors and learners’ perspectives based on E-mentoring competence model?  

What is the relationship between e-mentor ratings of importance of the six competencies with the learners’ ratings of importance of the six competencies?

The sub-research questions and hypotheses are listed below. The first two questions are answered descriptively while the remaining questions are answered with a quantitative method with correlation design.

  1. What are the most important e-mentors’ core competencies from the learners’ perspectives based on E-mentoring competence model?  
  2. What are the most important e-mentors’ core competencies from the e-mentors’ perspectives based on E-mentoring competence model?  
  3. To what extent is there correlation between e-mentors and learners’ perceptions of importance rating of developmental learning?

Null Hypothesis (H30):  There is no correlation between e-mentors and learners’ perceptions of importance rating of developmental learning.

Alternative Hypothesis (H3a):  There is a correlation between e-mentors and learners’ perceptions of importance rating of social competence.

  1. To what extent is there correlation between e-mentors and learners’ perceptions of importance rating of social competence?

Null Hypothesis (H40):  There is no correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of social competence.

Alternative Hypothesis (H4a):  There is a correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of social competence.

  1. To what extent is there correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of cognitive competence?

Null Hypothesis (H50):  There is no correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of cognitive competence.

Alternative Hypothesis (H5a):  There is a correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of cognitive competence.

  1. To what extent is there correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of the competence of reflective teaching?

Null Hypothesis (H60):  There is no correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of the competence of reflective teaching.

Alternative Hypothesis (H6a):  There is a correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of the competence of reflective teaching.

  1. To what extent is there correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of communication competence?

Null Hypothesis (H70):  There is no correlation between e-mentors learners’ importance rating of communication competence.

Alternative Hypothesis (H7a):  There is a correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of communication competence.

  1. To what extent is there correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of managerial competence?

Null Hypothesis (H80):  There is no correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of managerial competence.

Alternative Hypothesis (H8a):  There is a correlation between e-mentors and learners’ importance rating of managerial competence.

Research Methodology

There are numerous studies investigating the perceptions of learners and e-mentors in online educational doctoral programs in regards to approval (Bolliger & Halupa, 2012; Combe, 2006; Kumar et al., 2013). However, no information was that that had been obtained from quantitative methodological studies focusing on the dissertation aspect of the doctoral process in investigating the relationship of importance and a core set of e-mentor competencies. Thus, a study with quantitative method and correlation design is proposed to identify e-mentors and leaners’ ratings of importance of essential E-M core competencies (Brondyk & Searby, 2013) as well as the importance ratings correlation between e-mentors and learners’ perceptions of E-M competencies.  A correlation design will be used because the desire is to show the relationship of agreement between e-mentors and learners. A survey will be created and a final draft piloted with a preliminary group of participants, and refined before being administered to the final group of participants (see initial draft survey in Appendix A).

Sample. A purposeful sampling method will be used to recruit e-mentors and doctoral students who work on their doctoral dissertations in an online setting from social media groups.     

A sample size of e-mentors and learners, over age 21, numbering 68 as was calculated from G*power 3.1.9.2 calculator software with an effect size of 0.3, power of 0.80, and alpha set at 0.05 (Cohen, 1992). At least 34 e-mentors and at least 34 learners will complete surveys as participants. University e-mentors who are teaching in the dissertation process and learners who are enrolled in the doctoral dissertation process will be asked to participate. The inclusion of e-mentors and learners was decided upon because the e-mentors and learners are inherently qualified for providing the information desired through this research project. In order to ensure there are at least 68 participants, social media postings will request e-mentors and learners involved in the dissertation process volunteer to participate by clicking on a link to the online survey.

Instruments. As there is no instrument developed measuring Schichtel’s (2010) e-mentor competencies, the six competencies will form the basis for a Likert-type scaled survey assessing both e-mentor and learning importance ratings. The survey will be developed by a subject matter expert and a methodology expert. Competency questions will be created from Schichtel’s operational descriptions of the competency sets (see Appendix A).  The initial draft survey will have three behavioral descriptions for each competency based upon the operational definitions provided by Schichtel. The initial draft survey will be assessed by a doctorate scholar in education. Two forms of the survey will be created. One form is for the e-mentors assessing the importance of behaviors associated with each competency. The other form is for the learners assessing the level of importance of e-mentor behaviors associated with each competency. The initial draft surveys will be piloted with 4 students and e-mentors. The initial draft surveys will be adjusted based upon feedback and responses from the pilot group of participants. A Cronbach alpha will be used to calculate inter-item correlation as a form of reliability for the survey. If the data analysis indicates, adjustments to the initial draft surveys will be made before the final surveys are distributed. Validity of the surveys will be secured from the direct connection between Schichtel’s (2010) operational definitions of the competencies and the survey components.  Schichtel will be contacted to review the survey components for validity with his theoretical competencies. 

Process. The surveys will be created and reliability ascertained. Invitations to participate in the survey will be distributed via school email to e-mentors and doctoral learners by the university’s administration. Distribution of the survey will occur via an online survey host. Information explaining the intent of the survey, right to withdraw from answering questions at any time, and that no personal identification will be asked before participants answer any survey questions by selection of acknowledgement of the information provided. Participants will complete the survey according to being either an e-mentor or a learner enrolled in an online dissertation process.

Data Analysis Plan. Data will be collected and SPSS used to calculate the difference in importance means for each of the six competencies.  Relationships between learner ratings of importance of competencies and e-mentor ratings will be ascertained. All variables will be interval data averaged from ordinal items in the subscales of the survey. There are no predictor variables identified in the study as all will be analyzed computing the relationship of variable to variable. The specific variables are the following:

  1. e-mentor perceived importance level of developmental learning competence
  2. e-mentor perceived importance level of social competence
  3. e-mentor perceived importance level of cognitive competence
  4. e-mentor perceived importance level of competence of reflective teaching
  5. e-mentor perceived importance level of communication competence
  6. e-mentor perceived importance level of managerial competence
  7. learner perceived importance level of developmental learning competence
  8. learner perceived importance level of social competence
  9. learner perceived importance level of cognitive competence
  10. learner perceived importance level of competence of reflective teaching
  11. learner perceived importance level of communication competence
  12. learner perceived importance level of managerial competence

Variables 1-6 will be paired with the corresponding variable in 7-12 to seek relationships, if any.

Percentages of importance ratings by e-mentors and learners will be used to determine the most important competencies in the first two research questions. Spearman’s rho, a nonparametric measure of relationship, will be used to investigate H3-H8 as a linear relationship cannot be assumed and the measures are ordinal data.

Ethical Concerns

Confidentiality of the participants in the research will be guaranteed in that no name or identifying information will be provided in publications or presentations without written permission to use the name or identifying information. IRB approval will be received from the university. The primary investigator’s CITI certificate is valid through June 2016. The informed consent (see Appendix C) for those completing the survey online will be obtained from electronic agreement with the information in the informed consent. The online survey will be built so that no one can access the survey without agreement to the informed consent. Confidentiality of all participants is guaranteed so that the name of the survey reviewers will be withheld from publication, names of the pilot survey participants will not be collected in any way, and identifying information on the final participants will not be collected by the researcher. All data will be kept in a locked office facility for 3 years and then destroyed. A code number will be given to each participant’s informed consent linking the data to the code. Only the chief researcher will have access to the code and corresponding name from the informed consent. The purpose in retaining the coded data is if a respondent decides to withdraw his or her data before publication.

Dissemination Plan

The following conferences and journals will be used for dissemination of the work in progress and final results.

  • 2015 Hawaii International Conference on Education proposal on survey development in 09/14; presentation 1/15. (Accepted for Presentation).
  • CLUTE Education Conference Hawaii proposal on survey development in 10/15; presentation 1/15
  • American Educational Research Association (AERA) proposal in 10/14; presentation in 4/15
  • The British Journal of Educational Technology submittal 4/2015
  • Other potential journals include The Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, EDUCAUSE Quarterly, European Journal of Open and Distance Learning

Primary Investigator

The primary investigator will provide oversight of the entire research project. It is her responsibility to develop the survey, compute the inter-item reliability, and ensure the survey is reviewed and refined.  She will recruit the pilot group for the draft and the final participants who will complete the finalized survey.  The primary investigator has responsibility for the data analysis and reporting the results of the survey. She has full responsibility for maintaining the confidentiality of the information and the safety of the data for the 3 years before destruction.

Budget

The grant will cover the cost related to the instrument, time, and effort on the research.

Timeline

A proposed timeline is provided:

  • Project proposal including the first draft of the survey August 2014
  • IRB permission and COR permission to contact participants September-October 2014
  • Draft survey distributed and data collection December-January 2014
  • Final survey distributed and data collection February-March 2015
  • Data analysis April 2015
  • Project report May 2015
  • Dissemination of results May-June 2015.

 

 

 

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Publications: 
Business and Social Media: Collaboration and the Sixth Discipline
Capturing the essence of the change process in educational policy
Collaborative innovative leadership and emerging social media technologies
Pioneering innovation: A study in DDI business strategy
Correlation of doctoral dissertation mentor competencies with mentor and learner expectations
Faculty Mentorship
Faculty Satisfaction
Student Expectations
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DOC/734
Professional Bio: 
Working as a senior engineering specialist, Dr. Andrews completed her masters and doctorate in psychology from Alliant International University and she transitioned into Industrial-Organizational Psychology where she worked in consulting areas of strategic planning, process improvement, and leadership coaching. Dr. Andrews has developed numerous university graduate courses. Her experience in the United States at the university level includes professor in statistics, research, family systems, drug addiction, counseling, communication, motivation, and leadership. She spent 2 years in Israel working for the government there and then 8 years in Romania where she conducted a research project with teenage girls who were orphaned and taught them life skills so they could function independently. She also served as a consultant with the Roma population on writing business plans and grants and raised 32 teenage orphans who had been in an orphanage. Additionally, Dr. Andrews has a varied research interest. Her research projects are in higher education technology & mentorship, global education evaluation in Roma schooling, religion and disabilities, and emotional intelligence and psychological well-being. In addition to teaching and research, she currently works as a research director and finds time for her six grandchildren.
Degrees Completed: 
Doctoral Degree
Industrial-Organizational Psychology
Alliant International University
1995
Masters Degree
Education - Instructional Technology
American InterContinental University
2007
Masters Degree
Psychology
Alliant International Univesity
1991
Bachelors Degree
Mathematics
San Diego State University
1985
Academic Appointments: 
Industrial-Organizational Lead (Chair)
Argosy University
Duration: 
Friday, September 1, 2006 to Saturday, September 1, 2012
Honors and Awards: 
Research Faculty of the Year 2015
University of Phoenix, Southern California Campus
Professional Education: 
Professional Suffix: 
Ph.D.
Primary College or School: 

The advent of completing doctoral dissertations in an online environment is to be considered a natural extension of the technological process change in today’s world of technology permeating our lives. The process followed for centuries of completing a dissertation conducted over years with intensive in-person consultation with committees has given way to the completion of doctoral dissertations in a collaborative online learning environment. However, there is little evidence gathered to measure the importance ratings of e-mentoring core competencies in an online environment and it is unclear if there is any disparity between e-mentors and learners’ perceptions about importance of e-mentors’ core competencies. Guided by the theory of e-mentoring competencies, the focus of this research study will be to identify importance of e-mentor competencies based on e-mentors and learners’ perceptions. Additionally, the determination will be  made to examine the relationship between the importance of e-mentor competencies as perceived by the learners and e-mentors in this quantitative correlational study with a purposeful sample size of 68. Spearman’s rho will be used for data analysis. The results will be useful to identify important mentoring competencies and share them with e-mentors to improve the quality of dissertation mentoring.  

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