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Reasons for Engagement in “GradSchool”?
How an Online Community Promotes Graduate Students' Professio...
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How an online community promotes graduate students' professional development


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Lead researcher: Zhongrui Yao
Poster session at AECT 2016

Published in: Education
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How an online community promotes graduate students' professional development

  1. 1. + Results Reasons for Engagement in “GradSchool”? Conclusion How an Online Community Promotes Graduate Students' Professional Development Zhongrui Yao & Vanessa Dennen - Florida State University Introduction Abstract Introduction Method Using a survey design, this study explores graduate students’ experiences in an online community, and how these experiences influence their professional development. Findings indicate that at-risk graduate students can access information, learn strategies and receive emotional support related to time management, relationships with colleagues and advisors, future careers, time management and mental health from the online community. 
 As many as 50% of all Ph.D. students may not complete their degrees (Cassuto, 2013). At-risk graduate students may face challenges in many areas including relationships with faculty and colleagues, time management, course work, mental health, and future careers (Aitchison & Mowbray, 2013; Anderson & Swazey, 1998; Farkas, 2014; Morisano, Babor, Winstanley, & Morojele, 2009; Silber et al, 1999). An organized support networks, which may be found in online social networks (Dennen & Myers, 2012) may help these graduate students succeed (Farkas, 2014). The subreddit “GradSchool” is one example of an active support network for graduate students. This study explores how participation in “GradSchool” supports graduate students’ professional development. The research questions are: Participants: American graduate students, balanced gender, masters and doctoral level Data Collection. 59 “GradSchool” subreddit participants completed an online survey. Ten of them participated in interviews. 75 posts and associated comments were collected from the subreddit. Data Analysis. Survey items were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Interviews and comments were coded thematically. 1.  What participation patterns exist among graduate student members of the “GradSchool” subreddit? 2.  Why do graduate students engage in “GradSchool” ? 3.  How does engagement with “GradSchool” support graduate students’ professional development? •  For some participants, engagement in “GradSchool” is a regular part of their life as students. •  Participants agreed that a major benefit of engaging in “GradSchool” was encountering other students with similar problems. •  “GradSchool” supported graduate students’ professional development by providing a space to share knowledge, strategies, and emotional support related to graduate school issues (e.g., time management, relationships with colleagues and advisors, future careers, and mental health). 
 •  Feel unsatisfied in school, low institutional support •  1/3 participants posted challenges they faced in school, but19% felt low institutional support •  Seek social support •  1/4 posts were about how to deal with stress and loneliness; half of participants chose the option in the survey •  Seek just-in-time advice •  Over 2/3 participants trusted and valued other graduate students’ advices; 2/3 posts were asking for advices; •  support other graduate students •  97% participants were commenters; strategies were offered How Engagement with “GradSchool” Supports Graduate Students’ Professional Development? Enhance psychological wellbeing by relieving stress, feeling less alone, feeling inspired by others’ good news Obtain future collaborators for research projects Receive peer advice for sound decision making Compare professional progress and future career prospects with others Enhance knowledge about funding and future careers Participation Pattern in “GradSchool” •  Few added other redditors as friends. •  Participants were more likely to read and comment than initiate posts: •  Post initiators: 2/3 of the participants initiated posts annually or less frequently and each participant only submitted one post •  Readers: Over 80% (48) participants read posts 2-3 times/ week or more frequently and 1/3 spent 30-60 minutes reading. •  Commenters: 97% (57) participants commented on others’ post more frequently than once every 3 months. References Aitchison, C., & Mowbray, S. (2013). Doctoral women: Managing emotions, managing doctoral studies. Teaching in Higher Education, 18(8), 859-870. doi:10.1080/13562517.2013.827642 Anderson, M. S., & Swazey, J. P. (1998). Reflections on the graduate student experience: An overview. New Directions for Higher Education, 101, 3-13. Cassuto, L. (2013, July 1).Ph.D. attrition: How much is too much? The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http:// Dennen, V. P., & Myers, J. B. (Eds.). (2012). Virtual professional development and informal learning via social networks. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. Farkas,D.(2014, September 14). The five major challenges of graduate school and how you can overcome the biggest one. Retrieved from Morisano, D., Babor, T. F., Winstanley, E. L., & Morojele, N. (2009). Getting started: Publication issues for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and other novice addiction scientists. Publishing addiction science: A guide for the perplexed, 50-69. Retrieved from http:// isaje_2nd_edition_chapter4.pdf Silber, E., Arnstein, R. L., Backus, V., Eddy, H. P., Liptzin, M. B., Notman, M. T., . . . Wenger, R. E. (1999). Helping students adapt to graduate school: Making the grade Haworth Press, NY 13904-1580 Implement strategies recommended by other graduate students