Completing a doctoral dissertation during a global pandemic: Lessons learned.
Keywords:global pandemic, publicly funded postsecondary education system, change, faculty perceptions, technology
In March 2020, when the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency, I was a doctoral student at the University of Calgary. I was about three-quarters of the way through the program and was in the early stages of data gathering for my dissertation. The interruption to my studies was sudden and abrupt.
Fortunately, I was able to continue interviewing research participants after a six week pause, but in a manner dramatically different than planned. I was also able to lean heavily on technology to adapt to the new conditions. The topic of my dissertation was collecting faculty perceptions of the need and urgency for change in the publicly funded postsecondary education system. Ironically, my participants identified technology as a major force of change in their paradigm as well.
While completing the writing of my dissertation, the results of my data analysis and new literature being published magnified the strength of my findings. In hindsight, I realize that the timing of my work bridged the pre and post-pandemic environments. It also happening in real time, at a pace that might be unprecedented.
While the pandemic cannot be declared over, it has already become clear that the nature of academic research has been irrevocably altered and that the publicly funded post-secondary education system has been similarly impacted. The results of my research provide a clear view of some of those changing conditions and allows us to project some perceptions of the future of the system.