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Universities report rise in online training for doctorates

Online courses are creeping into many aspects of graduate education, but may remain unsuitable for this purpose, a conference has heard.

At a European University Association conference on doctoral education in Munich on 18 June, participants highlighted the fact that Moocs are increasingly affecting the work of doctoral students, as more university resources become “click” orientated. For example, Moocs are being employed to help PhD students improve their vivas, learn about issues such as time management or research ethics, or to fulfil requirements on taught course credits.

However, several university rectors and doctoral education managers expressed concern about the suitability of such Massive Open Online Courses (Moocs) for doctoral education. “There is a real hesitancy about creating doctoral courses with Moocs,” said Verity Elston, director of the transferrable skills programme at the Conférence Universitaire de Suisse Occidentale (CUSO), a network of French speaking Swiss universities. “Some think that Moocs may change the nature of a doctorate, which is traditionally about researching an individual thesis.”

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