What happens to a dream deferred?

This was a question posed by American poet Langston Hughes in his 1951 poem “Harlem” which portrays the plight of African-Americans attempting to achieve the “American Dream.” This poem speaks to me due to several setbacks I experienced starting a decade ago that pushed the American Dream out of reach for me, encouraged me to explore being an expat, and deferred my dream to complete a PhD.

I have managed to advance in academia without a doctorate up to this point due to sheer determination; just this past June I celebrated ten years of teaching! However, as I begin my third full-time year at the American University in the Emirates (AUE), a PhD is increasingly necessary professionally and, quite frankly, remains a calling personally.

I have found a PhD program that will allow me to continue working while conducting my doctoral research: a Management Distance Learning PhD from the University of Leicester School of Business. With more than 90 years of experience and a global alumni network of over 30,000, the University of Leicester School of Business offers an interdisciplinary community of over 150 academics internationally renowned for its accounting and finance, management, marketing, and economics courses.

It is highly ranked for research power reflecting the pioneering work they conduct in partnership with leaders, managers, and organizations to promote and strengthen responsible business practices. Research conducted at the University of Leicester School of Business challenges accepted thinking, norms and perceptions in management, economics, finance, accounting, and marketing.

The school’s goal is simple: enhance the way we think about business and to work in partnership with leaders and managers to promote and strengthen sustainable business in all of its forms. My journey towards enhancing the way people think about business starts with preparing a research proposal of 3,000 to 4,000 words. According to the University of Leicester, “A research proposal is a statement that tells us what you want to research, how you will do it, and why it is important.” The research proposal is the foundation upon which I will build my thesis of at least 80,000 words.

My plan is to prepare my research proposal for submission in July 2018 with an anticipated start date of September 2018. However, starting the research proposal is a big step that will take a great deal of focus and fortitude. Luckily, I found an online course from the University of Leicester designed to help me achieve this task!

Titled “Discovering your PhD Potential” this five-week course is taught by Professor Neil Christie, Professor of Archaeology, and formerly the Director of Postgraduate Research in the College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities at the University of Leicester; he is joined by Dr. Vanessa Beck, also a recent Director of Postgraduate Research at the University of Leicester and currently a Senior Lecturer in Work and Organisation in the School of Economics, Finance and Management at the University of Bristol.

The course is designed to give me the awareness, skills, and tools to write a well thought-out and achievable research proposal, thereby improving the quality of my application in the process. It will also give me a sense of the self-study required by postgraduate doctoral research. Topics covered include the following:

  • Introduction to doctoral research.
  • Funding your study.
  • Defining the problem and writing a research question.
  • Writing a literature review.
  • Research design and methodology.
  • How to construct your proposal.

The class, which started Monday, September 4, is offered at no cost online via the FutureLearn platform. However, I opted to upgrade for $39 (+ shipping) which provides me with unlimited access to the course and entitles me to a Certificate of Achievement when I complete it. The course focuses on a different theme each week as follows:

  • Week 1: Introduction and research problem definition.
  • Week 2: Literature review and context.
  • Week 3: Research question.
  • Week 4: Design and methods.
  • Week 5: Bringing the proposal together.

After completing the course I should be able to:

  • Identify why I want to complete a PhD and whether my expectations are realistic.
  • Demonstrate how to set a realistic, manageable, and impactful research question.
  • Describe and implement the steps required to writing a literature review, including: a literature search, planning, organizing, and writing the literature review.
  • Compare the differences between ontology, epistemology, different research designs, and methodology.
  • Explore the main requirements, structures, and problems with undertaking a PhD.
  • Compare deductive and inductive research questions.
  • Discuss what kind of theoretical approach would be useful for my research proposal.
  • Summarize what I learned from the course into a first draft of a research proposal.

I am excited to embark on this academic adventure: completing this course is a first step towards making my PhD dream a reality; once I do that the name of this blog will certainly make more sense (doctorate + victorious + generous + notorious = doctorious) as well! To learn more about the course you can watch a promotional video below or view it directly on YouTube.

On January 30, 2017, I shared my book, “edX E-Learning Course Development,” to faculty, students, and staff at American University in the Emirates (AUE). Below are videos and photos — along with a copy of the presentation — from that event.

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This was the inaugural “Library Distinguished Guest Speaker Series” event hosted by the Library and Information Resource Center (LIRC) and the Office of Research and Advancement (ORA) at AUE. The event took place in the recently renovated AUE Library; an impressively modern space that encourages education and helps create a learning community.

distinguished_guest_speaker_banner_gilbertI brought in students from my MKT 200-2, Principles of Marketing class and we were joined by an impressive assembly of faculty, staff, and other students — many of whom I am now teaching or have taught in the past. I estimate that, in total, there were upwards of 50 people there. I was honored to be the first speaker at this event during which I:

  • Introduced MOOCs and edX.
  • Shared info about the book.
  • Described my experience.

Below is a slightly edited video of my presentation (from a Facebook Live recording which I filmed with the help of one of my students); it is 26 minutes and 30 seconds in length. I invite you to watch it and learn more about my MOOCs, edX, and my book, “ed E-Learning Course Development.”

You can also review an updated PowerPoint presentation based on the one that I used; it provides a background about the information that I presented, though — just as I do when I teach — the slides were a starting point and not the only point I made.

You can also watch two Facebook Live videos recorded by an AUE staff member:

At the conclusion of my presentation I was awarded a “Certificate of Recognition” from Professor Miroslav Mateev, Interim Vice President of Research and Advancement, on behalf of the Library and Information Resource Center (LIRC) and Office of Research and Advancement (ORA). I was also given a leather attaché case and sincere thanks for my efforts. It was a lovely gesture.

matthew-gilbert-edx-book-presentation-cert-20170130

In summary, “edX E-Learning Course Development” is a 300 page manual that helps university teachers and corporate trainers design, develop, and deploy an interactive and informative MOOC course for the edX platform. It walks a reader through eight steps to create an edX course while teaching them about tools and techniques to know as an edX instructor. Those eight steps are presented in eight chapters which include:

  1. Getting Started: an overview of MOOCs and the history of edX.
  2. Planning the Curriculum:curriculum development.
  3. Producing Videos: video production best practices.
  4. Designing Exercises: options for exercises and assessments.
  5. Integrating the Curriculum: options for adding course materials.
  6. Administering Your Course: your course’s administrative options.
  7. Facilitating Your Course: your role as a facilitator of your edX course.
  8. Promoting Your Course: a strategy to market your course.

You can learn more about “edX E-Learning Course Development” and purchase the book on Amazon or on the Packt Publishing website. I also invite you to contact me with inquiries or opportunities related to this blog post or beyond using the form below.