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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

OLC Innovate 2016 - Innovations in Blended and Online Learning
April 20-22, 2016 | New Orleans, LA | Sheraton New Orleans Hotel

Student-Focused Virtual Learning: Experience Walden University's Virtual Residency Environment

Maleka Ingram (Walden University, USA)
Laurie Bedford (Walden University, USA)
Rochelle GIlbert (Walden University, USA)
Additional Authors
Juli Hastings (Walden University, USA)
Session Information
October 29, 2014 - 2:15pm
Technology and Emerging Learning Environments
Areas of Special Interest: 
Social Networking
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Extended Information Session
Europe 11
Session Duration: 
80 Minutes
Concurrent Session 4 and 5 (combined)

Experience a virtual/immersive residency from the student's perspective. Attend this session to learn about the tools and pedagogies used to facilitate the Walden virtual residency.

Extended Abstract

While online doctoral programs offer the flexibility and convenience expected by contemporary, adult learners (Bolliger & Halupa, 2012), considerations for unique learning needs of this group also need to be considered (Offerman, 2011). In the online environment, this is often accomplished through course design that offers opportunities for interactivity and collaborative learning (Ruey, 2010). In addition to innovative and varied course design; Walden University (an online institution) includes a residency requirement for students in most doctoral programs to help meet this population's need for interaction and collaboration.

The purpose of the residency is to allow students to collaborate, network, and engage in academic discourse with students, staff and faculty. This face-to-face component offers Walden's students an advantage as it situates students in a multi-contextual learning environment specifically designed to help students meet academic as well as professional and personal goals. In addition, it aligns with Walden's mission of mutuality in the curriculum which requires a shared power between faculty and students (Peinovich & Hodgkinson, 2011.

However, as Roseth, Akaoglu, and Zellner (2013) describe, synchronous activity as a means to supplement asynchronous online learning does not have to be face-to-face. Rather, using 21st cloud technology, students can enjoy academic discourse delivered synchronously that is equivalent to more traditional face-to-face settings. In 2011, Walden University expanded its residency program in the spirit of these emerging technologies to offer students an alternative approach to meeting their residency requirement while maintaining the spirit of the residency experience.

Walden University requires PhD students to attend four academic residencies as part of their program of study. Walden's residencies function somewhat like a professional conference in that they allow students to collaborate and network with other Walden students, staff, and faculty members. The content of each residency supplements and aligns with the online doctoral coursework and focuses on a different area to support students throughout the research and dissertation process.

  • Residency 1 focuses on Socialization and Networking. Topics include: doctoral competency development, orientation to academic support services and networking, community building, writing at the doctoral level, using APA style, library search skill building, and professional development.
  • Residency 2 focus on Research Methods. Topic include: refinement of research questions, research question and methodology alignment, and literature critique and synthesis
  • Residency 3 focuses on the Prospectus and Proposal. Topics include: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed research designs; data collection, management, and analysis considerations; and development of the prospectus.
  • Residency 4 focuses on becoming a Scholar-Practitioner. Topics include: practicing presentation and critique, research dissemination, implications for social change, and dissertation writing.

Prior to 2011, Walden's academic residencies were only available face-to-face. This meant students from all over the world had to travel to participate in the residencies and satisfy their program requirements. In 2011, Walden developed a virtual residency delivery model with the overall goal to increase accessibility to the PhD residency program content. In addition to this primary goal, the virtual residency model's objectives included:

  • Support doctoral students who find travel to four residencies a hardship or a barrier to successful program completion
  • Allow greater access to residencies for students at the appropriate point in their programs without the event space restrictions of face to face residencies
  • Provide an opportunity for International students to complete a portion of their residency requirement without international travel

The virtual delivery model consists of using a combination of web tools and technologies. These tools include an online events and webcasting application and web conferencing technology. The students use these tools to participate in asynchronous and synchronous learning activities. In addition to the learning activities, students also participate in socialization and networking activities using the social media tools embedded with the environment.

The results of implementing the virtual residency model included providing an alternative option for students with travel limitations and challenges. In three years, the number of students choosing to attend the virtual residency option has doubled to approximately 700.

This session will provide an overview of the tools and pedagogies used in the Walden University virtual residency experience. Walden's virtual residency tools for socialization, collaboration and web conferencing will be demonstrated. Participants should plan to bring a laptop or tablet computer to the session so they can participate in a mock virtual residency session as a student.

The goals for the presentation are:

  • Describe how Walden University's virtual residency functions
  • Demonstrate the tools, technologies and techniques used in the virtual residency leaning environment
  • Give examples of how collaboration and networking is facilitated in the virtual residency learning environment
  • Allow participates to practice and experience the virtual residency
  • Discuss how this model may be used for other learning/ academic programs

Bolliger, D. U., & Halupa, C. (2012). Student perceptions of satisfaction and anxiety in an online doctoral program. Distance Education, 33(1), 81-98.
Offerman, M. (2011). Profile of the nontraditional doctoral degree student. New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education, (129), 75-84. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ace.397
Peinovich, P. E., & Hodgkinson, H. L. (2011). Organizing the faculty around the students: Walden University. New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education, (129), 75-84. doi:10.1002/ace.402
Roseth, C., Akcaoglu, M., & Zellner, A. (2013). Blending synchronous face-to-face and computer-supported cooperative learning in a hybrid doctoral seminars. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 57(3), 54-59. doi: 1007/s11528-1013-0663-z
Ruey, S. (2010). A case study of constructivist instructional strategies for adult online learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(50), 706-720. doi: 10.1111/j. 1467-8535.2009.00965x