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Section 3 The Journey Ahead / Chapter 9 The Doctoral Journey

GCU has a number of opportunities, tools, resources, and support systems to encourage and enable a high level of learner engagement.

2. Engaging as a Doctoral Learner


The leadership of the College of Doctoral Studies has decades of combined experience working with doctoral learners, and the one element that best predicts whether a learner will complete his or her doctoral program successfully is the learner's level of engagement, especially in the early courses of the program. Examples of this include engagement in the doctoral journey, engagement with faculty, engagement in the classroom, and engagement with support opportunities and resources. GCU has a number of opportunities, tools, resources, and support systems to encourage and enable a high level of learner engagement.


Doctoral Faculty: GCU’s faculty have doctoral degrees from regionally accredited universities and teaching experience at the graduate level. All instructors have continuing research interests demonstrated through scholarly publications and/or presentations. The faculty member should be the first point of contact for questions about course content, readings, assignments, discussion questions, or anything else related to the scholarship or curriculum of the program.


Enrollment Counselor: GCU’s Enrollment Counselors are highly knowledgeable about the various doctoral programs as well as the systems and resources used in the online delivery of education at GCU. During the first class, they are a great place to direct questions about all elements of the doctoral program, from concerns about how to access the student portal to questions about how to submit an assignment in LoudCloud.


Student Services Advisor: The Student Services Advisor functions as both an academic counselor and a financial aid resource. During the second course, learners’ primary advising contact transitions from Enrollment Counselors to Student Services Advisors. Similar to the Enrollment Counselor, Student Services Advisors are a great contact for assistance about the systems and resources of GCU. Given that the doctoral journey is at least three years, the odds are that a learner’s Student Services Advisor will change during his or her time in the program. GCU will inform learners of the change when this happens. What is important is that all learners are assigned to a specific advisor who knows their situation. They are not just dialing into a call center or going to the next available representative for advising.


Center for Learning and Advancement: GCU provides a variety of support services for online students through the Center for Learning and Advancement. Previous chapters have provided a lot of information about the level of writing that GCU expects doctoral learners to develop. Many learners have been out of school for years by the time they return to their doctoral programs, so some assistance in remembering and rebuilding writing skill is expected. The Center for Learning and Advancement provides excellent tutoring services in the form of self-directed study resources and one-on-one review sessions for learners that need some assistance. Later in the program, the Center for Learning and Advancement can also provide some assistance in dissertation document review as well.


In addition to the specific resources listed here, learners who take an active role in their education and seek more information about their program are engaged. Learners who connect with their faculty, fellow learners, and the college support staff are engaged. Learners who are passionate about a research topic and independently looking ahead to the dissertation process are engaged. This high degree of engagement is essential to successfully completing GCU’s doctoral journey.