Career Progress in Online and Blended Learning Environments

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  • Original Article

    Career Progress in Online and BlendedLearning Environments

    Melissa DeRosier, Ph.D., Rebecca Kameny, Ph.D., Wendy Holler, M.A.

    Naomi Ornstein Davis, Ph.D., Emily Maschauer, M.S.

    Objective: The authors examined the career achievement ofearly- and mid-career researchers in social, behavioral, andmental health who participated in a career-developmentconference.

    Method: Trainees participated in a career-development conferenceeither through attending a live conference supplemented with anonline version of the conference (Combined: N=46) or through theonline version of the conference alone (Web-Only: N=60). Anobjective measure tracked the trainees publications, involvement inresearch projects, honors and grant awards, collaborations, andscientic presentations before and 9 months after participation inthe career-development conference.

    Results: Statistical analysis showed that trainees improved foreach category measured, with no signicant differences acrossthe Combined and Web-Only groups. The strongest variableaffecting improvement was Time, and the most signicant timeeffect was seen in the production of presentations and publications.A signicant Gender difference was present, with women showinggreater total career progress than men.

    Conclusion: Career-development conferences can supportcareer growth for trainees. Online training provides a cost-effective and time-efcient alternative to in-person methods,while still enhancing key markers of career progress.

    Academic Psychiatry 2013; 37:98103

    Training and supporting the pool of mental health re-searchers required for a thriving research communityis difcult in part because of the length of time between ed-ucation and research career independence (1). For example,the average age for receiving a National Institutes of Healthindependent research grant was 36 in 1981, but 42 in 2010(2). During this time, nancial and professional pressurescan drive talented individuals out of research and into otherelds (3).Career-development conferences contribute to the reten-

    tion of high-quality researchers by providing informationspecic to a research career, such as the grant submissionprocess, as well as information generally applicable to allearly-career professionals, such as nding a worklife bal-ance (4). Conferences can also offer survival skills train-ing by providing techniques for and examples of successfulresearch career skills such as writing and negotiation strat-egies (5). Also, programs can facilitate the development ofmentoring skills and relationships in a context where bothsenior and junior scholars can benet (6, 7).

    Career-Development Conferences Online

    Although career-development conferences provide anestablished forum for continuing education, the costs ofattending conferences in person can be prohibitive (810).Online conference dissemination may be a viable methodfor extending the value of career-development conferences.Conference websites, for example, can reduce registrationand travel costs and increase international exposure forconference materials and ideas (11). Online conferencematerial also allows researchers to t educational time intoa busy schedule and supports different learning preferences(12).Previous work has shown that conference materials

    adapted for online training can yield similar knowledgegains when compared with in-person training (13). These

    Received July 20, 2011; revised September 21, 2011, January 26, 2012;accepted February 15, 2012. From the 3-C Institute for Social Develop-ment, Cary, NC. Send correspondence to Dr. Melissa DeRosier; e-mail:derosier@3cisd.comCopyright 2013 Academic Psychiatry

    98 http://ap.psychiatryonline.org Academic Psychiatry, 37:2, March-April 2013

  • ndings are consistent with the no signicant differencetheory, which holds that qualities other than the trainingmedium drive success for online education (14). In otherwords, online and in-person instruction are generally botheffective for conveying knowledge when the same in-struction methods are used (see references 1518 forreviews).

    Career-Advancement Skills

    Three objectively measurable research skills are wellrecognized as indicators of scientic development: runningsuccessful research projects, writing publications, and se-curing honors or grant awards. Several of the major career-development institutes explicitly list writing and earninggrants in their mission statements (1921). Furthermore,grants completed, papers published, and honors received areall used to measure excellence of scientic contributionsduring tenure decisions (2224).Scientic collaborations and presentations also provide

    benecial experience to early-career researchers. Collabo-rations can be formal or informal and range from brain-storming to results- or expertise-sharing (25). Sharing dataand experiences is particularly useful because it can in-uence scientic perspectives and challenge assumptions,especially at international levels (26). Collaboration mayalso improve researchers chances for publication (27),a critical yet often challenging accomplishment for early-career researchers. Finally, scientic presentations empha-size both the cognitive and the social elements of careerdevelopment (28) by offering professional and networkingbenets for the individual researcher as well as providinga forum for disseminating scientic ndings.The current study examines online and in-person career-

    development training and the career advancement ofattendees. Data are presented from 106 trainees who par-ticipated in three different career-development institutes:the 2008 Career Development Institute (CDI) for BipolarDisorder, the 2008 CDI for Psychiatry, and the 2008Leadership Training Institute (LTI). Thework contributes tothe question of how online and in-person research trainingcan positively affect career change.

    Method

    ParticipantsParticipants in the current study included 106 trainees

    who participated in one of three career-development insti-tutes, each of which took place during the spring of 2008:

    CDI for Bipolar Disorder (N=41), CDI for Psychiatry(N=41), and LTI (N=24). All participants were either early-career or mid-career researchers. Of the 106 participants,75% percent of the participants were early-career, and 25%were mid-career. Early-career was dened as havingobtained a terminal degree, having fewer than 10 peer-reviewed publications, and either having or seeking full-time employment in a research career (e.g., applying fora K award; rst-year assistant professor status). Mid-careerwas dened as having obtained a terminal degree, havinga broader range and higher number of peer-reviewed pub-lications than early-career individuals, possibly having re-ceived some research funding but not yet being fullyindependent, and having some experience in a researchcareer (e.g., receiving an R03 award; associate professorstatus).The sample of trainees included 66% women and 34%

    men with a self-identied racial/ethnic distribution of 71%White, 15% Asian, and 14% Black, with 14% of the totalsample reporting being of Hispanic descent. Chi-squareanalyses showed no signicant differences across thethree conferences by gender, career level, or ethnicity.However, signicant differences in race were found (x2[4]=35.30; p ,0.0001) where more Black (50% for the LTIversus 4% for the CDIs) and fewer White trainees (33% forthe LTI versus 81% for the CDIs) participated in the LTIthan in the other two conferences. This difference reectsthe fact that the LTI was designed specically for womenand minority researchers.

    ProceduresThis study received expedited Institutional ReviewBoard

    approval. Conference organizers solicited applications fortheir conference via national researcher list-servs, e-mail noti-cations to academic departments in relevant elds across thecountry, and advertisements in relevant professional organiza-tion publications. Each application required completion of anonline form, submission of a CV, a statement of research ex-perience and/or interests, and at least one letter of recommen-dation.More than 285 researchers applied for the three trainingprograms, and attendees were competitively selected by theconference organizers, with a selection rate of approximately50% of applicants.Participants for this study were recruited from the list of

    conference attendees, aswell as recommendations of conferencefaculty and direct e-mails to early- and mid-career researcherswhosepublicationsmatched the conferences respective areas ofspecialty. Study participants lled out an online or hardcopyconsent form before completing pre-conference questionnaires.

    Academic Psychiatry, 37:2, March-April 2013 http://ap.psychiatryonline.org 99

    DEROSIER ET AL.

  • Participants had access to the career-development conferencesthrough one of two conditions: 1) combination of in-person andonline training (Combined: N=46), where participants attendedthe institute and also had subsequent access to the conferencematerials online; and 2)Web-Only training (Web-Only: N=60),where trainees had access to the conference materials-onlyonline. Chi-square analysis showed no differences across theCombined and Web-Only conditions by conference, gender,race, Hispanic status, or career-level.To maintain a high level of quality for the online com-

    ponent, live conference presentations were videotaped andadapted for online display (12). The online presentationsprovided viewing options that appealed to different learningpreferences (e.g., full video presentation with transcript,slides and transcript only, transcript-alone). The mp3 audioles and slides for each presentation were also available fordownload. An online bulletin board, a downloads area,a links page, and faculty bio pages were also provided foreach conference.

    MeasuresParticipants completed a Career Progress Survey before

    and 9 months after participation in their respective confer-ence. This timeframe represented approximately 1 year afteracceptance into the study and completion of the pre-conference Career Progress Survey. This survey assesseddifferent aspects of research career achievement and expe-riences, including current position, honors and awards,publications, career-development activities (e.g., seminars,training institutes), funding, and collaboration. Detailedinformation was collected to increase accuracy in reportedinformation (e.g., publication citations, specic grant titles,and presentation title information).

    Results

    Because of time and scheduling issues, 24 traineesdropped out over the course of the study (23% attrition rate).

    Chi-square analyses showed no evidence of selective at-trition. Attrition analysis included initial level of careerachievements, conference, study condition, gender, race,Hispanic status, or career level, and there were no signicantdifferences between trainees who exited the study versusthose who remained for any of these categories.In the rst set of analyses, the ve key markers of career

    progress were examined: 1) number of publications (in-cluding peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, trademagazine articles, and abstracts); 2) number of grants onwhich the participant served as PI or Co-PI; 3) number ofhonors or awards; 4) number of current research collabo-rators; and 5) number of presentations. Each variable wascollected at pre-assessment and again at a 9-month follow-up. A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA)across the ve variables was run, with study Condition(Combined versus Web-Only) as the between-subjectsvariable and Time (pre-conference versus 9 months later)as the within-subject repeated factor. A main effect forConference was signicant at the multivariate level (F[20,134]=2.13; p,0.05); therefore, Conferencewas included asa covariate and controlled for in all subsequent analyses.Signicant multivariate main effects for study Condition

    were found both at the pre-conference timepoint (F[5,98])=2.91; p ,0.05) and at 9-month follow-up (F[5, 71]=2.67; p,0.05; see Table 1). Univariate analyses revealedthat participants in the Combined condition showed a sig-nicantly larger number of honors at pre-conference thandid Web-Only participants (F[1, 102]=9.94; p ,0.01), andparticipants in the Web-Only condition showed a trend to-ward higher number of collaborators at pre-conference thandid the Combined participants (F[1, 102]=2.93; p,0.1).However, at 9-month follow-up, only number of honorscontinued to show this difference across study conditions(F[1, 75]=10.26; p ,0.1). There were no signicant multi-variate interaction effects at either timepoint as a function ofConference, study Condition, Gender, Race, Hispanic sta-tus, or Career level.

    TABLE 1. Least-Squares Means by Condition at Pre-Conference and 9-Month Timepoints

    Publications PI on Grant Honors Collaborations Presentations

    Pre- 9Months Pre- 9Months Pre- 9 Months Pre- 9Months Pre- 9Months

    Combined(SD)

    4.02(0.73)

    5.72(1.03)

    1.09(0.23)

    1.32(0.32)

    1.50A

    (0.18)1.98A

    (0.30)2.43B

    (0.67)3.25(0.95)

    1.72(0.22)

    2.53(0.43)

    Web-Only(SD)

    4.99(0.65)

    5.82(0.89)

    1.17(0.20)

    1.65(0.28)

    0.75B

    (0.16)0.76B

    (0.26)3.95A

    (0.60)4.90(0.82)

    1.95(0.20)

    2.52(0.37)

    Means with different superscript letters within a column were signicantly different from one another across study conditions.PI: principal investigator; SD: standard deviation.

    100 http://ap.psychiatryonline.org Academic Psychiatry, 37:2, March-April 2013

    ONLINE AND BLENDED LEARNING

  • Examination of the repeated-measures MANOVA in-dicated a signicant multivariate effect for change over timefrom pre-conference to 9 months (F[9, 675]=18.00; p,0.0001). The Time effect did not vary by Condition.Univariate analyses revealed that this effect held for four ofthe ve career-progress variables: number of publications(F[1, 75]=9.36; p,0.01), number of grants (F[1, 75]=6.95;p ,0.01), number of research collaborations (F[1, 75]=3.95; p ,0.05), and number of scientic presentations (F[1, 75]=11.11; p ,0.01). Each marker of career progresssignicantly increased over time. Only the number of hon-ors received did not show signicant change over time.Also, there was a signicant multivariate interaction effectfor change over time by career level (F[9, 657]=1.90; p,0.05). The change in number of research collaborationsvaried for early-career versus mid-career level researchers(F[1, 73]=9.80; p,0.01). Specically, least-squares meansshowed greater improvement for early-career individuals,from a total of 1.15 (SD: 0.67) at pre-conference to 4.15(SD: 0.74) at 9 months, whereas mid-career researchersmoved from a total of 3.92 (SD: 1.13) at pre-conference to4.35 (SD: 1.26) at 9 months.In a second analysis, a composite variable representing

    Total Career Progress was created based on demonstratedchange in each career progress area. For each participant,a Total Career Progress score was calculated by allotting 1point for each keymarker that was greater at 9months than itwas at pre-conference, and an additional point was given forhaving a higher salary or a new job at follow-up. Descriptiveanalyse...

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