Originally Published In
M. Orleans (Ed.) Cases on Critical and Qualitative Perspectives in Online Higher Education. Bern, Switzerland: Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Online graduate programs have a unique opportunity to serve students in global regions that have limited infrastructure (and thus fewer educational opportunities) due to remoteness, poverty, violent conflict, ideological values that might not necessarily support educational access for all people, or other reasons. In many cases, students in these regions feel a particularly urgent need to attain educational goals, obtain scientific training, and conduct research that can help improve conditions for their community. However, the same infrastructure limitations that make education and social research so desperately necessary (e.g., shortcomings in government, commerce, law enforcement) can also present barriers to the completion of a graduate program, especially one that involves original data collection. In the cases that follow, the authors discuss how the Western (especially North American) scientific research system can be adapted to better support the ethical and pragmatic challenges of graduate students conducting research in regions with infrastructure limitations. The tension is that Western academic, regulatory, and procedural standards are sometimes prohibitive to the completion of studies in regions with conditions that limit the functioning and sustainability of the infrastructure that would normally provide a foundation for the collection and analysis of data. University faculty and staff must find ways to uphold the standards of science in a manner that is flexible and adaptive.