Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Publication Details

This conference paper was originally published as Martin, DL and Woods, A, A tale of two communities: How online programs can support the diverse needs of commencing and competing PhD candidates, Proceedings of the Emerging Technologies Conference, University of Wollongong, 18-21 June 2008.


In the context of higher education, discussions about community–and particularly online community – tend to assume that students’ needs to connect to community are consistent throughout the course of their study. In the case of relatively small student populations undertaking coursework subjects this may well be the case. PhDs candidates, by contrast, spend an average of 3.75 years in full-time study characterised by distinct and, for some, highly disjointed phases. Their need for community will vary considerably according to the nature and stage of their research.The University of Melbourne has developed two online support programs for PhD candidates under the title Postgraduate Essentials. Strategies for a Successful Start to your PhD facilitates transition into the academy; Completion and Beyond supports candidates to complete their theses and plan for what comes next. This paper offers a series of critical reflections on particular online tools and communication strategies deployed within each program, focussing on how they can help create the different forms of community sought by candidates at the commencement and completion of their research.