The Potential and the Challenges of the Open Web in the Doctoral Journey: The Goal Orientations of Italian and UK PhD Students

Antonella Esposito
University of Milan, Italy

Albert Sangra
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain

Marcelo Fabian Maina
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain


The current PhD candidates are increasingly expected to act as “doctoral researchers” rather than as “doctoral students”. Challenged by pressures coming from globalization process and knowledge economy, the PhD candidates are in fact required to develop self-entrepreneurial skills, in order to define their own research projects and even to craft any future job positions inside or outside academia (Cornelissen, Simons & Masschelein, 2007). Alongside, they are provided with unprecedented opportunities to draw advantages from the ensemble of the Web 2.0 tools and services, embedding a potential for enabling at an individual level new forms of knowledge creation and knowledge circulation and distribution across academic contexts (Cobo & Naval, 2013). In other words, the PhD candidates are supposed to build on the pervasiveness of social media and ownership of digital devices to take “greater agency in the creation of their learning contexts” (Luckin, Clark, Garnett et al., 2010, p.74), as well as academics of all ranks are subject to techno-cultural pressures (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012) to experiment new participatory behaviours across digital venues. However, the actual uptake of the Web 2.0 tools and social media by the doctoral students is still controversial (e.g. James, Norman, De Baets et al., 2009; British Library/JISC, 2011; Esposito, Sangrà & Maina, 2013; Petre, Minocha & Barroca, 2014), whilst some discussions related to opportunities and drawbacks of social media for the PhD students have recently been sparked (e.g. Coverdale, 2012; Zhu & Procter, 2012).

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