More than 40% of doctoral students are unable to complete their independent capstone research at the conclusion of their coursework, and of those who do complete the capstone, completion often takes longer than anticipated. In online universities, students are often successful during their structured course work, but become overwhelmed with the demands of their capstone research and fail to progress. To scaffold the capstone process, the program under study has several discrete steps in the completion and review processes, such as prospectus (research plan) development, and the proposal and final study approvals by committee members and the university-level research reviewer. The program recently added another early step to provide structured feedback and additional guidance to assist students in the development of their research plans. This step is the prospectus-stage review by the Research Program Director (RPD). Grounded by Hattie and Timperley’s model of feedback to enhance student learning, the purpose of this study was to assess the effect of the RPD review by examining differences in the number of days elapsed for approval between students who had their prospectus reviewed by the RPD and students who did not. Differences in the number of university-level research reviewer proposal returns were also examined. Both analyses of variance indicated significant differences between the two groups, supporting the effort and expenditures by the university for the added early-stage structured feedback process.
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