Supervising Online Doctoral Students

I participated in an ICDE Global Doctoral Consortium (GDC) webinar yesterday. The focus of the webinar was student and supervisor perspectives of online supervision. It was presented by Dr Marguerite Koole and Dr Gale Parchoma from the University of Saskatchewan (Canada). The first part about student perspectives was similar to a presentation I attended by Dr Koole last year, so I will only provide my notes about the supervisor perspective.

Online Doctoral Supervision Commitment

  • Doctoral supervision is long-term, significant time commitment.
  • It is a high-stakes undertaking for both the student and the supervisor.
  • Working together online is complex.
  • A supervisor is expected to provide at minimum 900 hours of support (which in practice can be double that time).
  • The relationship continues beyond the degree as the supervisor can provide scholarly and professional support for a career in academics or a professional career.

Supervisory Challenges

  • Different work locations and flexible hours: Managing different time zones and competing responsibilities. This leads to working at strange hours or over weekends.
  • Interdisciplinary supervision: Disciplinary differences between supervisor and student. Some supervisors do not accept students from different backgrounds, while those that do, may not have strategies to overcome discipline differences.
  • Theoretical & methodological diversity: Differences in preferred theoretical frameworks and research methodologies. Some supervisors insist on matching interests in methodologies/frameworks or adapt to student preferences, which requires additional time.

Dealing with Student and Supervisor Differences

  • It can be challenging to help students overcome “knowledge gaps” and to take on “new world views”.
  • If the difference is significant, either students can be passed on to other supervisors who can better support them or  the supervisor has to help them focus and rethink.
  • Experienced supervisors use “structured brainstorming” to find a middle ground that helps “land research questions” and “find a place in a critique” of previous research to make an original contribution.
  • Supervisors help students to understand “the role of theory” in grappling with research problems.

Development of the Relationship

  • There is always a complex series of negotiations for both the supervisor and the student.
  • Trust is formed over time through transparency and openness to diversity.
  • Usually issues are overcome or either party can request a change.

 

 

 

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