Remote Supervision and Research Access

Suggestions for Effective Remote Supervision

In the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, supervisors and students should explore appropriate ways to continue research and scholarly activities that are aligned to Brock overarching guidelines. Discuss and act on everyone’s preferences for working in a virtual collaborative space. Consider how information will be shared, create clear guidelines for when responses are expected and if working in teams, find a way to ensure that information threads do not get lost. Beyond making arrangements to ensure continuity of research, it is important to remember that these are exceptional times calling for mutual support and understanding, and may require continuous adjustment and accommodation.

  1. Designate a space where you feel comfortable to share your video during meetings with your supervisor.
  2. Establish a that will allow you to stay on track.
  3. In consultation with your supervisor, make sure you have transferred or have remote access to appropriate resources from your study or research spaces on campus.
  4. Ensure any data or information related to your research is safely stored and not easily accessed by others, in a way that aligns with your Research Ethics approvals.
  5. Ensure that your supervisor has your up-to-date contact information. This may include a cell number and/or an alternate email.
  6. Discuss with your supervisor the best methods of communication. This can be through access to safe and secure telecommunications via Lifesize, MS Teams or telephone.
  7. Communicate your work schedule to other people in your living space, and adhere to it.
  8. Ensure that you take breaks throughout the day.
  9. When WfH, take care not to isolate yourself and try to maintain personal interactions beyond research-related work with friends from within the university and outside. Keep connected with the GSA – both for up to date information and also for ‘virtual’ social interactions.
  10. Some fellow graduate students may be especially vulnerable given their distance from family members. Please keep this in mind and reach out and support them. Perhaps create opportunities by inviting fellow students to join a virtual lab group to meet for informal social activities.
  1. Ask what resources and support your students need to WfH. If possible, ensure that your students have a webcam, microphone and required software to continue to engage in their research work.
  2. Maintain the forms of interactions you had before switching to WfH as much as possible (e.g., research discussion meetings, regular reports, presentations). Maintaining contact and interactions with other research team members can be useful not only from a research productivity perspective but also for morale and social support. Consider more regular group meetings via Lifesize and MS Teams.
  3. Be transparent. If you have limited availability due to other obligations, let your students know when you will be available and can respond to questions.
  4. Schedule regular and frequent check-ins with each student individually.
  5. Respect students’ time and availability and try to stick to business hours for deadlines and meetings. Be understanding of time constraints of students caring for others.
  6. Take into consideration that remote communication is not always a perfect substitute to in-person meetings. Feedback, enquiries and answers should be formulated very clearly through oral and written communications.
  7. Time away from the University under these circumstances is not to be counted towards students’ vacation. Ensure that students continue to receive their regular level of funding support.
  8. Be clear about expectations and be willing to adapt expectations as the situation changes.
  9. Be understanding about decreased productivity. Students face a lot of barriers (e.g., anxiety, caring for family, lack of resources, needing time to adapt to this new way of doing things).
  10. Create smaller, manageable deliverables that regular check-ins, so that communication can be regularly scheduled.
  11. Do not just focus on research and productivity, ask each other about health and wellness. Know what resources are available to students and faculty who are feeling anxious or stressed.
  12. These are tough times. Try to be positive in your interactions with students. Focus on creating new opportunities and out of the box solutions. Be cognizant of your emotional leadership and try to avoid negativity, as it can increase students’ anxiety and stress.
  13. It doesn’t have to be all about work. WfH can be isolating and dispiriting. Make it fun! Start and encourage that will lift the spirits of your group and encourage remote social interactions (e.g., custom crossword puzzles, generate memes/videos, create chat groups). Ensure that all activities are appropriate and inclusive.
  1. Supervisors and students should work together to develop a personalized plan that allows each person to conduct research remotely to the fullest extent possible (e.g., performing data analysis, literature review, modeling and computation, writing manuscripts and applications, and/or converting studies to online or virtual formats when possible).
  2. Prioritize activities, and discuss which activities can be ramped down, curtailed, or delayed and possible alternatives that can limit potential research interruptions.
  3. Discuss possible impacts on activities and deadlines involving external collaborators or partners as well as planned research-related trips. Be flexible and creative with what can be accomplished without compromising research quality. Some activities may simply not be able to move forward and alternate projects and/or approaches need to be developed. A ‘wait and see’ approach may not be practical.
  4. Communicate with students that ethics approvals may be modified to shift from in-person contact to phone/video contact with participants.
  5. Find other research related tasks that can be performed (e.g., literature reviews, draft chapters/articles, data analyses, etc.) in the event that access to resources necessary for data collection are still restricted.

Can a Student's Research be Adapted?

The situation within the province is rapidly changing due to COVID-19, leading to changes in how we are undertaking our research.  We understand that many faculty members and their graduate students have had to rethink their approaches to research.  We wanted to provide some general information about alternative research and thesis options that supervisors and graduate students might consider.

  • Is there an opportunity to covert a study to an online format?
  • Meta-analyses are widely accepted in many fields as original research.
  • Do you have a previously collected data set that could be analyzed in a new, innovative way?
  • Various PhD programs at Universities across the country are also accepting inclusion of some alternative style or non-traditional chapters for dissertations. Can a chapter or part of a thesis be dedicated to developing policy, a business plan, an app, a report, a resource or guide, an op-ed, a knowledge mobilization plan, a teaching module or a systematic review?
  • Have you considered a non-traditional thesis?

What is a non-traditional thesis?

A non-traditional thesis is exactly as stated – not traditional. There are many ways to pursue a non-traditional thesis and the term encompasses a wide variety of research endeavours, including: applied, creative, digital, entrepreneurial, experiential, innovative, integrated, and/or practical.

Outcomes of a non-traditional thesis:

A wide range of potential outcomes can result from a non-traditional thesis.  Some of these outcomes could include:  policy reports and papers, knowledge mobilization plans or products, publicly available resources (e.g., novels, comics, music, art, documentaries), educational programs, business plans, prototypes, patents, digital resources (web pages, apps, software), various types of performances, or contributions to special issues of performing arts, galleries, museums, archives, libraries, and/or literary magazines.

Thesis Impact Statement

FGS recommends that students should write a separate COVID-19 –Thesis Impact Statement that can be sent to examiner salong with your thesis, so that they can better understand how your thesis has been impacted. Please use the following guidelines to assist you in drafting a statement. Also, please consult with your supervisor(s) while completing this statement.

• Provide a brief summary of your design/methodology PRIOR to the pandemic and changes that occurred (maximum 500 words).
• Provide a brief description of how you changed your research to accommodate the public health emergency measures while completing your thesis (maximum 500 words). Please be specific, concise and/or include a timeline to better explain the impact.
• Provide a brief summary for your examiner(s) (maximum 300 words), of how your thesis was affected.

Once completed, please make sure your supervisor(s) and graduate program director have a copy to forward to examiners along with your thesis.

Considerations for Student Researchers

The University is committed to supporting students to complete degree requirements in a timely fashion. students nearing degree completion will be prioritized at each stage of the research expansion, subject to the following considerations:

  • Students must not be compelled to conduct research on campus or in the field. Personal life circumstances will influence each student’s readiness to undertake onsite research. They must feel free to voluntarily return to campus labs or field research activities. The Faculty of Graduate Studies will confirm with each graduate student that they wish to conduct on-site research.
  • No student research activity can occur without adequate training and supervision. These needs vary depending upon student level and the specific research activities. Requests for authorization for student research must include strategies to ensure 6 these training and supervision requirements are met despite the steps necessary to reduce risks due to the coronavirus.
  • The flexibility and creativity demonstrated in regard to new methods of course delivery and modifications around assessment of degree-level expectations are needed to ensure that student researchers are supported and can complete their research programs in a timely manner. At the same time, it is essential to respect that academic requirements remain in place and that academic integrity must be maintained.

Research Access

Student access requests are the responsibility of the supervisor. it is important that your discuss with your supervisor your timelines for program milestones and completion, how your research progress may be impacted and how you would like to move forward.

If you are able to and feel safe returning to the lab:

  • Determine the minimum time you need to access campus or field resources
  • Consider your safety and risk of transmission

If you are not able to or do not feel safe returning to the lab, you can explore alternate paths for making progress on your thesis. For example:

  • Is there an opportunity to covert your study to an online format?
  • Can you conduct a meta-analysis or analyze previously collected data in a new, innovative way?
  • Can a chapter or part of your thesis be dedicated to developing policy, a business plan, an app, a report, a resource or guide, an op-ed, a knowledge mobilization plan, a teaching module or a systematic review?

In the event that you are experiencing barriers to research progress, you can reach out to your Supervisor, GPD, AD Research and Graduate, and/or FGS to discuss options.

Please use this link to review Brock’s most up-to-date information on research activities during the pandemic.