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Prepare for online supervision of (PhD) students

For many instructors, supervising individual students remains one of the most inspiring forms of teaching. However, individual supervision comes with unique challenges and often requires a different approaches compared with classroom teaching. This is especially true when supervision takes place online. 

This page will focus on the preparations of an online supervision process: What could you prepare before the first meeting with your student takes place if this happens online? To read more about how to broadly organize supervision, please visit the page regarding organize supervision

First steps 

If you are asked to supervise an individual or a group of (thesis) students, there are a few first steps you can consider before starting this process. In the text below, you will find aspects that you can prepare or think about before the supervision starts. 

Faculty regulations

Often, faculties have their own regulations or procedures when it comes to the supervision of (phd) students. It is important that you are aware of how this is organized at your faculty. You can think of issues like:

  • How is your task as a supervisor described? 

  • How much time is planned for supervising? 

  • How often should there be a meeting with the thesis student? 

  • What is the task of the supervisor in assessing the thesis? 

  • What to do if there is a problem during the process? 

  • To what extent do you have a responsibility for student well-being?

When it comes to supervising (phd) students online, you could also think about: 

  • Does the faculty recommend to only have meetings online? 

  • What tool do you want to use to have online meetings? 

  • Which medium do you want to use to share documents and provide feedback?

Try to discuss this also with colleagues who are experienced in supervising students, within your own faculty.

Styles of supervision 

What kind of supervisor do you envision yourself to be? There are three dimensions that you can take into consideration if you are thinking about this: 

  • Relationship: businesslike or personal 

  • Intensity of task: more or less intensive

  • Orientation of task: product or process orientation

The characteristics of the student that you are going to supervise are also important to take into account in making these decisions. If supervision takes place online, this might also affect your style of supervision. To read more about the importance of the relationship between teacher and student, you can read this article.

Online tools 

In the preparation of online supervision, you have to think about which tools you want to use during this trajectory. On this page you find information on different ways of giving feedback. Besides that, you have to think about which tool you want to use to communicate with the student or group of students. 

 Google Meet

If you use other Google services as Gmail and Google Calendar, this might be the easiest option. In this video conference tool you can have online meetings with one person or a group of people. For more information go to this website.

 Microsoft Teams

At the Faculty of Medical Sciences, Microsoft is used instead of Google as the standard system. The video conference tool of Microsoft is Teams but in general, it has the same functionalities as Meet. For more information go to this website.

 Blackboard Collaborate

If you are going to supervise a group of students, it might also be a good idea to use Blackboard Collaborate as a video conference tool. In Blackboard Collaborate you can also create break out groups if you want students to work in couples during the meeting. For example if you want to give them the chance to give and receive peer feedback on their own writings. For more information on Collaborate, check out this page.

The tools mentioned above can be used if you want to organize synchronous sessions, in which you and the students or group of students are present at the same time. Besides that, you might also want to have the possibility to communicate asynchronously. This can be done by using e-mail, but there are also some other tools that might be useful. 

 Create a logbook or journal in Google Docs

Create a Google Doc in which you ask the student to keep track of the progress. This can be on content level (what was written when) or on process level (how did that go, how do you feel about this). You can also add a space for questions to be asked, on content or progress level or where students can organize their thoughts. By agreeing on filling this logbook or journal in every week, both you and the student have an overview of the status and it gives you the opportunity to give formative feedback.

 Use Polleverywhere to collect questions asynchronously

If you are supervising a group of students, they might struggle with the same questions. To avoid that you are answering the same questions multiple times by mail, you can ask students to insert their questions in a Polleverywhere tool. Every staff member at the UG has access to this with their UG account. It is possible to see which questions are sent in by other students and you could even vote on a question that you also have, to stretch its importance. For more information on Polleverywhere, you can watch this webinar or go to this page.
You can use Polleverywhere during a synchronous meeting, but you can also activate the polls to make use of this a-synchronously.

Training ‘Supervising Thesis Students’ at UG

If you would like to know more about this topic and have the opportunity to discuss with experts and colleagues, you can also register for the one-day training ‘Supervising Thesis Students’. For more information, simply follow this link

Whom to contact?

Contact EDU Support or your faculty's Embedded Expert from ESI for tailored didactic advice in using these suggestions in your teaching. For technical assistance please contact Nestorsupport.

Last modified: 19 November 11:36 AM
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