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Centre for Academic Development

Supervising remotely

In short, supervising means observing and guiding someone through the learning process. The starting point is for students to think about where they need to improve. The supervisor then helps them to move forward in their learning. Having students formulating, in their own words, their level of knowledge and need for further knowledge – what they already know and what else they need to know – the teacher can tailor their support and supervision efforts. In other words, it enables the teacher to encourage, involve and explain in ways that are tailored to that individual student or to a specific group of students.

Remote supervision can be done on a one-to-one basis or in groups, it can be oral or in writing. Sometimes it requires some degree of preparation. As with all remote teaching and learning, it is important that you give clear instructions as to how the activity should play out, and it is helpful if you write down a few points about what the teacher and student can expect from one another during supervision.

When the supervision is offered online with audio and video, the situation does not necessarily need to differ that much from any other supervision situation. If, for example, students co-author an independent project, they can upload their document and go through it together with you. If, in addition, it is possible to record the session and save the file, the students may come back to the recording and go through what was being said.

It is also possible to supervise without audio and video. Students can instead upload their document to a discussion forum, where you as the supervisor can comment. This offers a different flexibility to the supervision efforts. When it is difficult to find a time for the supervisor and students to meet face-to-face online, the written environment in the learning platform is an excellent alternative. Moreover, supervision via a discussion forum allows for reflection – there is time for the students to consider your comments, offer well thought-out responses and consequently gain a more in-depth understanding.

It should be pointed out, however, that a written supervision procedure may take longer to complete. Sometimes questions and follow-up questions are raised that result in a long discussion, which more easily would have been settled face to face. What is more, if supervision is done with audio and video, it may be easier for you as a supervisor to get a sense of your students’ motivation in their writing process – if they are finding it inspiring and stimulating or if they are feeling inadequate as writers and finding it difficult to move forward in the writing process.

Tips for choosing digital tools

  • You can supervise your students with audio and video in Zoom or in Blackboard Collaborate (the website is in Swedish, but the videos on the site have subtitles in English).
  • You can have your students upload their document in a discussion forum in Blackboard. See instructions on how to use discussion forums in Blackboard Original and Blackboard Ultra.

When planning remote online supervision – remember

  • to carefully consider different alternatives for the supervision: What are the arguments for using audio and video? What are the arguments against?
  • to give clear instructions for the supervision: What do you expect from the students in the online supervision situation and what can they expect from you as their supervisor?
  • to create confidence and enthusiasm in the supervision situation: How can you make the students feel competent as authors of the paper and stimulate their interest in the topic chosen? What are the challenges when supervision is done without audio and video?