These days everything seems to happen online. We work online, catch up with friends, apply for jobs and even find love online. And why not. It’s convenient and opens up worlds that were never available to us before.
Now even Higher Degrees by Research milestones are happening online. At the end of 2019 two of our HDR students, Elisa Armstrong and Narelle Hunter (pictured) completed their Confirmation of Candidature (CoC) via a live video conference. While the students and supervisors were here on our beautiful Bedford Park campus, the assessors and other students joined in from all over Australia.
Two external examiners were invited to assess both Elisa and Narelle’s CoC: Dr Leanne McRae from Curtin University in Perth and Dr Gail Crimmins from the University of the Sunshine Coast. On the day of the CoCs, these examiners were over 4,400 km apart but able to assess the presentations in real time.
The session was also opened up to students who were preparing for their own upcoming CoCs. One of these external students, Nanthini Kanthan, joined the video conference from Alice Springs which truly made these CoC’s an Australia wide event.
We asked Narelle to tell us how she felt about the digital Confirmation of Candidature experience:
“I found the live streamed Confirmation of Candidature a fantastic process. The presentation component was identical to presenting to an audience in person, I could see my assessors on screen and they could clearly see me and my presentation. My project is cross disciplinary and finding assessors within Flinders University was very challenging. Tara suggested that we try for two external assessors to help provide perspective and relevant feedback for the project that I would find useful. My assessors were fantastic, offering amazing advice and support. I think that a live streamed Confirmation of Candidature with access to external assessors is a process that we should be encouraging more PhD and Masters Students and supervisors to explore, particularly at a small university such as Flinders University so that we can harness the expertise that the world has to offer.”
Narelle’s Principal Supervisor, Professor Jamie Quinton, offered us his insights on how beneficial the digital CoC was:
The most amazing outcome is that digitalisation of the milestone allowed for the choice of panel members external to Flinders to be chosen for Elisa and Narelle. With Dr Leanne McRae in Perth and Dr Gail Crimmins on the Sunshine Coast, they could not have been further apart in a geographical sense and remain within mainland Australia. This selection brought with it a number of benefits, such as
- The panel members were carefully chosen because their expertise could first assess whether the candidates were worthy of confirmation without any vested, personal or political motivation; and do so with authority within the context of the project.
- The panelists have offered their relevant expertise and added value within each candidate’s project through broadening the scope of possibilities to be explored.
- From the students’ perspective, their potential to conduct work that is both world-class and makes a significant, original contribution to their field of research, has been evaluated authentically by ‘defacto examiners’. The process empowers the students afterwards with the confidence that their work has been deemed good enough – which is a source of considerable angst for students that have panels and supervisors who only reside within the university.
The panel members therefore act as an external advisory board that can offer real advice to students within the context of their projects, and ensure the candidature is benchmarked properly against the required, world standards.
Flinders University has developed the Digital Doctorate. Students can enrol from around the world and complete a PhD without moving to Adelaide. From admissions to examination, the doctorate is now digital. But this special event demonstrates that even milestones can be conducted online, using world-leading academics to offer advice, commentary and support for our students.