On nurturing hedgehogs: Developments online for distance and offshore supervision.

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Research and Development in Higher Education: Learning for an Unknown Future Vol. 26

July, 2003, 692 pages
Published by
Helen Mathews and Rod McKay
0 90 8557 55 8

Increasing numbers of domestic and international postgraduates are studying at a distance or offshore. For their supervisors, this could present particular challenges concerning negotiating issues and practices related to demands of studying and undertaking research at a distance, balancing research, work and domestic responsibilities and, for international students, negotiating cultural difference, differences in preconceptions and expectations of PhD processes and culturally inflected learning styles. Distance supervisors might never actually get to know their students or negotiate face-to-face ways of dealing with issues. At Anglia Polytechnic University (APU), a successful, offshore, international cohort based PhD programme has run for 5 years involving180 students, with a high success rate (45 PhDs to date). To address supervisors' needs so they might best support, enable and empower students' research and PhD achievement, we constructed an online development and support programme that was unpatronising in tone, that was a shaped process which marked PhD development stages, and one that involved:

  • Negotiating differing demands of new and well established supervisors;
  • Supervisors contributing to development and discussion;
  • Focusing on issues of cultural difference and distance supervision;
  • Encouraging supervisors to empower and enable students to take critical approaches in

    research and maintain momentum through to successful completion.
    Temporary usernames for our online supervisors were 'hedgehogs'. The idea of inviting in, nurturing often invisible visitors to a space, hoping that support aids survival, not squashing, was an appealing analogy.

    Key words: distance supervision; postgraduate supervision; international students

On nurturing hedgehogs: Developments online for distance and offshore supervision.

pdf (203.84 KB)
Wisker, G., Waller, S., Richter, U., Robinson, G., Trafford, V., Wicks, K. & Warnes, M.