Interview to Olive Mugenda, Vice-Chancellor of Kenyatta University

Olive Mugenda ”African governments have realised the benefits of research for the economic development of their countries”

On 31 October, Olive Mugenda, president of Kenyatta University in Nairobi (Kenya), took part in the Doctoral Education and E-Supervision workshop.

Since 2006, Mugenda has been at the helm of one of Kenya’s leading universities at a time of extensive expansion and growth. She is the first woman president of a state university in East Africa and a member of The Talloires Network, an international network of universities working for social commitment.

Read the interview

 

e-Supervision (VII). Concluding Session

Notes from the workshop on Doctoral education and e-Supervision, organized by the Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP), the International Association of Universities (IAU), the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and the Kenyatta University (KU) within the project Personal Learning Environment (PLE)-PhD project financed through the IAU LEADHER programme, and held in Barcelona, Spain, in October 31, 2013. More notes on this event: plephd.

Questions/guidelines prepared by the session moderator, Ismael Peña-López

  • How can e-supervision be implemented on a large scale?
  • What measures should be taken?
  • What resources would be needed?
  • What incentives should be offered (if any) to the supervisors?
  • Are supervisors able – in terms of skills and competences – to go on with e-supervision? What skills/training should they have?
  • What different roles can be identified campus-wide when putting up an e-supervision programme? What actors?
  • How do we assess e-supervision itself?
  • How do we assess the outcomes of e-supervision (i.e. research)?
  • How do we make sure quality of research stays at its highest level?
  • Can e-supervision “distract” researchers from their original work (i.e. focus in the forms and not the ends)?
  • Do you think that e-supervision could be obstructed by higher risk of plagiarism?
  • Do you think that e-supervision could be obstructed by requirements of original/unpublished work now undisclosed by e-supervision itself?
  • Do you think that e-supervision can put any especial concern on intellectual property rights, privacy, or other rights related to authors or works in general?

IMG_0186

 

Concluding session

Hilligje van’t Land, Director, Membership and Programme Development, IAU

How can e-supervision be implemented?

Let’s start with the basics and see how we can move on.

Let’s think about how to do the research, how to change the mindset of doing research, about networking, about the internationalization of the process.

What measures should be taken?

Leadership truly is key to the whole process of implementing e-supervision.

What are the incentives?

Is money the right incentive? does it scale? is it sustainable?

Universities could share their initiatives and experiences at http://www.idea-phd.net/

A very important issue is to create a community. A community within the team, the department, the university, across universities… a sense of community of e-supervisors and people interested or working on e-supervision.

Olive Mugenda, Vice-Chancellor, Kenyatta University (KU), Kenya

We need a framework to guide universities through e-supervision.

One of the major concerns is quality. Maintaining a standard of quality.

Related to quality, there’s monitoring, to guarantee that the whole process is working smoothly.

What modalities are there? What methodologies?

How frequently people should communicate, when, how… some guidelines that are just illustrative, but that can provide a framework that everybody understands and agrees upon.

What is the balance between traditional supervision and e-supervision?

Josep M. Vilalta, Executive Secretary, Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP)

A need indeed for a framework and guidelines to effectively implement e-supervision.

e-Supervision does not necessarily have to be 100% online, but can also explore a blended or hybrid approach, where traditional and e-supervision models can complement each other, as it is already happening at the undergraduate and master levels.

e-Supervision can also be very interesting in “industrial doctorates”, which consist in enterprise-university agreements to develop research that can lead towards the completion of a PhD.


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e-Supervision (VI). How can e-supervision contribute to improve doctoral education in Africa

Notes from the workshop on Doctoral education and e-Supervision, organized by the Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP), the International Association of Universities (IAU), the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and the Kenyatta University (KU) within the project Personal Learning Environment (PLE)-PhD project financed through the IAU LEADHER programme, and held in Barcelona, Spain, in October 31, 2013. More notes on this event: plephd.

Questions/guidelines prepared by the session moderator, Ismael Peña-López

  • What are the main challenges for quality MSc/PhD supervision in Africa?
  • Are they more of a technological, financial or cultural nature?
  • How is Africa different from e.g. Europe in this sense?
  • Do you foresee any convergence of methodologies and culture in doing research in general and supervision in particular in the world?
  • How can ICTs in general contribute to addressing these challenges?
  • How can e-learning in general contribute to addressing these challenges?
  • How can ICTs and e-learning be translated into e-supervision? …in Africa?
  • What is the hottest topic/challenge in supervision in Africa?
  • How could e-supervision address it?
  • What is the most emerging topic/challenge of e-supervision in Africa?
  • How should it be addressed it?

Round Table: How can e-supervision contribute to improve doctoral education in Africa

Itir Akdogan, Social Research/Media and Communication Studies, Helsinki University (via videoconference)

Access to technology, not only infrastructures but cultural: lack of habit to use ICT for academic research, preference for face-to-face.

Lack of access to information.

Lack of research culture, of pressure to publish.

Role of ICTs:

  • Access to information.
  • Increase of research culture.
  • Improve interaction, not only one-to-one, but collective.
  • Modest is good, simple but effective solutions.

Beware of exclusion because of e-euphoria: need to keep on with face-to-face event important for networking.

Paul Okemo, Dean of Graduate School, Kenyatta University (KU), Kenya

Importance of development of human resources and knowledge generation.

There is a national commitment to improve the amount of people educated, which has been successful. But now the massive intake of new students, especially at the PhD level, is seriously challenging the system.

e-supervision can help in providing a solution to this challenge.

We try no to go online on expense of quality.

One of the major challenges of e-supervision is monitoring to ensure quality.

Another issue is how to assess all the work that the students are doing.

About the costs, it is likely that connection costs are lower than travel costs to attend face-to-face meetings.

An important challenge is the change of mindset, both for students and supervisors.

Expectations:

  • Learn from others.
  • Try and benchmark what everyone else is doing and share milestones.

Chrissie Boughey and Sioux McKenna, Rhodes University, South Africa

In order to gain a doctorate you have to demonstrate that you are like other doctors.

And in order to do that you have to use language in a specific way. PhD training is about teaching someone to be particular type of knower, in oder to speak, write and act in particular way.

Supervision is about bringing the student in the particular world of the text, the written text.

The danger of e-supervision is what happens that is not tracked, that is not formalized by technology, the lack context, the lack of physical contact. And the formal places where academic stuff happens cannot be substituted by other practices: so we have to learn how to make both worlds be compatible, how to go from e-supervision onto the formality of the academic world. It’s important to translate what has been “e-discussed” into the paper, the communication, the journal, which is the language that the academic world speaks.

Ousmane Thiaré, IT Specialist, Professor, Université Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis, Senegal

In Senegal as in other places of Western Africa infrastructure still is an issue.

And, again, not only infrastructures, but culture.

Besides, there is also is the fear that technology will replace human beings (i.e. professors) and make them irrelevant.

Necessary to have a work plan, a commitment, a kind of “contract” where roles and procedures are defined in detail.

Discussion

Ismael Peña-López: Do you foresee any convergence of methodologies and culture in doing research in general and supervision in particular in the world? Can e-supervision work towards a standard in supervision? Okemo: e-supervision is going to internationalize supervision and research in general. Whether this is going to end up in standardization, that is not sure that is going to happen. It will sure bring closer different approaches, but merging them or making them converge, that is another thing that does not necessarily will happen. Boughey: this is unlikely to happen among disciplines, especially between sciences and humanities. The gap sure can be bridged, but not closed at all: the objects of research are too different.

Akdogan: when talking about e-supervision, the effort to bridge the traditional and e-research worlds should be shared. On the other hand, it may well be that e-research is more demanding than traditional research, and thus the translation would be much easier and even better than 100% offline students, which are usually less engaged. So, e-research requires more engagement, which is good, and more effort as exposure pushes towards it.

Stephen Nyaga: what would be the most effective way of monitoring e-supervisors and the whole process? Akdogan: don’t think there should be a standard and each university should have their own way. In any case, it should be simple, easy tools, with a clear schedule. Okemo: the same way that traditional supervision is structured, also e-supervision could be structured in its own way. Akdogan: but, of course, adapted to the online world and flexibility.

Ismael Peña-López: about monitoring the e-supervisor, there are two more ways. First, if we believe in a transformative approach to e-supervision, then the whole process of research and of making of the thesis will be open and we can monitor not the e-supervisor, but the outcomes of their supervision in the successes and procedures of their students. Second, if we understand the supervisors as researchers themselves and, thus, as learners, then they will have too open personal learning environments which we will be able to monitor, to follow, to interact with.


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e-Supervision (V). From theory to practice: models, experiences, opportunities and challenges of e-supervision

Notes from the workshop on Doctoral education and e-Supervision, organized by the Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP), the International Association of Universities (IAU), the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and the Kenyatta University (KU) within the project Personal Learning Environment (PLE)-PhD project financed through the IAU LEADHER programme, and held in Barcelona, Spain, in October 31, 2013. More notes on this event: plephd.

Questions/guidelines prepared by the session moderator, Ismael Peña-López

  • How did e-supervision tools/methodologies help in carrying out/supervising quality research?
  • Was this an exposed way of carrying out research? What was the experience like?
  • Does exposition increase the risks of plagiarism?
  • Can it jeopardize the originality of the research required for a thesis?
  • Can e-supervision contribute to
    • better theoretical frameworks? Why?
    • drafting better research questions and hypotheses? Why?
    • designing better methodologies? Why?
    • fieldwork? Why?
    • better assessment? Why?
    • better conclusions? Why?
  • Can e-supervision be seen as an added burden – in terms of workload – to the process of doing/supervising a thesis?
  • Can e-supervision be seen as an added burden – in matters of new skills – to the process of doing/supervising a thesis?
  • What strategies could be put in place to avoid this extra burden and, instead, leverage the (supposed) potential of e-supervision?
  • Can e-supervision become collective supervision?
  • Can e-supervision become P2P supervision?

Round table: From theory to practice: models, experiences, opportunities and challenges of e-supervision

Miquel Duran, Universitat de Girona (UdG), Spain

Open knowledge as a must for e-supervision.

Future is mobile, future is video.

Virtualization of supervision is real supervision.

Subject-dependent.

PhD MOOCization.

e-[something else][empathic]-supervision.

Technology should be transparent.

PhD students have to understand their new role as researchers in formation.

PhD students must contribute to local environment: dissemination, public engagement in science, etc.

There should be a contract/commitment between both parties. Likely a reward system.

Good referencing and curation.

e-Supervision, research 2.0, etc. is about attitudes. And attitude is a choice.

And supervision is about EMPATHY (e-supervision: empathy-supervision).

Doctoral course, on-the-spot: http://iscico.wikispaces.com

Francesc Balagué, Co-founder of Wonference

Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach, Mark Prensky.

A triple interaction approach: supervisor – student – technology.

It is not about 1-to-1 relationships (student-to-supervisor) but about many-to-many, about collaboration, regardless of time and space.

In this change of paradigm, technology is not a tool, but an enabler.

The emergence of web sciences: technology has become a must to understand certain aspects of the world and, more important, to be able to do research about them.

But the change of paradigm may have a trade-off between quality and burden. We have to ensure that this is not an actual trade-off, and that we can go for quality without increasing the burden.

Challenges:

  • Final product vs. co-creation.
  • Individualism vs. collaboration.
  • One-way assessment vs. P2P assessment.

Should we have only one or two tutors as usual?

Are supervisors ready to work as a network?

How can we collaborate with other students/supervisors.

We need new models and strategies to go for this new paradigm.

Ricardo Torres Kompen, PLE- consultant, Spain

PELICANS project: Personal and e-Learning in Communities and Networking Spaces.

It is more important the process than the tool.

e-Supervision and PLE are very related.

Strategies for e-supervision

  • Explore: what tools, what sources/resources, how you discover new sources. Strategies for finding information, applications, etc. It’s about the PERSONAL in PLEs.
  • Ccommunity: PLEs do not stand alone. It is about the PLN: personal learning network.
  • Share: once networks are established, encourage to share, as it creates new channels of communication.
  • Create: fix what is being learned.
  • Flexibility: let the students have their own tools. What is important is not the tool, but the usage.

Training is crucial, but also circumstances and constrains: innovation is born from constrains.
What is important is the process: technology should not interfere in the process, technology should facilitate the process.

Ricard Espelt, PhD student, Universitat Rey Juan Carlos, Spain

There are benefits of publishing the research process, and not the only goal being publishing in journals.

The importance to share your discoveries while they happen, and not only at the end.

Blog one’s research:

  • Accountability, especially before the taxpayer.
  • The importance to keep track of one’s own research.

Technology enables browsing one’s own production in many ways, with different approaches.

Research has to be a forest, not a farm.

Discussion

Oskar Caquero: will the academia ever acknowledge or provide credit for the work done in blogs, wikis, etc. and not only journals? Ricard Espelt: it may be that the focus of this kind of tools is not to address the academia, but to address another community. Miquel Duran: it is very important to impact. And impacting can happen through journals, but also outside of them. On the other hand, it is likely that in a near future we will be able to set up new ways to assess impact, to assess how value is created for society, etc. Francesc Balagué: new ways of scientific production should definitely be recognized.

Xavier Gabarell: how do one manages so much time in doing “traditional” research and blogging and all other stuff? Miquel Duran: one needs a time management time. But it is not easy. Working as a team, though, helps a lot: thus, there is a distribution of tasks and while some do quantitative analysis others blog it.

Stephen Nyaga: maybe there should be a formal training on e-supervision, with both the student and the supervisor at the same time and sharing the tools and thr strategies. And to have a good strategy to set up new policies that deal with these issues, to convince people to share good practices. Miquel Duran: surely the rewards are not (only) on money, but in many other forms. But some rewards should be put in practice, whatever their kind, and definitely recognized. Ricardo Torres: this is going to take time, but it will pay back in the future… but maybe not in the near future… like learning itself.

Miquel Duran: what about flipped supervision?

Ismael Peña-López: Devil’s advocate: can a non-scholar, a non-supervisor, a non-doctor supervise, help, assess a PhD supervision? Is that “qualitatively” possible?

Ismael Peña-López: How distracting can be “fancy” technology? Is that part of the process?

Sioux McKenna: e-supervision cannot be made compulsory. It is about showing the academic benefits of doing e-supervision.

Olive Mugenda: is everything shareable? can everything be open? Ricardo Torres: the problem with some research is that it is too recent or new that there is nothing published… but there actually is lots of stuff in other platforms. This is definitely a reason for opening up not final research but the whole process.


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e-Supervision (IV). Innovative tools enabling e-supervision

Notes from the workshop on Doctoral education and e-Supervision, organized by the Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP), the International Association of Universities (IAU), the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and the Kenyatta University (KU) within the project Personal Learning Environment (PLE)-PhD project financed through the IAU LEADHER programme, and held in Barcelona, Spain, in October 31, 2013. More notes on this event: plephd.

Questions/guidelines prepared by the session moderator, Ismael Peña-López

  • How is e-supervision organized administratively and academically at your institution?
  • What kind of administrative frameworks are used to manage e-supervision? University bilateral cooperation agreements/co-tutelle/other formal links to embed e-supervision formally in the doctoral work?
  • How is the time a supervisor spends on e-supervision recognized?
  • What tools have you been using for e-supervision?
  • For what purpose?
  • What was the main area of supervision affected by these tools (e.g. revision of originals, drafting the methodology, fieldworks, theoretical framework and/or bibliography, etc.)?
  • Were these tools discipline-specific?
  • Were they difficult to master?
  • Were they technically difficult to implement?
  • Were these tools discipline-specific?
  • To what extent did they substitute other traditional supervision tasks/procedures?
  • To what extent did they enhance other traditional supervision tasks/procedures?
  • Did these tools “scale” (i.e. could they be reused or used simultaneously by many other student/supervisor pairs)?
  • To what extent do these tools reshape the contexts in which doctoral education is done?

Round table: Innovative tools enabling e-supervision

Sioux McKenna, Rhodes University, South Africa

Strengthening Doctoral Supervision (http://doctoralsupervision.net/) a course in blended mode to develop supervision capacity.

Technology for:

  • Individual supervision.
  • Programme based communication, programme based use of technology is for two reasons: community of practice, PhD beyond the topic.

Technology: RUConnected – Moodle based program, elluminate, Skype, Youtube, Turnitin, etc.

Do not bring too much technology at the beginning, but little by little.

Need to be structured, not “if you build it they will come”.

Role of the coordinator.

Strong IT support.

eTechnology needs occasional “in person” contact.

Good supervision requires time, there are not technological shortcuts.

eTechnology can enable a rich experience.

Oskar Casquero, Universidad del País Vasco, Spain

Tools:

  • Mendeley, for reference management, including the Mendeley plugin to embed references into Word documents.
  • Tumblr, for unstructured information.
  • Wiki, for structured information. It came after the unstructured information of Tumblr became more structured. The wiki also fed original content into the final document of the thesis.
  • Dropbox, a word document for each chapter.
  • Gdocs, to write the skeleton of a paper or specific document. Then copy it to a shared Word document in Dropbox.

Selecting the appropriate tools that help. That help in supporting small ideas to the elaboration of complex documents.

It has to support both the writing and the revision.

If tools help, then they become an indispensable element in the user’s daily activity.

Xavier Gabarell, Secretary, Graduate School, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB)

Face to face in a traditional university is the base of its work. Everything is based upon presence, and presence is a value.
Students are required to present once a year, so they have to be at the university at least once a year too — plus the thesis defence, though sometimes they are done by videoconference upon very restricted conditions.

There is several people (student, supervisor, co-supervisors, etc.) involved in the whole process, and here there is plenty of room for innovation. Indeed, co-supervision is fostered by the university, including co-supervision during field work.

Increasingly, a PhD thesis includes writing papers, which requires to increase efficiency.

Who owns or who can access my data?

Miquel Solà, Director Graduate School, Universitat de Girona (UdG)

There is not enough regulation for e-supervision, but the current one sure allows for e-supervision.

The student has to, at a given time, prove his identity.

There are some procedures that are now compulsorily offline, and some others that could be done online. Actually, most parts of the steps of the PhD thesis could be done online and just a few would require physical presence.

e-Supervision could be included in the already existing many courses addressed to PhD students.

Universities should equally recognize traditional supervision and e-supervision.

e-Supervision should not be a substitute.

The creation of group research fellows would be handful in some phases of the thesis. e-Supervision could help in that.

It is not good to be alone doing research.

Some disciplines seem to be more indicated for e-supervision than others.

Tool: Evernote.

Download prezi slides:
Prezi
Miquel Solà, Director Graduate School, Universitat de Girona (UdG). Flow Chart – UdG

 

IMG_0173

Discussion

Oskar Casquero: institutions should offer a toolbox to the students, but the students should be encouraged to look for their own tools, the tools that best fit their needs. ICTs are about being efficient managing information and knowledge: that it, they are not substitutes, but enhancers. In the core of ICTs and e-supervision there also is networking.

Xavier Gabarell: e-library is surely a core tool in e-supervision. And, indeed, access to journals and literature in general is key for any kind of research, especially e-supervision.

Ricardo Torres: what about open access journals? Will the way we publish impact the way we do research, as it will affect (or not) the way we access information? Xavier Gabarell: open journals is a general concept that actually frames many different practices: reviewed vs. non reviewed, indexed or not, pay to publish vs. paid by third parties, etc. So, it depends on the nature of the open journal what the impact will be.

Ismael Peña-López: Can we shift from “hour allocation” to “goal-based assessment” of the supervisor? Miquel Solà: normally the professor has some lecturing hours allocated and the rest is computed in general. Thus, the lecturing load depends on all the other things the professor is doing. Everything has to be counted in any way, all working hours. Xavier Gabarell: at UAB what is counted is percentages of dedication. And supervision is counted with credits, which can be compared with lecturing credits or hours. But it’s difficult to count hours, dedication, etc. Another issue is that supervision is both teaching and research/innovation, thus it makes it even more difficult to make very separate packets. Sioux McKenna: though some organization and planning is required, management should not enter too much in the work of the professor: just check if academics are performing — not if they do more or less hours.

Ismael Peña-López: What about skills? Oskar Casqueiro: the supervisor should provide a list of tools and a sample of “best practices” on how to use these tools. Training in research methodologies should also improve how to develop these methodologies with the help of ICTs. Sioux McKenna: training is important, but enabling P2P exchange of ideas or practices is even better.


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e-Supervision (III). Olive Mugenda. e-Supervision to support the development of doctoral studies in Africa

Notes from the workshop on Doctoral education and e-Supervision, organized by the Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP), the International Association of Universities (IAU), the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and the Kenyatta University (KU) within the project Personal Learning Environment (PLE)-PhD project financed through the IAU LEADHER programme, and held in Barcelona, Spain, in October 31, 2013. More notes on this event: plephd.
Olive Mugenda, Vice-chancellor, Kenyatta University (KU), Kenya – E-supervision to support the development of doctoral studies in Africa

Ensure that quality of training programmes is everywhere.

Doctoral students are often already employed at the university.

Most phds in Africa are employed at the university. It is not usual to find phds that are not at the university.

Age average of phd students is 30-50, very different from other places.

Challenges of doctoral education in Africa:

  • Shortage of phds in universities: growth of academic staff has not matched the growth of enrolment, low levels of research in some disciplines.
  • Quality of phds: quality of institution depends on the quality of the academic staff, and the quality of doctoral students depends on the quality of the supervision.
  • Low completion rates: part of it due to lack of or bad supervision.
  • Lack of international exposure of faculty: lots of inbreeding too. Quality of faculty is, to a large extent, dependent on the international exposure acquired in graduate & postdoctoral education.

IMG_0178

Factors the impact the quality of PhDs:

  • Lack of institutional and programme policies: organization, incentives, discipline expectations, a clear supervision policy with detailed responsibilities, etc.
  • Supervision itself, that requires support and challenges.
  • Massification of higher education, high number of people globally.

e-supervision

  • To complement internal supervision and support.
  • For supervision to be more effective.
  • Connecting the supervisor and the student regardless of space.
  • Intensive use of ICTs.
  • Also in the thesis defence.

Advantages:

  • Use the services of renowned experts.
  • Increase the quality and improve the experience.
  • Productive and effective way to manage and supervise students.
  • Strengthen local research capacity and regional networking, holistic and inclusive approach, active involvement of institutions… and students themselves.
  • To extend research and employment opportunities into remote, rural and hard-to-fill locations.
  • Access to desirable research internships.
  • Minimize supervisors’ travel time.

Challenges

  • Lack of a well defined e-supervision professional code of conduct.
  • Poor e-supervisor and e-supervisee technological knowhow, access to technological infrastructures.
  • e-Supervision is costly.

Recommendations

  • Develop an e-supervision framework.
  • Define the role for e-supervisors, and the student and supervisor e-relationship.
  • Assurance of quality.
  • Remuneration of e-supervisors.
  • Institutional collaboration on e-supervision.
  • Recognition of e-supervisor work by home and beneficiary institutions.
  • Capacity building for e-supervision.

Discussion

Miquel Duran: how much time can the doctoral students allocate to their PhDs, especially the ones that “need” the PhD? Mugenda: lecturers normally have time allocated for that.

Chrissie Boughey: how do we transpose the different models of supervision of the different disciplines into e-supervision? Mugenda: regarding research methods, it is a matter of finding what is actually different and what is common. And then centralize what is common and distribute or adapt what is really different.

Hilligje van’t Land: if the e-supervisor is not from the university, how does it fit with local relevance, and with local content? Will the strategy be in line with the university’s strategy? Mugenda: this is a minor problem in comparison with the amount of students that want to do a PhD and not be able to do it. And it is also a matter of binding the e-supervisor with the university.


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e-Supervision (II). Ismael Peña-López. e-Supervision: framing the debate

Notes from the workshop on Doctoral education and e-Supervision, organized by the Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP), the International Association of Universities (IAU), the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and the Kenyatta University (KU) within the project Personal Learning Environment (PLE)-PhD project financed through the IAU LEADHER programme, and held in Barcelona, Spain, in October 31, 2013. More notes on this event: plephd.

Ismael Peña-López, lecturer and researcher, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)

e-Supervision: framing the debate

We can define four stages in technology adoption:

  1. During appropriation people get to know what new technologies are out there, they learn how to use them, they master them… but not necessarily use them or use them in a specific environment and for a specific purpose. E.g. learn that text editors exist, learn how to use them, but still use typewritters.
  2. In the adaptation phase, old technologies are replaced by the new ones, but just to perform exactly the same tasks, routines, processes. E.g. typewritters are trown away, but text editors are used to type the very same letters. The cost of using a new technology is clearly here an expenditure, as no major benefits appear.
  3. Improvement happens when benefits begin to overrun the cost of using new technologies. Here, costs are investments that pay back in the medium and long term. E.g. text editors are used intensively allowing for thorough edition (copying, pasting, formatting, etc.), tracking changes and versions, passing documents along (by e-mail, that is, another concurring technology) so that they can be commented, reedited, etc.
  4. Last, and most important, transformation implies that the whole process is though (almost) from scratch, deploying the full potential of new technologies to redesign processes and tasks. E.g. documents begin not with an original from a single person, but collaborative tools come in place (like wikis, pads or the like) where everyone can contribute at the same time, with no need for centralization, no need for preset structures, etc.

e-Supervision can be described in this framework. Thus, there is not a single definition of what e-Supervision is, but a continuum of definitions as e-Supervision itself evolves from adaptation to improvement, and from improvement to transformation (and including a phase 0 of adoption, which is by the way most needed).

  1. During appropriation e-supervision is, actually, supervision. Period. Everyone is using technology, but not for supervision purposes.
  2. In the adaptation e-supervision can be defined as electronic supervision as traditional tasks (meetings, reviews) are done with the help of technology: videoconferences, support of digital documents. This phase is needed because it bridges both worlds (supervision with e-supervision) but has to be quickly overcome, as the cost of the change of technology does not come with any evident benefit.
  3. Improvement happens when these benefits of e-Supervision imply an evolution, an evolved supervision. Tracking changes, control version, creation of communities of practice and communities of learning within (or with-out) learning management systems… even xMOOCs can imply several opportunities for improvement of old practices.
  4. Last, and most important, transformation is rethinking e-supervision (almost) from scratch. It’s about enhanced supervision, deploying all the potential of research 2.0, connectivist MOOCs, peer-to-peer assessment, e-portfolios, personal learning environments. That is, rethinking the whole research and supervision practice, now taking into account not only tools, but the concurrence of other actors, of new roles (and responsibilities

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Peña-López, I. (2013). e-Supervision: Framing the Debate. Workshop within the LEADHER PLEDS Project at the Open Univeristy of Catalonia, 31 October 2013.


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e-Supervision (I). Opening Session

Notes from the workshop on Doctoral education and e-Supervision, organized by the Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP), the International Association of Universities (IAU), the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and the Kenyatta University (KU) within the project Personal Learning Environment (PLE)-PhD project financed through the IAU LEADHER programme, and held in Barcelona, Spain, in October 31, 2013. More notes on this event: plephd.

Hilligje van’t Land, Director, Membership and Programme Development, IAU

There is a dire need for real phds, in Africa or elsewhere, virtual or not.

There also is a need to collaborate, to innovate in the field of how to foster brand new research and how to support the new research done by PhD students.

Added to that, there is a need for research networks: it is important to note that supervision is also part of being a network.

A very important challenge is how to provide technical support, how to bring into research ethical dimensions, or how to lead the administrative changes that have to accompany the changes in research and in supervision.

But most important of all, beyond theories, we have to see how to put e-supervision into practice, to make it happen.

Marta Aymerich, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)

One of the keys of research and PhD is supervision. It is not a trivial matter and thus needs being addressed properly.

ICTs have provided very powerful in knowledge related tasks. We thus need to leverage the power of ICTs in research in general and in supervision in particular.

We need to discuss the structures in place for doctoral education.

Olive Mugenda, Vice-Chancellor, Kenyatta University (KU), Kenya

There is a dire need for research and for PhDs.

We especially need to train the trainers, people that will earn their own PhDs so that they can supervise/train others.

The whole process needs to be accountable, in general terms of performance, but especially in terms of ensuring quality.

We can’t keep the old model of supervision, we have to open up supervision.

We have to change paradigm, get out of old way of thinking and foster e-supervision.

Jaume Casals, Vice-chancellor of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in representation of the Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP)

PhDs are the jewel of the crown, thus we have to harvest them with care.

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Doctoral education in Catalonia – an overview

The study visit of the delegation from Kenyatta University comprised as one of the main goals to get to know, in situ, the organization and functioning of doctoral education in Catalonia.

Claudi Alzina from the Inter-university Council of the Generalitat de Catalunya gave an interesting overview of doctoral studies in Catalonia. He states that with a production of around 1.600 thesis each year it is impossible (and not desirable) for the university system to keep all PhDs in their institutions. On the contrary, employment will be basically outside academia in the future. He identifies as one of the major challenges universities in Catalonia face regarding doctoral education currently the enhancement of collaboration with the industry sector in order to create high qualified workplaces to absorb these highly qualified people. In this sense, it is necessary to improve the image PhD holders enjoy in society in general, particularly in industry, where having a PhD is not yet seen as an asset and not always appreciated. To improve this issue, the Government of Catalonia initiated one year ago a programme of industrial doctorates, linking universities and industry through PhD students. Besides the supervisor belonging to one of the Catalan universities, each student in this programme has a second supervisor from a company. At the same time, in his doctoral thesis he tries to solve a problem which is of interest for industry. Alzina hopes that through this initiative, the appreciation for doctorates in industry will increase, creating at the same time more opportunities for getting a job in industry once the PhD is finished.

Another interesting topic is the high percentatge of international students involved in doctoral programmes in Catalonia. More than 25% of all PhD students at the Catalan universities come from abroad. In order to still increase this number of international PhD students, the Government fosters masters and doctoral programmes taught in English, tries to incorporate more international professors at the Catalan universities, encourages inter-university collaboration at postgraduate level and fosters the increase of research programmes of international interest.

While visiting four of the member universities of ACUP (UB, UAB, UPC and UPF) we learned that there has been sustantial changes in the Spanish system of doctoral studies introduced recently through a royal act passed in 2011 (following previous royal acts from 1998, regulating PhD studies with courses, 2005, adapting doctoral programmes to the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), and 2007).

Acording to this new royal act, universities are now obliged to create doctoral schools if they do not have one yet, as for example the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) that created their Postgraduate School already 20 years ago.

Another reform introduced by this act is the obligatory annual assessment of the progress students have made in the elaboration of their thesis. With the aim of reducing the necessary time to finish doctoral thesis to 3 years and to improve the quality of them every student hast to pass every year an exam or oral presentation. This activity also facilitates to measure the quality of supervision and increases the accountability of the professor.It might still lower the average age that PhD students have in Catalonia when finishing their thesis, currantly between 23 and 28 years, already very low in comparison of the PhD students at Kenyatta University.

The new act also obliges to sign a document of commitment signed by both the student and the supervisor that helps to improve the relationship among them, establishing the supervision tasks contributing thus to avoid misunderstandings.

A part from the reforms introduced by the royal act from 2011 we learned that there is little recognition of supervision in the Catalan university system: only 25 hours from more than 1.000 hours in the conctract of the professors correspond to supervision. Promotion does not take into consideration time and efforts dedicated to supervising PhD students.

In relationship to one of the biggest challenges KU is facing regarding supervision, overworked professors as they have to supervise big numbers of PhD students, the Catalan universities stated that, in general, the ratio supervisor – PhD students is quite low. At UAB, for example, currently the ratio is 1 PhD student per 1 supervisor, allowing a maximum of 5 PhD students per supervisor as an internal rule for quality assessment.

Regarding e-supervision of doctoral students, currently none of the presential universities in Catalonia has an official e-supervision system put into practice. Nevertheless, the responsibles of the Doctoral Schools state that legally e-supervision would be possible, but that there are no structures or managing schemes in place to pass from face to face supervision to an increasing number of e-supervised PhD students.

 

Kenyatta University meets Catalonia

On Sunday the delegation from Kenyatta University, formed by Prof. Paul Okemo, Dean of the Graduate School, Dr. Stephen Nyaga, Academic Registrar, and Dr. Maina Mwangi, Director of Grant Writing, arrived in Barcelona. The goal of their visit is to get to know the Catalan university system, especially the functioning and management of doctoral education and supervision.

The first two days of the study visit we dedicated to get to know the Inter-University Council of Catalonia as well as four  universities that form part of the Catalan Association of Public Universities. On Monday morning, Claudi Alzina, the Secretary of Universities at the Government of the Generalitat de Catalunya received the Kenyan delegation, introducing the Catalan university system and giving and broad overview of the current situation of higher education in general and doctoral education specifically here in Catalonia. Right after this introductory meeting, a team from the Doctoral School of the Universitat de Barcelona (UB) received us to explain their work in a beautiful modernist surrounding. After lunch we took the train outside Barcelona to visit the green campus of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and learn more about their Graduate School as well as the Fundació Autònoma Solidària (FAS).

The delegation of KU at UAB

Yesterday both the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) and the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), even though the university was celebrating elections for the rector, received the delegation, explaining in detail their doctoral programmes.

All the visits have served to start establishing first contacts between Kenyatta University and these Catalan universities who, until the moment, have not been working together. Mostly in the areas of health sciences, engineering and economics Kenyatta University is very interested and establish cooperations in order to enhance the number of PhDs in this knowledge areas at their institution.