Virtual Research Supervision during COVID-19 Global Pandemic

Linyuan Guo-Brennan, PhD

I have been thinking about sharing my thoughts on international and global education through blogging for many years, but writing for academic publication has kept me busy. The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired and forced me to take action.

The Impact of COVID-19 Global Health Crisis on International Education

The global health crisis has impacted about 1.2 billion learners worldwide. Schools of 90% percent of the global student population were closed for traditional learning in schools and on campuses. This impact on global higher education, particularly the international higher education sector, is serious. University of Prince Edward Island, like many universities and post-secondary educational institutions that abruptly shift to remote/online education to comply with the rules of managing public health crisis, face the situation of not being able to host international students on campus as it was before the crisis. My online communications with students and scholars, known and unknown, clearly indicated that many current and incoming international students are experiencing high levels of stress, anxiety and uncertainty due to  the closure of university campuses, temporary close of visa offices, international travel restrictions, and the spread of virus in the host and home countries. .

The Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Teaching and learning in International Education

As a faculty member whose teaching and research focus on international and global education, this impact and interruption is evident in all aspects of my academic work, from teaching, curriculum development, instructional methods and designing, to research activities, publication agenda and graduate student supervision. Many of the changes that affect my work are unprecedented. For example, international students, for the first time, are allowed to take courses online. Domestic students who have never been offered online courses had to take courses online. So I needed to quickly learn some digital tools and redesign all courses that align well with online instructional designing principles and practices. This was in addition to finding ways to help students make the smooth transition to online learning.

Another example is that international students who have planned to start their programs in a Canadian institution in Fall 2020 are allowed to start their studies online from their home countries, without jeopardizing their ability to eventually enter Canada and their eligibility to work in Canada after graduation. Compared with many other destination countries of international students, Canadian immigration policy, process and resources in general have been responsive to the global health crisis and to the situation of the international education sector. This change, however, has a significant impact on my work as a graduate research supervisor.

The Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Research Supervision

Research supervision is one the most fulfilling yet challenging tasks of my job. Playing a vital role in helping students become independent researchers while enhancing my own teaching and research is a significant and meaningful endeavour and achievement. The complexity of this work is enhanced when supervising international students and researchers who are not familiar with the Canadian research instructure, process and resources.

Good research supervision can be experienced and interpreted differently among students, and this difference is particularly evident between domestic and international students.  As a faculty member who received undergraduate and graduate education in different cultural, linguistic and academic contexts, I believe research and scholarship must confront the assumptions and negligence about international graduate students, paying special attention to their backgrounds, their needs based on personal and professional factors, and theprograms they are enrolled in. General principles and tips on research supervision, from undergraduate to PhD levels are readily available, however, guidance and recommendations on supervising international students in their research are scarcely reflected and documented. Virtual research supervision, the method used to be adopted by the complete online graduate programs, has become the norm of my work during COVID-19 global pandemic.

What is the Emerging Researcher Blog about?

In North America, about 50% graduate students are international students. Many of them conduct research in cross-culture settings, which demand sensitivity to many issues related to research settings, such as sociocultural and political contexts, identity, language, research ethics, and topics that are (de)valuded. This blog is a platform for international researchers, including supervisors and students, to

  • share questions and learning on research design, methods, data collection and analysis;
  • share global perspectives on research principles, process and tips on international research;
  • share common questions and needs of emerging researchers, particularly international graduate students; 
  • practice research writing skills that allow for disseminating knowledge to a variety of audiences;
  • document learning and capacity building in virtual research supervision and engagement;
  • reflect research growth/development;
  • Help emerging researchers build academic digital presence;
  • share research design and methods that are responsive to diverse research settings;

Who will find the blog interesting and useful?

  • Students who are learning to conduct research;
  • researchers who conduct international research ;
  • Professors who supervise international students and research;
  • Anyone who is interested in issues about international higher education.