Institute for Academic Development
Institute for Academic Development

Meeting online postgraduates - topics

What can you and your student discuss? (Postgraduate Taught Online and Distance Learning Courses).

First email contact

  • How studying at postgraduate level compares with studying at undergraduate level or in other contexts.
  • The differences between on-campus and online learning; the potential for feeling isolated and the need for greater self-direction.
  • How to prioritise commitments and make time for study. Encourage students to make use of the support available to them, e.g. the resources available from the Institute for Academic Development:
  • Highlight sources of support : Programme Director/Manager/Facilitator/Administrator, eTutors, fellow students. Stress the importance of belonging to an online community of learners
  • Highlight the need for communication (staff to student: e.g. announcements, deadlines, feedback; and student to staff: e.g. details of mitigating circumstances, requests for extensions). For example: Do you regularly check your UoE e-mail account? Have you set-up an auto-forwarding service to your personal e-mail account?
  • Students’ expectations and goals e.g. What are you looking forward to most?
  • Students’ concerns or uncertainties e.g. Are there things you are worried or uncertain about?
  • Have you been able to access the University’s eLibrary? Are there any resources you need but which you do not have access to? Do you know who to contact regarding library issues?
  • Have you had any technical issues using the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)? Do you know who to contact regarding technical issues? Are there any improvements we could make to the VLE?
  • Career plans: encourage your student to engage with Careers Service (this may come later for part-time students).

Useful links:

Subsequent email contact

  • How are things going?
  • Do you feel part of an online community? How have you managed to establish bonds with your fellow students and eTutors? Is there anything that the programme team could do to help to make you feel more a part of a community?
  • Have your expectations been confirmed?
  • What are you finding most interesting/enjoyable?
  • What are you finding most challenging?
  • What are you getting involved in alongside your studies?
  • How are you preparing yourself for your research work?

Online discussions during research/internship

  • How does your research (or similar) work build on existing skills and abilities? What new skills and abilities will be required and developed?
  • Have you been able to have regular meetings (face-to-face or virtual) with your supervisor? Do you find the level of supervision adequate?
  • Do you have access to all the resources (e.g. statistical advice) that you need? Are you aware of the Masters Project online Helpdesk available on your programme’s VLE?
  • To what extent have you achieved the goals you set at the start of the year?
  • Further discussion of career plans and strategies for applying for employment/further study - encourage engagement with Careers Service events and resources on CVs, interview technique, etc.
  • Encourage reflection on and recording of strengths, experiences and achievements - generic skills as well as subject knowledge, extra-curricular as well as curricular.

Source: Adapted from College of Humanities and Social Science guidance, with thanks to Morag Donaldson, Gavin McCabe, Jen Ross, Paula Smith, Donna Murray and Louise Connelly.