Academic matters

Over the last year, students and supervisors have adapted to teaching and learning online. Towards the end of Michaelmas Term, we ran short surveys asking students and supervisors for reflections and recommendations. Three major themes stood out:

  • managing group discussions online and encouraging active participation
  • helping students to engage effectively with online learning, including lectures
  • helping students to self-organise when learning is online

Scroll down towards the bottom of this page for things that students and supervisors said they found helpful, with links to some further information.

We’ve also selected some examples of techniques that supervisors, or directors of studies, can use to encourage reflection and peer learning.

Remember, too, that College has introduced additional services and support for students and for supervisors:

  • College Library: print and online books and journals; research and study skills; wellbeing and leisure resources
  • IT and computing support for students and supervisors: helpdesk@queens.cam.ac.uk
  • Students in need of devices or software for educational purposes: special assistance funds are available – contact your Tutor

Supervising online: what works?

Managing group discussions online and encouraging active participation 

Some supervisors and students described online interactions within supervisions as awkward, with contributors ‘speaking over’ each other or, alternatively, holding back in order not to interrupt. Others said that they were finding online supervisions (and lectures) more inclusive than in-person teaching.

Students and supervisors said that they found the following helpful

  • addressing students by name and ‘directing’ discussion or problem solving more explicitly than when teaching in-person
  • creating structure for discussion and problem solving, for example asking individual supervisees to pre-prepare short presentations or questions, asking students to explain part of their supervision work to the group, asking students to respond to each other’s questions
  • using breakout rooms, with clear ‘tasks’ for students to engage with
  • asking students to share supervision essays and to develop peer feedback on supervision work
  • using collaborative tools such as Googledocs, One Note and interactive whiteboards to enable students to work collaboratively during online supervisions; students appreciated being able to ‘take away’ these items after supervision for further reference
  • using chat functions to share screenshots and references for further reading

Further information

Helping students to engage effectively with online learning

Students and supervisors commented favourably on well-structured online lectures and on the benefits for students in being able to pause and re-watch. Some students and supervisors were concerned at the amount of time that some students were giving to re-watching and at the difficulties some were having with ‘keeping up’ with online lectures.

Students and supervisors said that they found the following helpful

  • clear timetabling and, in some subjects, integration between lectures and supervision work
  • encouraging active listening and note taking and, where appropriate, questions and interaction
  • discussion in supervisions enabling students to develop their own, integrated understanding of the wider course of study

Further information

Helping students to self-organise

Students and supervisors commented on the challenges for students in learning largely or entirely online. In addition to practices which help students to engage effectively with online learning (above), students said they found the following helpful

  • supervisors using the same Zoom link for specific supervision groups, so that students know where to “go” to find their supervision
  • supervisors setting up MS Teams calendar invitations for a sequence of supervisions; students said that this helped with organisation and, as an additional benefit, students could ‘arrive’ early and talk informally with each other
  • balancing consistency and flexibility in scheduling supervisions and supervision work
  • supervisors setting up specific online folders for specific supervision groups, for submitting and returning supervision work and sharing resources

Further information

Feedback for supervisors

Some supervisors reflected on the benefit of different types of feedback specifically for supervisors:

  • 'I organised some feedback [from my supervisees], which was helpful for me, in which students told me they really appreciated having a clear structure in the supervisions, now more than ever, but also to reassure them that they are on the right track'

Further information