Along with other sectors of our lives, COVID-19 pandemic has also brought a substantial change in the teaching and learning techniques. The higher education faculty and students are struggling with the monumental task of turning over from face to face teaching to online classes. As teachers are learning new techniques to figure out how they can provide best online learning experiences, students are also working hard to cope with this change. There is a debate that whether the exams should be taken online or there can be another possible solution for that. In this scenario, the dissertation projects are also under the impact of COVID-19 where postgraduate students will be unable to perform tasks like lab experiments, face-to-face interviews, fieldwork, thus the collection of data for dissertation projects may be impossible for much of 2020.
The graduate students are concerned about their research projects that what will happen to the necessary academic work they have to complete in order to finish their dissertation projects. Graduate students coursework require a seminar format, during the closure of universities students may be asked to meet in groups using platforms like Zoom or Google Hangout. Many university departments have already work on some measures as to how the students will be able to defend their dissertation work online, complete written and oral exams from a distance and make it possible to bring all the faculty members to attend and present their views in these meetings.
Reconfiguring other elements of a dissertation project may take some time but faculty members in higher education are working to solve these problems to present a solution to address the shifting academic needs of the students. Students have to work from the distance on their dissertation projects; they have to communicate with their advisors through email and digital meetings, and creating schedules on how they can make most of their time outside the universities. Along with the campus closure, students will not be able to travel as well. So they have to reschedule their visits regarding their project.
In some cases where it is not possible to switch modes to virtual and telephone data collection, universities are providing guidance to their academics that need to delay their data collection or fieldwork. Data collection modes of research projects in the social and behavioural sciences will need a rethought. Various universities are offering an extension on dissertation projects because the data collection is impossible without face-to-face communication. Dissertation supervisors are well aware of the fact that they will have to accommodate students that are unable to collect primary data as they have planned to due to COVID-19. The present situation demands a change in the conventional modes of data collection and it can be taken as an opportunity to teach students about the challenges of data collection in unusual circumstances. The students need to look into possible solutions to collect data in such high-stress situations. Universities can train their students on how to collect primary data online by keeping in view the current situation.
Some universities are allowing their students to move ahead to plan a literature review instead of undertaking primary data collection and others are encouraging the students to look for the secondary data analysis by using some data archives that can help them to move ahead gradually while staying at home. Departments will make a varied decision on how to help students progress with their work by keeping them safe. They have to decide on what measures have to be taken to access the important skills of the students so that they will be able to perform various tasks like formulating research questions, undertaking a review of the existing literature and analyzing data and writing up conclusions.
For some graduates, closure of university campuses and social distancing means that they have to hold their dissertation projects till the pandemic ends. As for them, it is impossible to carry on with the data collection without interacting face-to-face with human subjects which are not possible during the pandemic. Thus they have to rethink their expectations around the timelines and dissertation defences and have to wait for most of their work to be done after the pandemic ends.
It is often noted that the academic world seems disconnected or removed from others but during the pandemic, the graduate students are realizing their dependence on others to achieve their particular goals. Data collection for the dissertation has emerged as the biggest challenge among the other threats that solely depends on communication between the students and their subjects. COVID-19 has challenged the students as well as their mentors to learn and teach in an environment that has never been experienced before. Along with students, educational institutions are also formulating various techniques to cope with the alarming situation. It has become vital for everyone to contribute their ideas and rely on each other and technology to achieve the particular goals that they have planned to achieve in the past or set recently to achieve.
During COVID-9 the students who are doing quantitative analysis can move to the alternatives like working with simulated data that can be used as secondary data for their projects. Use of simulated data may change the focus of the report or write-up but you will be able to establish that you have the required skills of data analysis. Students need to come with new strategies of data collection and handling their research projects because if they keep a hold on their projects till the pandemic ends a lot of their time would be wasted that may result in prolonged graduation programs.
We have to look into certain practices that not only help us in during recent situation but we should together devise ways on how to address hiring practices and fill gaps in our curriculum that can prove beneficial in the future. Various social media groups, educational institutions and organizations linked to academia need to fulfill their responsibility to address the concerns of graduate students. Educational institutions especially universities have played a positive role by engaging their students in online classes and seminars but we have to think of a more suitable plan of action for the future. We can take this opportunity to move forward with some changes in the administrative level that can prove beneficial for both the students and teachers in such situations.
Many of the graduate students are working as teachers also. So along with their own projects, they have to be aware of the needs of their students as well. These students can provide best solution for the future because they are facing both situations and can help to build new classroom ethics. There is a lot of work to do in the future that can help us to overcome the situations that we present in. Dissertation projects are a gateway to a successful future. In the aftermath of this pandemic, it is necessary to work on terms and conditions that can help the students with their projects in the future. Faculties and students must join hands to come up with the possible solutions that can aid them in such conditions.
The recent situation provides opportunities for students to think about their roles as students and what can they do to benefit their projects. What can be the various ways in which they can enhance their skills to design their projects and conduct their research in a much better way? They can look back at their work and go through it once again to highlight the various areas that can be improved. If you have put a hold to your projects this time provides you with the golden chance to analyse the work more carefully and pinpoint your mistakes to deliver an effective dissertation.
COVID-19 has brought many of our traditional modes of education under question. Now it is the time to work for the future of our academia. In future, we should have faculty members and professional researchers that have the skills to manage such circumstances in order to achieve the desired goals. We need to revise our approaches to academia and look for the solutions to problems that arise in such conditions.
We are still in the ambiguous state regarding COVID-19 pandemic. It’s hard to speculate how it is going to affect our higher education teaching and research in long-term. Shall we have to survive through online conferences? Will there be a change in the concept of fieldwork? Will virtual classes be the only source in such conditions? Will students have to use secondary sources throughout their projects? Every one of us has questions like that with no possible answers in this situation. As we all are figuring new ways to cope with our situation. We have devised new ways to carry on with our dissertation projects like looking into the resources to write an effective dissertation, doing a literature review, analysing some secondary data resources and using simulated data practices where they can be used. All of these practices can help in the progress of our dissertation project.
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