Resources for Faculty and Staff

Modified Guidelines for Remote Final Oral Exams (PhD, Master’s) and Candidacy Exams

Updated September 2020

On March 13, 2020, the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research (FGSR) announced modifications to the teleconferencing guidelines to accommodate logistical challenges presented by COVID-19, public health directives issued by the CMOH for the Province of Alberta, and regulations governing access to the University of Alberta campus.

As a result, all final Master’s and PhD oral exams and PhD candidacy exams will continue to be scheduled with all participants, including the committee members, the supervisor, the external, and the student attending remotely.

If, however, there is an extraordinary reason to consider a partial or full in-person final oral exam or PhD candidacy exam, a request for an exception should be made by the supervisor, in consultation with their Faculty Associate Dean Graduate (or equivalent), and submitted to the Vice-Provost and Dean, FGSR through the graddean@ualberta.ca email. FGSR will respond to requests within 5 business days. All requests will be reviewed in consultation with the Offices of Facilities and Operations, and Operations and Maintenance.

As the COVID-19 public health directives issued by the CMOH of the Province of Alberta evolve, we will revise these guidelines accordingly. Even if an exception for a partial or full in-person exam is approved, students, supervisors, and supervisory committee members should be prepared to move to a fully remote situation should public health directives change suddenly and preclude gatherings of any kind on campus.

Procedure: Appointment of a ProDean

Normally for exams that have more than 2 people attending remotely, policy dictates that FGSR must appoint a Pro Dean. However, due to the extenuating implications of COVID-19, all exams are currently being held remotely, and this policy has been relaxed. Thus, FGSR is appointing an on-call ProDean for each day of exams who can be available as a resource by telephone during the course of the exam. This contact info will go out by email to the Exam Chair and Grad Administrator, usually the day prior to the exam.

FGSR can also appoint a ProDean to attend the full exam, but this is reserved for exams that have already been rescheduled, or that are anticipated to be problematic. Please contact ariewe1@ualberta.ca if that is the case.

The role of the ProDean is to ensure a successful defence and to provide direction and support should anything unforeseen happen (e.g. problems with telecommunications).

Technology

Prior to the scheduled oral examination, the entire committee must choose an appropriate, preferred technology that considers the following:
• The technology must be reliable (an alternate back-up must also be available should the first choice fail);
• The technology must be secure and appropriate (e.g. a social media platform would not be appropriate);
• The technology must support effective communication and not be a detriment to the student’s defence;
• The department is responsible for ensuring that all committee members have access to and are familiar with the technology that is chosen;
• The technology must allow for deliberations to occur in private with only the examination committee, the chair, and if applicable, the ProDean present; and,
• The technology must allow the student to reconnect communication with the committee, chair, and ProDean (if applicable) once deliberations are complete.

Examples of appropriate and preferred technologies used for teleconferencing at the University of Alberta include Adobe Connect, Blue Jeans, Google Hangouts, Zoom, and Skype.


All other regulations governing the conduct of the final oral examination for Master’s and PhDs, and the candidacy oral exam, apply as written in the University of Alberta Academic Calendar.

Please note that these modified guidelines are based on information we have now. As this is a rapidly evolving situation, we will update them should other contingencies arise.

For further information, please contact:
Andrea Riewe (Executive Coordinator) at 780-492-2816
Medha Samarasinghe (Operations Coordinator) at 780-492-2344