With the coronavirus outbreak limiting access to many of the usual support systems, what is available for students who still need to conduct research remotely?
The coronavirus outbreak has caused significant disruption to the higher education sector, yet for many students, a commitment to research and coursework has remained.
This means they have to navigate these various restrictions to university life in order to still produce work on time and to a high quality.
For some students, it was simply too challenging to continue their research while at the same time adhering to social distancing and hygiene rules, forcing research to be cancelled or put on hold.
At Oregon Health and Science University, the labs were closed abruptly in May, putting a quick stop to the research that was being conducted there.
Stat News reported that Kathleen Beeson, a sixth-year graduate student completing a final experiment for a publication she needs to earn her PhD, was given just one week’s notice before her research was stopped.
She told the magazine: “Immediately, I and others were in a race to finish experiments, collect any data that we could, and get the lab prepared for a minimum of six weeks of shutdown.”
Others had more luck, with remote and virtual learning allowing them to continue to work on coursework and dissertation projects as planned, with just a few changes to their approach.
It’s crucial that, during this period, your students are not left in the dark when it comes to overcoming the new barriers to research. They must be provided with the support and guidance they need to continue to produce work they are proud of.
Here are just some of the ways your institution can help students complete critical research during the coronavirus outbreak.
At the peak of the pandemic, many universities campuses were forced to close to reduce the spread of the infection.
This meant that university libraries became inaccessible, cutting off a crucial source of research for many students completing coursework.
Now that the coronavirus is more understood, universities across the globe are conducting phased reopenings, which includes finding ingenious ways to offer library services while keeping staff and students safe.
University College London is offering a click and collect service to keep contact to a minimum. This is a great way of allowing students to access the books they need while the university makes plans to reopen safely.
While a physical library is an excellent space to conduct research, your institution should also ensure it has a vast collection of research options available to students online, allowing them to study remotely.
Usually, electronic publications require log–in details in order to access content, and it’s the responsibility of the institution to ensure it has membership with the most popular online research facilities.
Encourage students to alert your library staff if there are any online journals they wish to access that aren’t already available, and make sure there is a clear, step-by-step guide available to guide students through the access process.
With face-to-face contact now limited due to the coronavirus crisis, there is a risk that the level of guidance and support students receive when completing important work will diminish.
However, for some students, one-on-one discussions with teaching staff or peers can be the most beneficial element of this process.
It’s important that your institution ensures these sessions continue, utilizing video chat platforms to allow them to take place virtually.
Extra guidance or flexible deadlines might also need to be given in cases where students have been significantly affected by the pandemic.
For more information on how the coronavirus pandemic may affect higher education in the long term, please see our latest report: The Coronavirus Crisis and the Future of Higher Education.