Student guidance for online vivas

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, vivas are to take place via an online platform until 31 October 2020. In this post, we outline the process for online vivas and the support that’s available to you – you can use this to decide whether to go ahead or delay.

If it isn’t possible to conduct your viva online, or if you would rather delay until a physical meeting is possible, you can request an extension via your Department. The decision to delay should not be taken lightly, however, and any delay between the submission of the thesis and the viva will not be grounds for appeal in this case

Arranging your viva 

The internal examiner will contact you to arrange the viva at a suitable date and time when you are free from distractions or disruption. This will be confirmed via email, together with a link to guidance notes.

  • You should confirm by return that you agree to these arrangements. 

Support before, during and after your viva

Your Department may offer you a mock viva, where possible. The Research Excellence Training (RET) Team are organising online ‘Preparing for your Viva’ workshops, which will allow you to become familiar with new technology.

  • Search Skillsforge for workshop dates and to book your place. 

For support, you can request that your supervisor or another member of academic or professional services staff be present online during your viva as a silent spectator, though they will not be allowed to contribute in any way. 

Recognising that the outcome of the viva is of huge significance, you should have someone with you (in person or virtually) when the decision is communicated. This could be your supervisor, colleague or a friend/family member. You may request that a member of the RET Team is invited to be online for the communication of the examiners’ decision but do this as early as possible to ensure availability.

The technology

A recording will be made of the viva. You will need:

  • a device with a built-in camera and microphone
  • a mobile phone (as a backup)

Use of University-supported platforms such as Zoom or Google Hangouts Meet is recommended but other platforms may be used so long as they are suitable for a formal meeting and include a recording function. 

If the technology fails, the viva can continue by phone if you are comfortable with this (it must still be recorded) or the viva can be halted and re-convened at a later time. Recognising the negative impact of a delay, the viva should be rescheduled by the internal examiner within two working days of the original examination.  

Before the viva

Any presentations should be sent to the internal examiner two working days before the viva.

During the viva

You will be asked to log in 15 minutes before the scheduled start to confirm the technology is working, introduce all participants and exchange mobile phone numbers. 

  • All messaging apps and emails with notifications should be turned off. 
  • Required phones should be switched to ‘do not disturb’ mode.

At the start of the viva, you will be asked to introduce yourself and confirm that you are the author of the thesis being examined and have followed the University’s Code of Practice on Research Integrity. The format and anticipated duration of the viva will be outlined. The typical duration of a viva is between 1.5- 3 hours. 

During the viva, communication may be slightly slower than face-to-face but questions posed to you will be clear, concise and open to give you the opportunity to explain the strengths of your work as well as answer questions about limitations. Ask examiners to repeat (or send via chat function) questions you may miss due to technological delay. They will understand that you may be feeling nervous.

  • You should have a copy of your thesis available ( e.g. on a second digital screen or second electronic device) so you can refer to relevant sections. 

Outcome

Usually, the candidate leaves the room at the end of the viva while the examiners have a discussion and then returns to hear the outcome. In online cases, at the end of the viva you will be advised what time to reconnect to the meeting. Keep your mobile phone to hand should the examiners need to contact you beforehand. 

When you rejoin, you should be supported by a friend or colleague (see ‘Support before, during and after your viva’ above).

Evaluation

The University is keen to learn from the online viva experience and share best practice with colleagues and the sector. You can give your feedback via a short evaluation form. All comments will remain anonymous.

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Christine Comrie

Content Producer for York Graduate Research School.

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