Remote Thesis Examination Guide

Before proceeding with a remote examination, please observe the following:

  1. It is the responsibility of the department to set up the Zoom meeting and send the link, along with the remote thesis examination guide, out to the examiners, supervisor, candidate and chair. If you still have questions or concerns after reviewing the guide, please contact Matt Dumouchel (mdumouc2@uwo.ca)
  2. Exams may proceed with everyone participating remotely, as long as the technology remains effective. Details on how a Remote Examination should be set up are below under "Preparing a Remote Examination".
  3. Public lectures for doctoral students should proceed with everyone participating remotely in a Zoom meeting distinct from the examination. Details on how a Public Lecture should be constructed remotely are below under "Preparing a Remote Public Lecture".
  4. It is the responsibility of all participants to ensure that they have a device available which will work effectively. We strongly recommend that all participants test their system ahead of time, ideally by connecting as a committee 24 hours or so ahead of the scheduled exam, to allow time to adapt if necessary. The chair should also have phone numbers to communicate with participants in the event of a loss of connectivity. It is the chair’s decision if the exam can proceed if a single examiner is lost; if more than one is not actively participating the exam should be suspended and re-scheduled.
  5. The chair remains responsible for conducting the examination in accordance with SGPS regulations. This means that the chair must be comfortable that the technology is working effectively, as well as that the questioning is proceeding in an appropriate way. If the chair considers that the examination is not proceeding according to the appropriate standards they should suspend it. SGPS and/or the program will reschedule as appropriate depending on the reason for the suspension. Keep in mind that re-scheduling could be done in relatively short order if necessary, given that no-one is travelling or in class.

We recognize that this is a major disruption to our usual way of doing things, and we appreciate your support and your flexibility. We are trying to find the right balance between maintaining our academic standards and allowing our students to finish in a timely way. We're all doing a lot of experiential learning right now and we will make mistakes and encouter unforseen problems. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns about any of this, as we work this out together. 

October 18th Zoom Changes at Western

WTS released changes to the default settings for Zoom Meetings at Western on Sunday, October 18th.  SGPS has reviewed those changes and wants to ensure you are aware of the potential impact these Zoom changes may have on your thesis examinations.  Comments on the impacts of these changes and links to additional Zoom documentation are included below.

  1. Require a passcode when scheduling new meetings
    This will be turned on by default, so that a passcode will be generated when scheduling meetings, and participants will be required to enter it in order to join a session.

    SGPS strongly recommends you use a passcode with your examinations and public lectures.  Please be sure to include the passcode in the final invitation you provide to the examination or public lecture (link).

  1. Embed passcode in invite link for one-click join
    This option, which encrypts the password in the invite link, will be turned off by default. The passcode should be sent separately from communications with the link to the meeting.

    Many users may have become comfortable with the passcode being embedded in the link in past invitations so the passcode requirement might require extra attention.  Ensure the passcode is highlighted in your communication to participants (link).

  1. Waiting room
    The waiting room will be turned on by default, so that participants will be unable to join the meeting until admitted by the host. 

    The waiting room provides a buffer to ensure only valid participants may see and hear the public lecture or examination.  It does require the host to admit participants as they appear in the waiting room and will not allow participants to join the meeting before the host (link).

  1. Chat
    Chat will be turned off by default for non-host participants so that it they will be unable to send broadcast messages visible to all participants. 

    There should be little function for Chat inside the examination.  If a student feels Chat would be appropriate for receiving questions for their Public Lecture, Zoom provides the capacity to reopen that function (link).

  1. Private Chat
    Private chat, which allows participants to send private messages to other participants will be turnedoff as a default.  Participants will be able to communicate privately with hosts and hosts will be able to send broadcast messages. 

    There should be no function for Private Chat inside the examination or public lecture (link).
     
  1. File Transfer
    This setting will be turned off by default. This item is for security concerns related to files being sent from one user to another within the platform.

    There should be no function for File Transfer in the examination or public lecture (link).

  1. Mute participants upon entry
    This setting will be turned on by default. Combining this setting with in-session controls that allow the host to mute all participants and not allow participants to unmute themselves can be very effective.

    Participants can still unmute themselves as required.

  1. Screen sharing
    This setting will be turned off by default and will permit the host to share their screen and to give permission during the session for those that ask to share their screens. The host is further advised to take care in sharing only the desired content to minimize the risk of inadvertent sharing of personal or confidential material. This can be accomplished by sharing only the desired window (as opposed to the entire desktop) and closing other applications.

    This revised default setting will place emphasis on the host of the meeting to enable screen sharing where applicable in the public lecture or examination (link).
     

Forms

Preparing for the Examination

Summary of Responsibilities

Graduate coordinator/assistant:

  • Set up the Zoom meeting
  • Send the Zoom link (with host key if appropriate (see guide for details)), the Remote Thesis Examination guide and the link to the online chair report to the examination chair.
  • Send the Zoom link, the link to the examiner reports, the contact information for the chair and the Remote Thesis Examination guide to the exam participants
  • Contact the committee the day before the exam to confirm remote attendance and exam details.
  • If a chair or supervisor is unable to participate, contact Krystyna Locke (klocke2@uwo.ca) for guidance. If an examiner is unable to participate, re-schedule the exam.

Chair:

  • Make sure the Zoom meeting connection works.
  • Familiarize yourself with Zoom if you haven’t used it before.
  • Ensure that your device will work effectively for this purpose.
  • Review the Remote Thesis Examination Guide, which includes instructions for managing Zoom as well as links to the Examiner Reports, Chair Report and Regulations.
  • Confirm attendance with the graduate co-ordinator the day before the exam. If you know or suspect that you will not be able to participate, inform them as soon as possible.
  • Check in with the committee the day before the exam to make sure that the Zoom connection works.
  • Ensure that the examination is run in accordance with SGPS regulations. If you have any concerns that the technology being used is not working well, you have the authority to suspend the exam.
  • If you decide that you are not comfortable managing a remote exam, inform the graduate co-ordinator as soon as possible.

Examiners:

  • Confirm attendance with the graduate co-ordinator the day before the exam. If you know or suspect that you will not be able to participate, inform them as soon as possible.
  • Ensure that your device will work effectively for this purpose. Zoom provides the option of a test meeting (see guide for details).
  • Review the Remote Thesis Examination Guide, which includes a link to the Examiner Reports.

Supervisor, Candidate:

  • Confirm attendance with the graduate co-ordinator the day before the exam. If you know or suspect that you will not be able to participate, inform them as soon as possible.
  • Ensure that your device will work effectively for this purpose. Zoom provides the option of a test meeting (see guide for details).

Understanding Zoom Web Conferencing

All faculty, staff and students at Western and its affiliated colleges have free access to Zoom Pro for all of their web conferencing needs.  Zoom provides an easy, reliable, cloud platform for video and audio conferencing.  This guide will speak specifically to hosting a thesis examination using Zoom Pro but should address considerations for any digital conferencing tool.

Zoom’s key features include:

  • Host meetings with up to 300 participants
  • Up to 24 hrs Meeting duration
  • Video, audio, & screen sharing
  • Join/Host meetings via a computer or mobile device
  • Participants do not require an account to join meetings 
  • Screen sharing for presentations and collaboration
  • Plug-in for Outlook calendar to allow easy scheduling
  • Local Recording
  • Chat functions

Installing the Zoom Client

To coordinate a Zoom conference you will need to install the Zoom app on your computer or mobile device.

Link to Install Zoom: https://zoom.us/support/download.

Requirements for Operating Zoom

  • An internet connection – broadband wired or wireless (3G or 4G/LTE)
  • Speakers and a microphone – built-in or USB plug-in or wireless Bluetooth
  • A webcam or HD webcam - built-in or USB plug-in
  • Or, a HD cam or HD camcorder with video capture card

Supported Operating Systems

  • macOS X with macOS 10.7 or later
  • Windows 10
  • Windows 8 or 8.1
  • Windows 7
  • Windows Vista with SP1 or later
  • Windows XP with SP3 or later
  • Ubuntu 12.04 or higher
  • Mint 17.1 or higher
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.4 or higher
  • Oracle Linux 6.4 or higher
  • CentOS 6.4 or higher
  • Fedora 21 or higher
  • OpenSUSE 13.2 or higher
  • ArchLinux (64-bit only)

Supported tablet and mobile devices

Supported browsers

  • Windows: IE 11+,  Edge 12+, Firefox 27+,  Chrome 30+
  • Mac: Safari 7+, Firefox 27+,  Chrome 30+
  • Linux: Firefox 27+,  Chrome 30+

Logging into Zoom as a Host

There are two ways to log into Zoom:

  • Through the Western University Zoom site at westernuniversity.zoom.us
  • Directly using the Zoom app
    • To login, using the Zoom App select the “Sign In with SSO” option
      • The company domain is “westernuniversity.zoom.uwo

Scheduling a Zoom Conference Meeting

There are two different methods to schedule a Zoom Conference Meeting:

It is strongly recommended that hosts schedule a meeting in advance rather than use their Personal Meeting ID for these sessions.

Please ensure you have enabled the waiting room within your meeting.  To enable waiting rooms in an individual meeting in Zoom:

  • Sign in to the Zoom web portal.
  • Click Meetings.
  • Click a meeting topic to edit it or schedule a new meeting.
  • Under Meeting Options, check Enable Waiting Room.
  • Click Save.

Delegating a Meeting Host

When you Schedule a meeting or invite participants to your Personal Meeting ID, you become the default host of the meeting. The host must be present to initiate the meeting. If not in attendance, all participants will be left in the waiting room. They will be able to hear and see each other, but none of the additional functions will be available to them. If you are unable to attend the meeting and want to share those duties with another you can share your host key with another participant - support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/205172555-Using-your-host-key

Preparing a Remote Examination

In advance of the examination, the Zoom conference meeting must be prepared and communicated to participants.

Scheduling a Zoom Conference Meeting

Below is Zoom's documentation on how to schedule a meeting:

It is strongly recommended that hosts schedule a meeting in advance rather than use their Personal Meeting ID for these sessions.

Please ensure you have enabled the waiting room within your meeting.  To enable waiting rooms in an individual meeting in Zoom:

  • Sign in to the Zoom web portal.
  • Click Meetings.
  • Click a meeting topic to edit it or schedule a new meeting.
  • Under Meeting Options, check Enable Waiting Room.
  • Click Save.

Delegating a Meeting Host

When you Schedule a meeting or invite participants to your Personal Meeting ID, you become the default host of the meeting. The host must be present to initiate the meeting. If not in attendance, all participants will be left in the waiting room. They will be able to hear and see each other, but none of the additional functions will be available to them. If you are unable to attend the meeting and want to share those duties with another, normally the Examination Chair, you can share your host key - support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/205172555-Using-your-host-key

Inviting Participants to the Examination

It's critical that you share the meeting ID with anyone invited to the meeting

Prior to the examination, all participants (student, examiners, Chair, supervisor) must have the following:

  • The link to the conference meeting
  • The passcode

Examiners must also have the following:

Exam Chairs must also have the following:

Lisa Drysdale in the Department of Psychology has outlined these requirements in a summary document she sends to each examination participant.  She has made them available as an example for how this content can be presented to all participants.

Testing the Connection

Participants are advised to attempt to connect to a Zoom conference meeting in advance of the examination to ensure their hardware meets the minimum requirements and that their internet connection supports the call. You can join a Zoom test meeting by visiting https://zoom.us/test.

Preparing a Backup Plan

It's critical to have a backup method in place that all examiners have access to should your primary remote examination method fail. While Zoom provides a secondary teleconference option should one examiner fail to connect to the web conference (details for this teleconference connection are provided in the invitation to participants), a secondary examination option should be prepared in case multiple participants have issues with the Zoom conference. If the Chair deems it necessary to abandon the web conference, one simple and readily available option is the conference feature available on Western's Cisco Phone system.

Conference Calling with a Western Cisco Phone

To use Western's Conference Calling service, please follow these directions:
  1. During an active phone call, press the More softkey
  2. Press Confrn. This will put the current call on hold and you'll hear a dial tone
  3. Dial the next participant's number
  4. Once connected, press Confrn again to merge all the calls

Repeat the steps to add the next caller.**

The conference call does not end until everyone hangs up from the call. This means that the person who starts and "builds" the conference call can hang up and the conference call can continue until everyone else hangs up.

**This service can host a maximum of six participants including the host.

In order to make use of this option, the following preparations must be made in advance:

  • One individual must be present at Western and able to access a Western Cisco phone
  • A listing of phone numbers where all participants can be reached at the time of the examination

Preparing a Remote Public Lecture

In advance of the examination, a decision must be made regarding whether or not the public lecture will be held. If you do wish to host a public lecture, please take the following steps:

Scheduling a Zoom Conference Meeting for the Public Lecture

Below is Zoom's documentation on how to schedule a meeting:

Programs are advised to allow the candidate to set up the public lecture meeting using their own Zoom account and distribute the invitation as required by the program.  The public lecture meeting must be distinct from the examination.  If possible, the candidate should designate a co-host to focus on the management of the meeting participants.  It's advised that the audience remain muted for the duration of the presentation and only unmuted once a question period is opened.   

Inviting Participants to the Public Lecture

It's critical that you share the meeting ID with anyone invited to the meeting

If you share the meeting information publicly, additional safeguards can be taken to ensure that the public lecture is kept free of disruption from uninvited guests.  These safeguards can include:

 

Email template for audience members

Good morning all,

Thank you for participating in today’s public lecture for [{student}].

You can access the public lecture at the appropriate time at the following address: [{linktozoomconferenceroom}]

Thank you.

The Examination

Adapted Policy Regarding Remote Examinations

Program Responsibilities

  • Ensuring that requests and approvals for remote examination are made in a timely manner as far as possible under the circumstances
  • Hosting a conferencing solution in an appropriate environment that adequately supports the needs of the candidate and examiners.  This includes:
    • Providing a dedicated support resource to the conference to ensure the best possible experience for all participants during the examination
    • Ensuring that a backup technology exists in the event that the primary solution fails
    • Ensuring that a list of questions from the remote examiner(s) has been obtained in advance of the examination date and are available to the Chair of the examination (this serves as back-up in cases where the connection to the remote examiner is lost)
  • Testing the remote connection with the examiner(s) and/or student in advance of the examination

Examiner Responsibilities

  • Submitting intention to attend exam remotely prior to agreeing to serve as examiner as soon as possible and with reasonable notice to the program and SGPS
  • Testing the remote connection (all equipment and backups) with the host in advance of the examination
  • Submitting questions to the program and SGPS at least 48 hours in advance of the examination
  • Ensuring you are able to be seen and heard throughout the examination

Chair Responsibilities

  • All participants must be able to communicate effectively with each other at all times
  • If the primary method of communication is unable to function effectively the examination Chair must determine when it is appropriate to use the pre-arranged backup technology or the submitted questions
  • At the beginning the of the examination, the Chair must inform the candidate and all members of the committee of the potential for suspending the exam should technical problems interfere with the integrity of the examination (until the technical problems have been resolved)
  • The Chair of the examination must suspend the examination if technical problems interfere with the integrity of the examination and backup options are unavailable
  • The Chair of the examination must guarantee the standards of the examination have been met and the requirements have been satisfied

These requirements remain crucial to the fairness and integrity of the exam

The Chair presides over the Thesis Examination

    • To open proceedings, the Chair introduces all present.
      • The candidate, the Supervisor(s), the Program Examiners, and the University Examiner must attend the Thesis Examination remotely or in person
      • Any member of SGPS may attend as a visitor by having a written request to attend approved by the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies)
      • The Chair will refuse attendance to all others
    • Examiners are asked to refrain from using electronic devices (cell phones) during the examination (unless in emergencies)

How to Send Participants to the Waiting Room using Zoom

To send participants to the waiting room in Zoom:

  1. As the meeting host, click Participants
  2. Click More next to the participant's name and select Put in Waiting Room
  • The Chair then asks the candidate (and visitors) to leave the room or the meeting so that the Examiners can decide on the following points:
    • The order in which Examiners are to question the candidate;
    • The number of rounds of questioning desired (usually two);
    • The time limit for each of the Examiners' questioning periods (typically 15-20 minutes in the first round and 5-10 minutes in the second round);
    • Who is to ask the questions submitted by the External Examiner if he/she is not present;
  • The Chair ensures each examiner has access to the digital Thesis Examination Evaluation form (to be completed when the questioning of the candidate is over and the candidate has left the room). The Chair advises the Examiners that their evaluations on the acceptability of the written thesis should be made independent of the assessment made in Stage One: The Preliminary Evaluation of the Thesis.
  • The Chair invites the candidate back into the room or meeting

How to Retrieve Participants from the Waiting Room using Zoom

To retrieve participants from the waiting room in Zoom:

  1. As the meeting host, click Manage Participants
  2. Click "Admit" next to the participant's name

The Examination Begins

  • The Chair explains to the candidate the sequence of events (e.g. two rounds of questioning, the order of questioning).
  • Where the candidate's program does not provide for a public lecture, or a public lecture has been waived the candidate may briefly discuss the thesis (10-15 minutes is appropriate).
  • The Examiners question the candidate in the agreed-upon order, with the Chair holding them to the agreed-upon time limit. The Supervisor(s) may not question the candidate.
  • When the questioning has finished, the Chair asks the candidate, but not the Supervisor(s), to leave the room or meeting.

The Thesis Examination Board Deliberates and Renders a Decision

  • The Chair invites the Supervisor(s) to comment on the candidate, the thesis, and aspects of the oral defense.
    • In rare cases where the thesis has been submitted without the Supervisor(s)'s approval, the Chair informs the Examiners of the Supervisor(s)'s written reasons for withholding approval, before inviting the Supervisor(s) to speak.
  • At the Chair's invitation, the Examiners alone discuss the thesis and the oral defense.
  • The Chair instructs the Examiners of the decisions available to them:
    • There are 3 possible outcomes for the thesis that the examiners may consider:
      • Pass - This indicates that the thesis is acceptable as it stands. Minor changes may be made before final submission.
        • Examples of such changes might include minor typographical, grammatical or formatting errors. Normally such changes should be completed within 1-2 weeks.
      • Pass conditional upon revisions to thesis - This indicates that required revisions must be reviewed and approved by a member of the examining committee prior to submission.
        • Examples of required revisions may include extensive typographical or grammatical errors; errors in calculation; the need for clarification or addition of content in order to meet requisite scholarly standards; some additions, deletions or editing of text; further analysis, or discussion of some data. Normally such revisions should be completed within 6 weeks after the examination.
      • Unacceptable - This indicates that the thesis cannot be accepted as it stands and would require extensive revision to reach the acceptable standard. A thesis found unacceptable proceeds to the re-submission process.
        • A thesis judged unacceptable may contain, for example, faulty conceptualization, inappropriate or faulty use of research methodology, misinterpretation or misuse of data, neglect of relevant material, illogical argument, unfounded conclusions, seriously flawed writing and presentation, and failure to engage the scholarly context.
    • There are 2 possible outcomes for the oral defense that the examiners may consider:
      • Acceptable
      • Unacceptable
    • The Examiners vote on the acceptability of the thesis and the oral defense by completing their Thesis Examination Evaluation form
    • These forms are confidential, only to be seen and recorded by the Chair.  For the oral defense, the Examiners must determine if the candidate's responses to questions and general level of scholarly knowledge meet the standard for the Doctoral degree and are consistent with the contents of the thesis.  The Examiners must decide whether the written thesis and oral defense were acceptable or unacceptable.
    • The Chair collects the completed forms and tallies the results. 
      • In the case of a tie, the external examiner vote breaks the tie.
    • The Chair announces the results of the vote on the acceptability of the written thesis and of the oral defense and asks if further discussion is needed. In rare instances, the Chair may allow Examiners to change their votes. 
    • If a majority of the Examiners find that the thesis content is a pass and the oral defense is acceptable, the candidate passes the Thesis Examination.
    • If a majority of the Examiners find that the thesis content and the oral defense will pass conditional upon revision, the candidate has not yet passed the Thesis Examination. Upon successful acceptance of the required revisions by a designated Examiner the candidate passes the Thesis Examination.
    • If the examiners' decisions are equally split (2/2) between acceptable and unacceptable on any one of the thesis content and/or the oral defense, then the vote is weighted in favour of the external examiner’s decision.
    • The Chair pronounces the Thesis Examination Board's decision.
    • On the "Chair Report," the Chair:
      • Reports the Thesis Examination Board's decision for the Thesis Examination.
    • Though revisions are not required following a pass, examiners may suggest minor changes that would be beneficial, and the student is encouraged to complete such changes before final submission. The Chair is encouraged to list such changes on the Chair Report form.
    • The Chair communicates the positive decision to the candidate. (See Communicating the Decision to the Candidate.)
    • Additional details are made available to the successful student via an email which is generated in response to the submitted Chair Report.

When the Thesis Examination is Conditionally Successful

On the "Chair Report," the Chair:

  • With the assistance of the Examiners, provides a detailed list of the specific revisions as agreed upon by a majority of the Examiners. The Chair’s Report will be made available to the designated Examiner, the candidate, and the Supervisor, who will normally continue to support the candidate through the revision process.
  • With the help of the examining committee, determines which Examiner(s) will review the revised thesis. The designated Examiner(s) withhold their approval until the required revisions have been made. All the Examiners may receive a copy of the revised thesis to review.
After the information is collected, the Chair submits the Chair's Report.  A copy is automatically sent to SGPS, the Chair, any supervisor(s) in attendance and any examiner asked to review the revisions to the thesis

Additional details are made available to the successful student via an email which is generated in response to the submitted Chair Report. The Designated Examiner will be contacted with directions on how to review and approve the revisions at a later date once the student has uploaded their revisions.

When the Thesis Examination is Unsuccessful

The Chair completes the "Chair Report." In consultation with the Examiners, the Chair states (on the Chair report) why the thesis and/or the oral defense was unacceptable.

If the Thesis Examination failed because the thesis content was unacceptable, the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies) refers the case to a Re-Submission Hearing Committee.

Communicating the Decision to the Candidate

When the Chair and the Examiners have completed the documentation, the Chair invites only the candidate back into the room or meeting and informs them of the result.

If the thesis is passed conditional upon revision the Supervisor(s) must meet with the candidate, to ensure that they understand the revisions required by the Thesis Examination Board.