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Remote partnership

Memorial partners with Athabasca University on virtual supports for graduate students

Teaching and Learning

By Jennifer Batten

Memorial University and Athabasca University (AU) recently signed a partnership between Memorial’s School of Graduate Studies and AU’s Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Both universities recognize the value of overcoming barriers for graduate students and supervisors, especially in the face of the current global COVID-19 pandemic.

AU leader in online education

Pivoting traditional delivery methods for professional development and the supervision of graduate students has been catalyzed and shifted into the digital sphere.

As a leader in online education, AU is known for creating and delivering purpose-built online education opportunities.

“We also hope to rethink and improve the kind of professional development opportunities we offer that are more meaningful for graduate students in our current context.” — Dr. Aimée Surprenant

Since 2015 Memorial has offered a blended learning program in graduate student supervision that helps faculty understand literature on graduate supervision and reflect on their practice as a graduate supervisor.

Memorial connected with AU, given the shared interest in faculty supervisor and graduate student development, to seek out collaborative activities at both institutions.

“We know through our own university needs assessment and national surveys that graduate students want and need more professional development opportunities at this time,” said Dr. Aimée Surprenant, associate vice-president (academic) and dean, School of Graduate Studies, Memorial University.

“This partnership between AU and Memorial is an important way for us to open up more opportunities for graduate students at both universities for training and skills development outside of their academic disciplines. By working together, we also hope to rethink and improve the kind of professional development opportunities we offer that are more meaningful for graduate students in our current context.”

‘Strengthen and improve’

“The professional development of graduate students and their supervisors is considered an essential element in the delivery of modern graduate education and graduate studies faculties are working hard to meet their needs,” said Dr. Shawn Fraser, dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies at AU.

“Employers, governments and the students themselves recognize the value of professional development opportunities, as it can help them progress in their graduate work outside of their course work alone, and potentially help them in their career aspirations. By working together, we will be able to strengthen and improve opportunities for graduate students and supervisors at AU and Memorial.”

There are three areas that both universities identified as opportunities for collaboration, including the following:

  • Access for graduate students at Memorial and AU to remotely participate in academic skills and professional development workshops and programs;
  • Access for faculty members at Memorial and AU to remotely participate in professional development opportunities related to graduate student supervision; and
  • Developing new opportunities that support the training and supervision of graduate students.

This partnership will facilitate additional professional development opportunities for graduate students to realize their highest potential and for supervisors to become stronger champions at both universities.

About Athabasca University

Athabasca University is one of the world’s foremost and fastest-growing online and open education institutions, serving over 43,000 students across 87 countries. AU is the second-largest university in Alberta. AU offers online undergraduate and graduate programs, alongside online courses for both personal learning and professional development. It is uniquely founded on the principles of flexibility and openness, giving students control over their studies so they can obtain a higher education whenever and wherever it is right for them. For more information, please visit the website.


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