The Design and Evaluation of Online Faculty Development for Effective Graduate Supervision




Massive Open Online Course, Graduate Supervision, Faculty Development, Online Learning, Media Development, Microcredentials


This design-based research aims to improve the quality of graduate supervision using a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). The Quality Graduate Supervision MOOC brings interdisciplinary faculty, postdoctoral scholars, and expert supervisors together in an online learning community to discuss and consider effective supervision practice, strategies for relationship building, supports for academic writing, mentoring for diverse careers, and how to combine excellence and wellness. The survey, interview, and system data were analyzed to inform and assess the design and development of the QGS MOOC, to gain insights into learner experience and engagement, and to assess the impact of the online learning community on graduate supervision practices. Through ongoing design and evaluation of this online learning course for graduate supervisors, the research team found the learning community influenced faculty members’ awareness, collective knowledge building, goal setting, and actions for graduate supervision practice. We present results from our evaluation of the design components in the QGS MOOC, the learning benefits for supervisors, impacts on graduate supervision practice, and make several recommendations for research and practice.


Adkins, B. (2009). PhD pedagogy and the changing knowledge landscapes of universities. Higher Education Research & Development, 28(2), 165–177.

Alharbi, H. (2018). Using design-based research to design a miniMOOC for faculty development on quality graduate supervision [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.

Alharbi, H., & Jacobsen, M. (2018). Evaluating the design and development of the quality graduate supervision miniMOOC. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 19(1), 13–26.

Alharbi, H., & Jacobsen, M. (2019, April 5–9). The design and evaluation of a miniMOOC for quality graduate supervision in higher education [Conference presentation]. American Educational Research Association (AERA), Toronto, ON, Canada.

Ali, F., Shet, A., Yan, WR., Al-Maniri, A., Atkins, S., & Lucas, H. (2017). Doctoral level research and training capacity in the social determinants of health at universities and higher education institutions in India, China, Oman and Vietnam: A survey of needs. Health Research Policy and Systems, 15(1), 1–11.

Bates, A. W. (2019). Teaching in a digital age, 2nd edition. OpenTextBC.

Beaudin, A., Emami, E., Palumbo, M., & Tran, S. D. (2015). Quality of supervision: Postgraduate dental research trainees’ perspectives. European Journal of Dental Education, 20, 32–38.

Berdahl, L., & Malloy, J. (2018). Work your career: Get what you want from your social science or humanities PhD. University of Toronto Press.

Berdahl, L., Malloy, J., Cowley, S., & Sá, C. (2019). Departmental engagement in doctoral professional development: Lessons from political science. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 49(2), 37–53.

Bloom, J. L., Cuevas, A. E. P., Hall, J. W., & Evans, C. V. (2007). Graduate students' perceptions of outstanding graduate advisor characteristics. NACADA Journal, 27(2), 28–35.

Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS). (2018a). Investing in the next generation of researchers.

Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS). (2018b). Report of the task force on the dissertation.

Ciampa, K., & Wolfe, Z. (2019). Preparing for dissertation writing: Doctoral education students’ perceptions. Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education, 10(2), 86–108.

Cohan, D. J. (2019). Self-care for the new year. Inside Higher Ed.

Dombroski, K., Watkins, A., Fitt, H., Frater, J., Banwell, K., Mackenzie, K., Mutambo, L., Hawke, K., Persendt, F., Turković, J., Ko, S. Y., & Hart, D. (2018). Journeying from "I" to "we": Assembling hybrid caring collectives of geography doctoral scholars. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 42(1), 80–93.

Downes, S. (2014, March 10). The MOOC of One. [Keynote]. International Academy of Technology, Education and Development (IATED), Valencia, Spain.

Eley, A., & Jennings, R. (2005). Effective postgraduate supervision: Improving the student/supervisor relationship. Open University Press, UK.

Erichsen, E. A., Bolliger, D. U., & Halupa, C. (2014). Student satisfaction with graduate supervision in doctoral programs primarily delivered in distance education settings. Studies in Higher Education, 39(2), 321–338.

Evans, T. M., Bira, L., Gastelum, J. B., Weiss, L. T., & Vanderford, N. L. (2018). Evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education. Nature Biotechnology, 36(3), 282–284.

Flaherty, C. (2019). How mindfulness helps grad students. Inside Higher Ed.

Freeman, C., & Clare, B. (2019). Avoiding burnout: Self-care strategies for faculty.

Hawkins, H. (2019). Creating care-full academic spaces? ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 18(4), 816–834.

Jacobsen, D. Y. (2017). Dropping out or dropping in? A connectivist approach to understanding participants' strategies in an e-Learning MOOC pilot. Technology, Knowledge and Learning, 24(1), 1–21.

Jacobsen, M. (2014). Design based research: Sponsoring innovation in education. Education Canada, 54(5), 22–24.

Kamler, B., & Thomson, P. (2014). Helping doctoral students write: Pedagogies for supervision (2nd Edition). Routledge.

Kiers, J. (2016). MOOCs and their effect on the institution: Experiences in course design, delivery and evaluation; Research; Faculty development; Unbundling and credits for MOOCs. Foro de Educación, 14(21), 133–149.

Kumar, S. & Coe, C. (2017). Online mentoring and student support in online doctoral programs. American Journal of Distance Education, 31(2),128–142.

Kumar, S. & Johnson, M. (2019). Online mentoring of dissertations: The role of structure and support. Studies in Higher Education, 44(1), 59–71.

Nowell, L. Ovie, G., Kenny, N., & Jacobsen, M. (2020). Postdoctoral scholar’s perspectives about professional learning and development: A concurrent mixed-methods study. Palgrave Communications, 6(95), 1–11.

Mackness, J., Waite, M., Roberts, G., & Lovegrove, E. (2013). Learning in a small, task-oriented, connectivist MOOC: Pedagogical issues and implications for higher education. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 14(4), 140–159.

Maor, D., Ensor, J., & Fraser, B., (2016). Doctoral supervision in virtual spaces: A review of research of web-based tools to develop collaborative supervision. Higher Education Research and Development, 35(1), 172–188.

McAlpine, L. (2017). Building on success? Future challenges for doctoral education globally. Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education, 8(2), 66–77.

McAlpine, L., & Austin, N. (2018). Humanities PhD graduates: Desperately seeking careers? Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 48(2), 1–19.

McAlpine, L., & McKinnon, M. (2013). Supervision - the most variable of variables: Student perspectives. Studies in Continuing Education, 35(3), 265–280.

McKenney, S., & Reeves, T. (2019). Conducting educational design research (2nd Edition). Routledge.

Moskal, P., Thompson, K., & Futch, L. (2015). Enrollment, engagement, and satisfaction in the BlendKit faculty development open, online course. Online Learning Journal (OLJ), 19(4), 12.

Nowell, L. Ovie, G., Kenny, N., & Jacobsen, M. (2020). Postdoctoral scholar’s perspectives about professional learning and development: A concurrent mixed-methods study. Palgrave Communications, 6(95), 1–11.

Osborne, B. J., Carpenter, S., Burnett, M., & Rolheiser, C. (2014). Preparing graduate students for a changing world of work. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 44(3), i–ix.

Reich, J., & Ruiperez-Valiente, J. A. (2019). The MOOC Pivot. Science, 363(6423), 130–131.

Roberts, L., Tinari, C., & Bandlow, R. (2019). An effective doctoral student mentor wears many hats and asks many questions. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 14, 133–159.

Rodrigues, V. & Leinster, S. (2016, February 22–24). Clinical supervision with confidence: Exploring the potential of MOOCs for faculty development. In Khalil, M., Ebner, M., Kopp, M., Lorenz, A., & Kalz, M (Eds.), Proceedings of the European Stakeholder Summit on experiences and best practices in and around MOOCs (EMOOCS 2016), (pp. 287–296), Graz, Austria. BoD.

Rose, D. H., & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal design for learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 55(5), 521–525.

Roumell, E., & Bolliger, D. (2017). Experiences of faculty with doctoral student supervision in programs delivered via distance. The Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 65(2), 82–93.

Saleem, T., & Mehmood, N. (2018). Assessing the quality of supervision experiences in the different research stages at postgraduate level. Journal of Education and Educational Development, 5(2), 8–27.

Salmon, G., Gregory, J., Lokuge Dona, K., & Ross, B. (2015). Experiential online development for educators: The example of the Carpe Diem MOOC. British Journal of Educational Technology, 46(3), 542–556.

Sekuler, A. B., Crow, B., & Annan, R. B. (2013). Beyond labs and libraries: Career pathways for doctoral students. Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

Skarakis-Doyle, E., & McIntyre, G. L. (2008). Western guide to graduate supervision. Western University, Teaching Support Centre.

Sommer, M., Ritzhaupt, A.D., Muller, K.E., & Glueck. (2019). Transformation of a face-to-face workshop into a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC): A design and development case. J Form Des Learn 3, 97–110.

University of Calgary. (2015). Campus mental health strategy: Creating a community of caring.

Walker, G. E., Golde, C. M., Jones, L., Bueschel, A. C., & Hutchings, P. (2008). The formation of scholars: Rethinking doctoral education for the twenty-first century. Jossey-Bass.

Williams, G. (2005). Doctoral Education in Canada 1900 – 2005. Conference paper prepared for the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies. Online:

Wisker, G. (2012). The good supervisor: Supervising postgraduate and undergraduate research for doctoral theses and dissertations (2nd ed.). Palgrave MacMillan.

Wisker, G., & Robinson, G. (2016). Supervisor wellbeing and identity: Challenges and strategies. International Journal for Researcher Development, 7(2), 123–140.




How to Cite

Jacobsen, M., Alharbi, H., Taylor, L., Bairstow, L., & Roberts, V. (2021). The Design and Evaluation of Online Faculty Development for Effective Graduate Supervision . The Open/Technology in Education, Society, and Scholarship Association Journal, 1(1), 1–23.



Research Articles

Most read articles by the same author(s)