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CQU’s School of Electrical Engineering holds university-wide first online dissertation defense amid pandemic

On the morning of March 27, 2020, the School of Electrical Engineering, Chongqing University held the first online dissertation defense of Chongqing University. Wang Xiujuan, a doctoral candidate of the School, was lucky to be the first student participating in the dissertation defense. The seemly ordinary dissertation defense, from the announcement of defense information to the end of the defense, was actually the result of coordination between various departments. Those departments worked together to guarantee the dissertation defense goes on smoothly.

Wang Xiujuan said emotionally after the chairman of the Defense Committee announced the end of voting: “As the first student in the online defense of the School and of the University, I’m glad to witness this milestone of my life this way. This will also become my life-time memory. The virus is heartless, but we are not. I came to realize the power of my country, the unity of our people and the concern of CQU and the School for every graduate.”

As the deadly virus is sweeping across the world, the party team of the School of Electrical Engineering, guided by university officials, has been sticking to the control requirement proposed by President Xi Jinping that highlights “firm confidence, close unity, scientific control and precise implementation”, so as to eliminate any “dead corner” in the pandemic control, and eventually win the war on the coronavirus. In addition, directed by the spirit of important instruction of President Xi Jinping on carrying out pandemic control measures and social-economic development, and in response to the Notice on Satisfactory Implementation of Master’s Degree Awarding Work in the First Half of 2020 issued by the Ministry of Education, Chongqing University has taken a number of measures to ensure qualified students graduate smoothly.

The Postgraduate Office of the School previously conducted a survey of the dissertation progress among 214 postgraduate students about to graduate using software called “Wenjuanxing”. It was discovered that as the core of postgraduate dissertations for engineering students needs to supported by experimental equipment and data, most of the students were stuck somewhere in the middle. In addition, some students worried about losing their job and failing the dissertation defense as a result of the pandemic. To ease their concerns, the School quickly worked out the working principles that included “remote tutoring, separate dissertation defense, case-by-case handling and confidence strengthening” as part of the crisis management. Based on the actual situation, the disciplines have developed the graduation process of the first-half of the year for postgraduates, and adopted “cloud examination” of the defense qualification. Common concerns expressed by the students have also been addressed by adjustments.

The School has asked all research supervisors to provide online tutoring for students through software such as Yuketang, Tencent Conference and QQ group, and share data with students. Furthermore, remote operation of lab computers was also activated. The departments and offices have been asked to follow up with the dissertation progress of students and organize the pre-defense on line following the principle that “postgraduate students may participate in the dissertation defense at different times without compromising the quality.” According to the principle, students are separated into different batches to avoid excessive concentration of participating students when the new semester begins. For students that are able to participate in the defense on time, supervisors should follow the original plan. For students unable to submit the final dissertation as a result of the pandemic, extension may be granted and application should be submitted to the University for another degree-awarding chance.

The ability to ensure legality and validity of the online dissertation defense is the biggest challenge faced by the Postgraduate Office of the School. With substantial support and detailed guide of the Graduate School, the Office refined every process of the online defense, including the procedure handling, process flow at the online defense site, the voting scheme and dressing of students. The Office has eventually come up with the Regulations on Process of Online Video Dissertation Defense of Postgraduate Students during the Pandemic of the School of Electrical Engineering (Tentative), in an ultimate effort to ensure the dissertation defense goes without obstructions.

In collaboration with the student party branch, postgraduate instructors managed to ensure students are not stopped by the pandemic from learning, carrying out scientific research and writing their dissertations. Heart-to-heart talk was also held on line with students to get to know their mental and physical conditions, scope of movement, ideological trend, and learning and living conditions. Physiological support and assistance were provided for students to ensure they remain calm and relaxed and urge them to have confidence in defeating the virus.

It is estimated that there will be more than 500 doctoral candidates and more than 4,000 postgraduates graduating from Chongqing University this year. During the extended winter holiday, if the dissertations of those students meet the requirements for defense, the dissertation defense may be conducted remotely on line. The examination materials will be submitted on line, followed by online review, online submission of dissertations and online video defense, so as to ensure that the degree-awarding work is not obstructed by the pandemic and that qualified students can graduate smoothly. In addition, the Graduate School has ordered the Postgraduate Office not to cut down on tutoring, suspend degree awarding, simplify the procedure, limit the form, lower the standards and loosen the supervision, so as to ensure the degree awarding for the postgraduate and doctoral students is carried out satisfactorily during the pandemic with desirable quality.