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Athabasca University

Roles and Responsibilities

Project committee

Every MSc IS graduate student completing a Project will be supervised and assisted by an Athabasca University project committee approved by the MSc IS Graduate Program Director.
The role of the project committee is to:
•    Provide guidance to graduate students during their research and the completion of their Project Reports;
•    Assist graduate students in the identification of their research question, the methods to be used and how to effectively complete their research;
•    Provide professional advice and feedback to graduate students during the conduct of the Project research;
•    Review documents to verify that they meet the minimum academic requirements established by Athabasca University; and
•    Assess graduate students and their ability to demonstrate the required competencies for the Project.

All project committees must have the following minimum membership:

•    Project Supervisor
•    Committee Chair
•    External Reader (must be external to the university)

If the project needs support from an organization or persons for resources such as financial support, equipment or data, the the student should find a sponsor, who may be a workplace mentor, community-based mentor or an applied practitioner with practical experience in the area of study being demonstrated by the Graduate student. Otherwise, the sponsor and the supervisor can be the same person.


Chair of the Committee Functions are:
•    As required, arbitrate all disputes among members of the project committee.
•    As required, re-assign existing or appoint new project committee members.
•    Ensure the project committee review of each Project meets or exceeds the academic standards established by the university.
•    Act as the final reviewer of the Project Report, when the project committee recommends that a graduate student's project be “Rejected”.
•    On behalf of the program faculty, approve all Project Reports as “Completed” when recommended by the project committee.
•    Authorize students to graduate, when all program requirements related to the project have been satisfied.

Project Supervisor

The project supervisor is charged with the responsibility of mentoring the graduate student throughout the project process. The supervisor should be a knowledgeable and experienced authority in the area of the graduate student’s interest.
The supervisor is responsible for providing direction and support within reasonable limits in order to maximize the possibility that a conscientious and hard-working graduate student will succeed. The supervisor will also be responsible for assembling the project committee.

Note that potential supervisors (Athabasca University faculty members or those who are given approval to act as supervisors) are not obligated to accept a project mini-proposal that has been submitted to them for consideration. The reasons for refusing to accept a mini-proposal or to take on the role of supervisor are varied - e.g., the supervisor may have little or no experience or expertise in the area, the mini-proposal may be weak or the supervisor may be supervising a sufficient number of students.
The Project Supervisor may be either a permanent faculty member of Athabasca University, or Adjunct faculty member or an outside professional approved by the MSc IS Graduate Program Director.
Project Supervisor Functions
  • Guide graduate students in the identification and development of their project.
  • Help graduate students to ensure that their project conforms to the Research Ethics Policy.
  • Undertake regular consultations with graduate students during completion of their project.
  • Review and provide comments on all drafts of the Project Report produced by graduate students.
  • In consultation with other committee members:
  • Assess completion of the competencies as described in the program mission
  • Determine if the graduate student must complete an oral defence of the Project Report
  • Communicate the success or failure of the graduate student’s Project to the MSc IS Graduate Program coordinator.
  • Produce a written assessment of the graduate student after the Project Report has been submitted.
Selecting a Project Supervisor

To qualify as a Project Supervisor, individuals will normally possess a relevant doctorate degree, and be approved by the MSc IS Program Director.  Potential project supervisors may be:
  • Athabasca University faculty and adjunct faculty members
  • Faculty members from other academic institutions
  • Professionals from related industries
Selecting the Project Supervisor

The Project Supervisor may be selected as follows:

Faculty members may request that specific graduate students be assigned to them based on mutual research and academic interests.
Graduate students may request that they be assigned to a specific faculty member.
The MSc IS Graduate Program Coordinator may assign graduate students to individual faculty members to ensure that an equitable distribution of work is maintained within the Program.

Project Sponsor
Project Sponsors should clearly understand their role in the project committee.  The graduate student should discuss these functions with the sponsor before beginning the project.

Project Sponsors's responsibilities:
  • Assist graduate students in identifying and articulating the problems or issues to be examined during the project.
  • Agree to provide the resources and support described in the Letter of Agreement (see appendix 3).
  • Review and provide comments on the Project proposal.
  • Provide the resources, facilities, funds and personnel needed to support the successful completion of the project as described in the Project proposal.
  • Where appropriate, facilitate the timely collection of data.
  • Review the project findings, conclusions and recommendations with the graduate students.
  • Assess completion of the competencies as described in the program mission
  • Produce a written assessment of the graduate student at the end of the project.
The Project Sponsor may be any one of the following individuals:

  • An academic who has a well-defined research project.  
  • A workplace supervisor or an individual who has ownership of the workplace problem to be examined.
  • A manager of a not-for-profit or community-based organization who has responsibility for providing services to the public.
  • An individual or organization that needs assistance in re-organising, problem solving, improving performance or any reason that may require the intervention of an outside consultant.
  • A professional who is an identified leader in his/her field (such as a university researcher) and requires expert assistance in examining a specific set of issues or problems.
Selecting a Project Sponsor

To qualify as a Project Sponsor, individuals must be willing to sponsor the graduate student's Project research and assist the student where required.  The MSc IS Graduate Program coordinator must approve the assignment of each Project Sponsor.
When selecting a Project Sponsor, graduate students should identify an individual who will:
•    Demonstrate enthusiasm and support for the project;
•    Have an authoritative understanding and knowledge of the issues that will be examined as part of the project;
•    Be willing to accept the outcome of the project, no matter what the conclusions or recommendations may be; and
•    Have the resources, time and funds to commit to the project and be willing to provide freely of them where appropriate to support the project goals and objectives.

Manager-Employee Relationships
If a manager-employee relationship exists with the potential sponsor, the requesting graduate student must feel confident that their project could be completed without bias or judgment based on his/her previous working relationship with the potential sponsor.
Managing Project Sponsor Expectations
Graduate Students conducting the study must attempt to develop a professional and trusting rapport with their Project Sponsor.  They must understand and attempt to meet the sponsor’s expectations for the outcome of the proposed Project.  These expectations may change through the life cycle of the Project.

Graduate Student

Role of the Graduate Student
The graduate student is responsible for planning, implementing and completing the Research project.  The graduate student is also responsible for ensuring that their Research project is conducted in accordance with the Athabasca University Research Ethics Policy and the Athabasca University Integrity and Misconduct in Research and Scholarship Policy.

Graduate Student Functions
•    Review and understand this Project Handbook.
•    Review and understand registration and other requirements that apply to the project route for completion of the MSc IS program.
•    Identify a problem or issue that will meet the program mission as the basis of their Research project.
•    Discuss the problem or issue with their Project Supervisor.
•    Complete the Research project, in accordance with the Project Proposal and in accordance with the Athabasca University Research Ethics Policy and the Athabasca University Integrity and Misconduct in Research and Scholarship Policy.
•    Regularly communicate project progress to the Project Sponsor and Project Supervisor.
•    Effectively lead the Research project and the project team.
•    Circulate copies of the draft Project to all project committee members for review and comments.
•    Produce both a draft and final Project that conform to Athabasca University policies and guidelines.

Changing Committee Members
A committee member, the graduate student or the Program coordinator may initiate changes in the project committee at any time.
Change in a committee member may be required for the following reasons:
  • A graduate student changes his/her research direction, and requires a Project Supervisor with interests more closely aligned to his/her research interests.
  • The graduate student has irreconcilable academic, intellectual or personal differences with one or more of his/her committee members.
  • A committee member is unable to reconcile his/her academic or personal differences with the graduate student and to continue would jeopardize the student’s chance of success.
  • A committee member finds himself or herself unable to work with the other members of the project committee.
  • A member of the committee becomes ill or unavailable for a long period of time and therefore is unable to complete his/her functions successfully.
  • A committee member is unable to effectively perform his/her duties.
  • Other reasons known to the Program coordinator.

Potential Impact of Changing the Project Sponsor

A change in the Project Sponsor may require a major change in the project’s research question or methodology.  If this is the case, then the graduate student should assess the potential impact of the change and discuss this matter with his/her Project Supervisor.  The Project Supervisor must determine how to minimize the impact of any potential change and provide advice to the graduate student on how to recover any lost ground.
Change in the Project Supervisor should have minimum impact on the research project, assuming that the alternative individual selected as Project Supervisor has similar experience and interests as the previous Project Supervisor.

Role of the Director, SCIS or Graduate Program in Committee Changes

In all cases, the Director of SCIS and  Graduate Program Director should be made aware of the need for any changes in the project committee and will, where necessary, undertake an investigation.  If the change is deemed necessary, then the Director, SCIS or Graduate Program will assign new members and reform the committee as required.

Updated October 05 2015 by FST Technical Staff

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