Inside Higher ed article features Rasmussen's remote PhD defense

Author: Colleen Flaherty

Virtual Thesis Defense

Ph.D. students defending their dissertations must do so remotely right now. Could videoconference defenses become the new normal?

“Can you move the computer closer?” asks a disembodied voice. “Because we see a lot of roof.”

“Ah, I think it looks much better,” another invisible person says a few minutes later, following adjustments to the setup for Kaitlin Rasmussen’s virtual doctoral thesis defense.

Rasmussen, looking into her computer screen, half smiles and says, “I’m so excited for this to be over.” She cheers up when sees and hears that many of her friends -- including one from Australia, where it’s 1 a.m. -- are tuned in to her defense via Zoom.

Looking at the rising conference participant count on the bottom of her screen, however, Rasmussen grows nervous again. There are dozens of people here -- some 75 at one point. That’s many more than would have attended her defense in person if it were taking place as planned in her department at the University of Notre Dame.