Office of Undergraduate Research and Inquiry

Adjusting Inquiry-Based Experiences During COVID-19

As we have collectively moved to remote and distance learning and engagement for the time being, we know you may be wondering how best to manage your inquiry-based experiences (i.e. internship, research, practica). The Office of Undergraduate Research & Inquiry, along with representatives from the Center for Career Development, School of Social Sciences, School of Natural Sciences, and School of Humanities, has gathered suggestions and resources to help you determine the best path forward. If there are additional resources you think should be added or which need updates, please email

Below are some guiding questions you can consider and explore in your conversation about your internship, research or practica experience. We hope these framing questions offer some clarity about what next steps you can take, and provide inspiration for creative thinking as you find solutions and draft your continuity plans.

Note: Each individual’s situation may result in different plans, so if you hear about a classmate’s continuity plan that differs from your own, understand that your circumstances may not afford the same solutions.

Step one: Reach out

One of the first steps is to reach out and connect with your mentor or supervisor. Be sure to approach this conversation with openness, understanding, and honesty. As we are all trying to adjust and navigate the best paths forward, it will be important to be honest with your mentor about your capacity, patient with ongoing uncertainty or indecision, and flexible to changes as circumstances remain fluid.

Don’t forget to also connect with the faculty/staff member responsible for the internship, practica or research course you may be enrolled in (if different from your mentor or supervisor) to learn about any expectations they have for students in completing credit hours, and other adjustments to course requirements.

Questions to ask to establish a communication strategy

  • How are our remote work setups different/similar (Zoom/Webex/Skype/etc., robustness of internet service for streaming, webcams, personal space for attending online meetings without background distractions)?
  • If your project is associated with course credit, how have grading policies, course requirements, and assignments changed?
    • This is especially important to share with mentors/supervisors for off-campus projects.
  • Will our group/team still meet remotely?
  • How can we build a community around research/projects? Will teams still work together; is the team leadership structure changing?
  • How should I communicate with my mentor /supervisor and/or faculty?
  • How long should I wait for responses before trying to communicate again? How will my mentor/supervisor and/or faculty let me know if their situation changes where they no longer have time to continue?
  • If I am able to continue research remotely, how will I get feedback and guidance on the project?
  • How will I get feedback on final documentation, reports, etc.?
  • Are there new demands on our time that impact how/when we communicate, such as taking care of children/siblings, sharing WiFi bandwidth with family, changes with online help sessions for classes?

Step two: Find resources

Next, take inventory of existing and new resources that might aid you in continuing or modifying your research/project. Questions to discuss with your mentor/supervisor are listed below with notes about some resources and tips to guide the discussion.

Questions to ask about access to project resources

  • How do I access journals that have a subscription? What if Fondren library doesn’t have a subscription?
  • How do I access archives/other library resources, especially those that are not digitized?
  • Can I collect physical models, drawings, prototypes? or arrange storage? or have someone photograph them for me?
    • Stay-at-home is in effect for Harris County until April 3, 2020. It is unlikely that faculty/staff will be able to store or collect items from campus labs/studios/workshops.
  • How do I access data from my lab/internship (physical notebooks or electronic data)?
    • Institutional policies will dictate whether data can be shared. Some institutions prevent sharing of data beyond institution-owned storage devices; however, restrictions may be lifted in some cases. Ask your mentor/supervisor if you can access shared drives. Photographs of physical notebooks may be possible at the discretion of the institution/community partner and faculty/project leader.
  • How can I get licenses for software so that I can continue remote work?

Step three: Make a continuity plan

Some projects are more suited for modifications to allow remote work, while other projects may no longer be feasible. Whether you choose to modify, pause, or end the project should be discussed with your mentor/supervisor and faculty. Here are some questions to help guide this discussion.

Questions to ask about continuing, modifying, or ending your project?

  • What can I do now that my internship/practice/research can’t be in the physical space?
    • For example, shifting surveys online, analyzing data remotely, submitting drawings/sketches instead of prototypes, adapting project to a journal club/literature review/annotated bibliography.
  • What aspects of my work could be shifted remotely? Should some aspects of the project be eliminated or postponed?
  • What if my research can continue in a modified format? What do I need to think about when planning for an adapted research methodology?
    • IRB process updates may be required for remote methodology amendments or suspension/pause of enrollments (human subjects specifically)
  • Can I pause my work and ask to pick it back up in the fall?
    • Some courses are not repeatable for credit. If you are considering picking up this research/project later, weigh the options of dropping the course so that you can re-enroll in the fall or continuing the research/project in the fall without credit. Rice has extended the drop deadline this semester for all students.
  • When can I return to my research lab/practica or internship provider to continue work, especially if I am still in Houston?
    • It is possible that "stay home" orders will expire before Rice returns to in-person classes. Any in-person work should be done in compliance with national, state, and local regulations and by keeping personal and community health and safety in mind. Any decisions to return to work should be made in consultation with mentors/supervisors.
  • What if I can’t complete the required hours to earn course credit associated with my project?
  • How should I let my mentor/supervisor know that I am unable to meet an expectation because of my remote environment?
  • My mentor/supervisor no longer has time for my project; what are my options (such as finding a new mentor for my project, continuing with my mentor in the fall, stopping the project)?
    • For projects associated with courses, also contact the faculty instructor for suggestions to accomplish course goals through other assignments/activities.
  • Will the final assignment/project deliverable change? If so, what are the new expectations?
  • My work was accepted for presentation at a conference; how can this still be recognized?

Do you need support to discuss expectations? Have you been asked to do too much, such as increase your responsibilities/hours worked beyond reasonable expectations? Have you been asked to be on-site even though it makes you uncomfortable? Contact Rice faculty managing yoru experience, departmental ombudspersons, or for help in establishing reasonable expectations.

Additional tips/resources to help you adjust inquiry-based experiences:

What to do about internships in light of the COVID-19 pandemic? from UW-Madison Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions

Remote Teaching Online for Labs, Studios, Clinical, Practicums (LSCP) Quick Tips from University of South Carolina

Continuing community engaged teaching during COVID-19 from IUPUI

The Ultimate Guide to Virtual Museum Resources, E-Learning, and Online Collections from Advancing Digital Transformations in Museums

Last updated: March 29, 2020