We’ve not quite found the new form of the viva. In the UK, they’re all over video for now, but it’s too soon to say if that’s going to be normal from now on.
There’s definite benefits: potentially greater choice for examiners; more opportunity for making your own space a confidence-boosting environment for the viva; perhaps even new opportunities for participating in the viva itself that wouldn’t have been possible in a small seminar room. But reading body language and making small talk might suffer in the viva. I wonder if vivas-over-video will remain popular as people head back into the world.
I can recall telling seminar rooms not that long ago – very confidently – that any changes to the viva would come slowly. Academic culture was a ship that takes a long time to change course; the viva would continue to slowly evolve and change. I was so sure!
Wherever things go with the viva, the purpose will remain the same.
Examiners will want to explore your research contribution, be sure that you did the work and be certain that you’re a good researcher. They don’t have to do that in person though. As change comes, perhaps the viva will be broken into specific sections. Maybe formal presentations will become much more common as a start to the viva.
Our current situation is not normal, it’s different. The next normal is still coming.
It’ll take time, but it will get here. Underneath any differences though will be the same questions: What have you done and why? How did you do it? And can you show us how talented you are?