New to TAing online and hybrid courses? Here’s some general advice to help you prepare for your new assignment.
In hybrid and online courses, teaching assistants (TAs) are often essential to the successful execution of a course. Here are some strategies for teaching assistants as they work on a team for an online or hybrid course. These strategies may also be helpful to faculty working on a team with TAs to understand how to effectively collaborate to create a successful hybrid or online course. Additional resources are linked under each topic.
Source: Adapted for UCLA from UC Davis Commons
1. Communicate with the instructor about the TA responsibilities and expectations.
The expectations for grading, lesson planning, and interacting with students often differs dramatically between online/hybrid and face-to-face courses. Specifically, TAs in online and hybrid courses often spend much more of their hourly time working independently, giving feedback on assignments submitted through the learning management system, and interacting with students in the online environment. You get to choose your hours flexibly when you TA for a online or hybrid course, especially since you don’t have as much dedicated face-to-face class time. However, ask the instructor for whom you’re working about how they expect you to divide your time among different course tasks and responsibilities and remind them of your contractual hourly commitment (as a reminder, 25% and 50% teaching appointments have work hour limits). Also, the instructor and the TA should be sure to work together to delegate tasks for the course; specifically, it is valuable to decide who will be responsible for writing email reminders for students or for responding to comments in an informal Q&A space, like CCLE discussion boards or other chat tools.
- For additional strategies, view this webinar on Effective Instructor-TA Communications
- Use the Instructor-TA Communications Checklist and the Establishing Shared Expectations Worksheet with your instructor of record to help set clear goals and expectations.
2. Talk to TAs who have taught the course in the past (if you can).
Benefit from others’ experiences. Talk to others who have taught the class before and get their perspective on what they wish they had known prior to TAing for the course, especially for elements of the course that may be unique to the hybrid or online format. You can anticipate some of their concerns, but learning from others’ experience is often the best way to be prepared for teaching a hybrid or online course.
3. Get comfortable using CCLE, Zoom, and other tools for the course.
As a TA for a hybrid or online course, you’ll spend significantly more time working within the learning management system than you would during a face-to-face class. Before the term begins, spend some time tinkering within the CCLE learning management system, making sure you feel comfortable with all of the tasks you’ll be expected to do. Learn how to integrate Zoom with CCLE and learn key features of running Zoom meetings, like breakout rooms and polls. You will feel more confident as a TA if you are already comfortable within the learning environment. Technical difficulties will still happen regardless of how much you prepare yourself, but confidence within the system goes a long way towards improving your own instruction. Do not hesitate to reach out for support if you’re struggling with the technology.
- A Beginner’s Guide to Remote Teaching (this is a page within a larger site with additional help on online teaching)
- CCLE support for your department or division
- Troubleshooting other apps (Zoom, Box, BOL Logins, etc.)
Additional support may be available for your division (e.g., HumTech,Social Sciences Computing)
4. Understand the course’s major learning outcomes.
In order for you, as a TA, to feel like a central part of the course, it is vital to understand how each task and major assignment contributes to the course’s major learning outcomes. If you do not know why a certain activity is included or how a particular activity will facilitate a particular outcome, it is important to get clarity from the course instructor so you can communicate expectations to students clearly.
Learn more about setting learning objectives and aligning them with activities and assessments in CAT’s Foundations series workshop The Nuts and Bolts of Lesson Planning. The workshop schedule is updated regularly.
5. Know the arc of the course BEFORE the quarter begins in order for all of the elements to be smoothly integrated for the students.
In an online or hybrid course, it is essential to develop a clear, early understanding of how the course will move. Become familiar with the syllabus and the lesson plans so that you feel prepared to anticipate questions during face-to-face times in a hybrid course or during synchronous discussion sections in an online course.
6. Understand your students’ access to technology and other barriers they may be facing to learning online.
The rapid shift to online learning for all UCLA students quickly revealed that many students were facing significant obstacles in accessing learning, such as lack of adequate technology, having no quiet place to study, sharing computers with other family members, being in a completely different time zone, working full time to help support their families, loss of childcare, and the list goes on. Having a clear understanding of what obstacles may be preventing your students from accessing your course and participating fully can help you plan alternate ways for engaging these students. You can use a pre-quarter survey to learn more. In addition, using inclusive teaching strategies helps all students succeed.
- Use this Google form template as a starting point to create your own survey.
- Check out this Inclusive Remote Teaching Checklist to create more effective online learning experiences.
7. Establish clear expectations with students about learning in a hybrid or online environment.
Often, students do not know what to expect from a hybrid or online class and for many UCLA students, your hybrid or online class may be the first one they ever take! Even if the course instructor has already established some of the differences students will experience in a hybrid or online class, be sure to take some extra time to establish your own role in the class and clarify how you will interact with students. For example, explain that you are not online at all times of the day and let them know when you will respond to emails or questions from students. Your students may also need support for the learning tools they will be expected to use. Here are a few resources specifically aimed at students:
8. Develop strategies for building rapport outside of a face-to-face context.
In an online or hybrid course, it can be much harder to build rapport and community with the entire class. However, incorporating small suggestions into the course – like asking students to include a photo of themselves in an avatar or including an activity in a synchronous webinar where students have to share something about themselves – can help build rapport. You may not have the full engagement of a class as you would in a face-to-face environment, but work towards thinking about how you can communicate with students and learn more about them using the tools with which you are equipped.
- For some strategies that current TAs are using, view this webinar on Creating Community Remotely.
- See this checklist for additional ideas: Guide to Creating Community Remotely
9. Pick new tools or technology to use based on the course goals, not the tool’s ‘cool’ factor.
It’s tempting to pick and use new tools just because they seem exciting or have a lot of potential. Hybrid and online courses don’t need to use a panoply of tools to be effective either. Collaborate with your other teammates to decide first what you want students to learn and do. From there, picking an appropriate tool will be much easier.
- Try this Short Guide to Active Learning Strategies for ideas.
10. Have a back-up plan when technology fails.
No matter how well you know the tools and the learning management system, something will likely go wrong during the course of the quarter. Don’t panic! Think through in advance what you’ll do in case a particular tool fails you or doesn’t work well. Be sure to communicate clearly to your students ahead of time what they should do should technology fail.
- For example:
- Always assign a “co-host” to your Zoom session so the meeting can continue in case your internet fails. If the host leaves the meeting without a co-host assigned, the meeting ends for everyone, and it is much harder to get your students back into the Zoom room. If you have a co-host and you lose your connection, the meeting continues until you can rejoin.
- Have an online quiz, activity, or discussion board that students can access to continue the lesson in case something goes wrong.
11. Enjoy the freedom, creativity, and experience you’ll gain!
TAing for a hybrid or online course can afford you with some creative freedom and innovation you may not otherwise have in a face-to-face classroom. Take advantage of that opportunity to reflect on and make thoughtful choices about your teaching!
- Additional online teaching resources:
Click here to download this resource.
A note from CAT staff on Remote Teaching Due to COVID-19
We have worked diligently to curate essential resources and materials for TAs and other instructors to aid you as you continue to teach remotely. We will update this page regularly as new resources come online and as new questions and needs arise. If you have suggestions for additions or specific questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com.
Workshops and Webinars
Leading Discussion Sections Remotely
The aim of this workshop is to help further develop your confidence in your ability to teach remotely by exposing you to a variety of active learning strategies in digital environments. We will help you begin developing a toolkit for engaging your students effectively during an online discussion section, with opportunities to practice these tools.
Creating Community Remotely
Through hands-on activities and small group discussion, uncover best practices for creating community remotely. Watch to learn about some of the tools available, investigate a variety of strategies, and think through how you might implement these strategies in your classroom and in your life.
Effective Instructor-TA Communication: Working Together as a Remote Teaching Team
CAT and CEILS collaborated to create a workshop for faculty and TAs centered around what TAs wish faculty knew about their experience teaching during this extraordinary time. The session is centered around questions of disruptions and difficulties that TAs are experiencing, how faculty and TAs can best communicate with each other, how to manage work expectations in this time of disruption, and how to function as a team in order to meet students’ needs.
Tools and Tutorials
Remote Teaching Tools and Tutorials
All graduate students are eligible for a Zoom Pro license with enhanced instructor features during quarters when they are employed as TAs. Claim yours by logging in at this link: https://ucla.zoom.us/. Use the links below to learn more about Zoom and how to use it effectively for your classroom.
- Getting started with zoom
- Using Zoom within CCLE (UCLA’s preferred method for hosting online class meetings)
- Using Zoom outside of CCLE
- How to set up breakout rooms
- How to use polling in Zoom
- How to change your background in Zoom
- Tips and Tricks – An Educator’s Guide to Zoom
- Zoom support site
Tools for encouraging interaction and engagement
- List of UCLA Approved Remote Teaching Tools
- Polling tools
- Discussion boards / forums (in CCLE)
- Online instructional activities index
- Online annotation tool – Hypothesis (no longer able to add this as an external tool in CCLE, but can still create an outside account. Again, this is not a UCLA sanctioned or supported tool)
- UCLA Library online teaching toolkit (many features can be embedded directly into CCLE to support research and writing)
- How to use the “Workshop” activity to set up peer review in CCLE (moodle)
Accessing campus resources from offsite
Accessibility tools and tutorials
- UCLA Disabilities and Computing Program resources:
- Resources for accessibility and accommodations (including assignment extensions, setting up live captioning, etc.)
- Helpful Document Accessibility Resources
- Making PDFs accessible
- Microsoft Accessibility Checker
- Google tips on document accessibility
- Live captioning:
- PowerPoint 365 will do live captioning while in presentation mode
- Clips (apple) will also do live captioning as you record
- Captioning your recorded lectures or presentations in CCLE
- From the National Deaf Center: How to make your courses accessible for deaf and hard of hearing students