TA Guidelines to Teaching Remotely
Courses taught remotely differ vastly from traditional in-person courses. These Include:
- Students spread over the globe in different time zones.
- Students with varying cultural backgrounds which cannot be as effectively catered to as in the classroom.
- Communication issues arising from power and internet failures.
- Conducting exams remotely
- Ensuring students stay on track and engaged
These challenges should not be underestimated. A lot of hard work goes into ensuring both the university and the students are successful in conducting courses online and the TAs are a crucial part of the whole process. This document provides some guidelines along with expectations for TAs that shall be assisting with an online class.
- Be Professional & Dependable
- Complete assigned duties promptly
- Participate in lecture, lab, recitations, PSO, TA meetings, office hours, exams, etc as required by supervisor
- Use polite, respectful behavior to all regardless of background in accordance with University policy
- Be Helpful
- To the students
- To the faculty/instructor
- To your fellow TAs
- Be Effective
- Complete TA training as directed by the CS department
- Create a positive environment for learning
- Seek advice/additional training as needed
Logistics & Course Policies
- Confirm your duties with your Instructor, whether it's Piazza, Grading, Virtual Lab. Virtual Office Hours, etc.
- Know the expected response time frame in which to expect a response to a query, e.g. 24 hours for email reply.
- Familiarize yourselves with all the course material, website (Blackboard, Piazza), where to find the textbook and how long shall it take for students to obtain etc.
- Make sure you know how the exams (if any) will be conducted, and be familiar with any requirements, e.g. if an in person proctor would be required, if the proctor shall be assigned by the course staff or found by the students themselves? More guidance on this will be coming.
- Know your expected schedule of your (weekly) help sessions, and clearly communicate it to the teaching staff and students. This would require you to know the students as they might be in different time zones.
- Find out how your office hours will be held. Live discussion, video, voice only, or chat only? Get familiar with the resources, or any software, required for those methods.
Assessments and Grading
- Make sure you know how assignments will be released and collected, and how grades will be communicated to the students. Always use secure channels, such as uploads to the Learning Management System, and never email students their assignments or their grades, or have them e-mail their submissions to you.
- Provide rapid and personalized feedback. Assignments should be graded and returned within a week after they are due (or according to the course logistics). Feedback , if manually graded, should be detailed, rather than at a high level, e.g. “your code returned <this output> for <this test case>, while <correct output is this>”, is much better in- stead of “your code broke 4 out of 10 test cases”.
- Always use grading rubrics to ensure uniformity across graders and across student assignments. Gradescope’s adaptive rubric is recommended for manually grading handwritten assignments.
Teaching & Interaction
- Keep track of each student’s progress. If a student is found to be struggling, personalized attention might be required and beneficial to all parties. Any resources to help them can be pointed out.
- All emails and questions on forums like piazza should be answered within a reasonable time frame, usually within 24-hours. Communicate this expected time frame to the students at the start.
- Try to keep office hours, labs, and PSOs to your originally schedule hours (Local Purdue Time)
- Encourage student participation in discussion forums (Piazza, LMS, etc.)
- Be alert to possible academic dishonesty. Communicate the policy regarding academic integrity for the course to all students (and staff). Post it on all forums too. Some reminders while answering questions can be useful too. Tools are available for checking assignments (Turnitin & MOSS)
- When giving pointers to course video or lecture slides etc., always try to be specific, e.g. “slide number 5 of lecture 3 available at <link> mentions..”
- Practice good Internet Etiquette when responding to students on online platforms.
Internet Etiquette (Netiquette) & Moderation
Interactions in an online classroom are mostly in written form. The ability to write is necessary, but you also need to understand what is considered appropriate when communicating online. The word "netiquette" is short for "Internet etiquette." Rules of netiquette have grown organically with the growth of the Internet to help users act responsibly when they access or transmit information online. As a TA, you should be aware of the common rules of netiquette for the Web and be ready to moderate & employ a communication style that follows these guidelines.
- Wait to respond to a message that is negative in nature, provide a constructive level headed response.
- Do not mention student names when making public posts or replying to students on Piazza.
- Be considerate. Rude or threatening language, inflammatory assertions (often referred to as "flaming"), personal attacks, and other inappropriate communication will not be tolerated.
- Never post a message that is in all capital letters — it comes across to the reader as SHOUTING! Use boldface and italics sparingly, as they can denote sarcasm.
- Always practice good grammar, punctuation, and composition. This shows that you have taken the time to craft your response and that you respect your classmates' work.
- Keep in mind that online discussion forums are meant to be constructive exchanges and to promote an open learning environment.
- Be respectful and treat everyone as you would want to be treated yourself.
- Use spell check!
- If discussion gets out of hand, please ask another party (Like the instructor) to step in.
Using a webcam in an online meeting room requires thought and consideration for the netiquette environment. Keep your surroundings free of clutter and distraction. Do not allow guests or other individuals to enter the webcam view. Be sure your attire and background are appropriate and cannot be considered unprofessional. If in doubt, turn off your camera.