Tips to Keep an Online Teaching Assistant On Track

This past quarter (Fall 2012) I had the opportunity to complete my first ever teaching assistantship online. It was in LIS570, a research methods course at the University of Washington’s Information School. It provided me with many great lessons as the relate to teaching online. I walked away at the end of the quarter with several thoughts about things that went well and things should be changed in the future. From that I’ve assembled “Lassana Magassa’s Online Teaching  Best Practices List”

Whether you have or will be teaching an asynchronous online course in the near future you will find this list very helpful. I know if I had seen this before I began as a teaching assistant some things might have turned out a little differently.

1. Layout all the rules of engagement early on: Set the students up for success. Let them know some basic things like file name saving convention, include page number & name in the body of documents, accepted formats (.doc; .pdf), that going over the page limit will cause you to lose points, etc.

2. Have a rubric for everything: There is nothing more frustrating as a student then getting a lower grade then you expected. The best way to avoid this is to provide students with a detailed rubric. The rubric should not only tell them what the grading criteria is and the grading range is, but it should also include what specific content things denotes a particular grade. For example:

  • Unsatisfactory: Zero example of x, y and z.
  • Satisfactory: Between one and two examples of x, y and z.
  • Excellent: Over five examples of x, y and z.

3. Keep course web site up to date: The web site is the main point of contact for students! Make sure it always reflects the most accurate information. For example if there was an assignment in week 7 that you decided in week 3 doesn’t need to be there, remove it from the web site. Keeping it up there may cause tired, overworked and zealous graduate students to complete an assignment that will not be graded.

4.Be sure assignment can be completed across different versions of a software product: The importance of ensuring that assignments that depend/require the use of third-party software products like Microsoft Excel work across different platforms cannot be overstated. Failing to do so can be extremely frustrating for students and may lead them to have some anxiety, especially if it is a technical assignment.

5. Make your presence felt: Unlike offline courses, online courses do not offer as many opportunities for the instructor or teaching assistant to interact with and get to know the students enrolled in the class. Likewise it doesn’t allow to students to get to know the instructor. Create opportunities that allow students to learn about you and you to learn about your students! Activities that can help support such a goal include:

  • Having everyone create a 2 minute video introduction of themselves at the beginning of the quarter
  • Conversing with students on the message board (not just answering questions or posting assignments)
  • Sending out a weekly e-mail informing student what’s going on that week
  • Creating a weekly five-minute video highlighting contributions made by students (via their message board posts, homework, quizzes, etc.)
  • Contact students whose participation drop-off towards the middle of the quarter to figure out whats going on? Are they okay? Encourage them to participate.

There is much more to share, but this should be enough to get you on your way. Enjoy!

Did I miss anything? If so, use the comment box to let me know!


1 comment to Tips to Keep an Online Teaching Assistant On Track

  • Sassygalleria
    January 21, 2013 at 1:46 am | Reply

    Hey Harlem Librarian.. Long time! It’s your friend from Baltimore/ I stopped by to say hello.
    Well, truthfully I don’t even know how I got here. If you’ve my number call me 🙂 Mimi

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