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Incorporate TAs and IAs

IAs play an important role in engaging students with remote learning. By facilitating discussion or lab sections, grading, and holding office hours, IAs are in a position to gain direct insight into students’ prior knowledge in a subject and common areas of confusion, which can help inform course instruction. IAs also engage students by providing regular and timely feedback on student work, and creating community in their remote sections. Below, we share some strategies for integrating IAs into remote courses to foster student engagement, as well as considerations for communicating effectively with your IAs, and resources that the Teaching + Learning Commons offers to support IAs in their teaching roles. 


Integrating Instructional Assistants (IAs) into a Remote Course

IAs can play an important role in gaining insights to students’ prior knowledge and areas of confusion, providing timely feedback, and creating community for the remote students.


For examples, the IAs might:

Have a visible presence for the students , perhaps by setting up an “IA Discussion Board” or “IA Online Office/Chat” through Canvas for students to easily post questions and comments for the IA. (Consider: How often should the IA check this area? What expectations will be shared with students for types of questions to post here and timeliness of response?)

Directly check-in with students during synchronous (real time) class sessions by joining breakout rooms or private chats. (Consider: Should IAs check in with random students/groups? What prompts might IAs ask to uncover if students are on track with the task or concept?)

Moderate questions from students on discussion boards or Canvas chat / Zoom chat to make sure important comments and questions are addressed. (Consider: Should IAs respond to each question? Pull out frequently asked questions? Do students have guidance on the type of questions to ask in public chat vs private chat to the IA or instructor?)

TIP: Having IAs moderate discussion boards for their individual sections can allow for increased community building.

Collect challenges and misconceptions noticed in discussion sections and office hours. (Consider: How should IAs communicate these to the instructor? E.g. shared document, email, etc.)

Exit tickets are another useful way to gather “muddiest points” from students, and can be easily collected remotely via Canvas survey, Google form, or discussion forum.
Regularly request feedback related to technology and learning from students in their sections, to identify what is working well or causing a challenge. This allows the course instructor to reach out to the appropriate campus support

Essential Communication with IAs

Identify and communicate expectations for IA responsibilities, being mindful of what can be done within the contracted workload and instructional responsibilities. Consider having specific check-ins for IAs to provide feedback on their workload in this new environment. (Example of IA responsibility checklist)  

Plan frequent communication with IAs. This is likely a new experience for all, and regular communication both through virtual meetings and being responsive to emails can ease anxiety, increase cohesiveness of instruction and course policies, and give the course instructor insight into what students might be experiencing.

Model and be explicit about expectations for interacting with students, including professionalism in online and written interactions, avoiding grade discussions through email, etc.

Encourage IAs to seek out training through webinars, online workshops, and consultations from the Teaching + Learning Commons, expanding their skill set to support instruction and learning (see additional drawer below for details).

Support for TAs and IAs

Direct your IAs to view the Engaged Teaching Hub's Teaching Support for TAs and Instructional Assistants, Teaching Workshops for Graduate Students and Postdocs, and the List of IA Faculty Advisors.

“Keep Calm and Teach On” Canvas Site

This is a home base for Instructional Assistants (remember, IAs = TAs, instructional apprentices, tutors and readers!) and those preparing to teach as Course Instructors to share strategies, ask questions, and offer support to each other. Created by Graduate Teaching Consultants, for fellow graduate student instructors. 

Join now using this self-enroll link:    

Individual Teaching Support

Feeling overwhelmed by too many resources? We are here for you! Request an individual consultation with one of our graduate teaching consultants for personalized remote instruction and pedagogical support. Email us at or fill out our brief consultation request form and we will respond within 24 business hours.

Resource Guide For Teaching & Instructional Assistants

The Online handbook (Google Doc) addresses common questions about the role of the Instructional Assistant (IA) or Teaching Assistant (TA), teaching strategies, logistics, resources, and support.