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Online TAing Tips

Caltech-Supported Tools

Caltech supported tools:

Some notable tools:

  • Zoom: Video-conferencing tool. Good for lectures, recitations, OH and meetings.
  • Canvas:
  • Gradescope: Online assignment submission and grading platform. Useful for splitting up work with other TAs online (i.e. TAs can grade specific questions). Has dynamic rubrics, handles online regrade requests, and class stats.
  • Google Drive/Docs/Slides: Good for sharing files/videos/lecture recordings. Can work on files collaboratively and easily share with collaborators. Can edit files at the same time.

Some classes are using Discord to coordinate communications between instructors and students!


  • FERPA are confidentiality provisions specified by the United States Department of Education.
  • You NEED to maintain FERPA for online teaching as well.
  • Please review the following links to understand the policies around privacy and sharing materials online:
  • Caltech now has an internal contract with Piazza so that materials may now be posted on Piazza without students having to worry about FERPA (even though it is a third-party site).

Online Office Hour Suggestions

  • General OH tip still applies - make sure to prepare ahead of time: check that everything works, you know the materials, etc.
  • 1:1 OH: Good for small class sizes - meet with students by appointment. Either set up a time for student to drop by and have students in waiting rooms, and letting students in 1 by 1. Best to have some sort of queue system in this case for the students.
  • Group Discussions: Split students into groups ahead of time and send them different zoom links, or split students into Zoom breakout rooms. Remember to check up on the students in each room. Could also share Google docs/slides for students to work on collaboratively.
  • Hybrid: Use the main Zoom room to address general questions, and breakout rooms for students with individual questions. May be helpful to have more than one TA (someone to move between the breakout rooms and another TA to answer general questions in the main room).
  • Lecture-style OH: Good for larger classes and OHs. Can take questions from students ahead of time, or using the chat box during OH, and explain the same questions to all students.
  • Different types of OH queues:
    1. .Zoom waiting rooms.
    2. Some instructors have written a custom queue for your class.
    3. A list of students with Zoom links on Google sheets/docs, and TAs
    move between links.
    4. Survey class ahead of time on the questions/concepts they want to
    ask, and go through each question based on number of people for
    each question.
  • Borrow iPad from Caltech for OH if class has a lot of drawings/equations.

Online Debugging

  • Remember that if someone shares their screen, all students can see it - try to help people debug in own Zoom session.

Challenges/Tips for Online Teaching

  • Set up expectations for how to use tools ahead of time (i.e. letting students know to feel free to interrupt if they have questions, or type in chat or use the hand raising icon in Zoom. Let students know where the hand raising icon is or where the chat window is since not everyone may be familiar with Zoom).
  • Active learning to keep students engaged: for example, asking students a question, or raise your hand icon if you've looked at the homework for next week. Give students some time to respond since people need time to unmute/type in chat.
  • Encourage student chats in small groups by using breakout rooms.
  • Remember that some students are in different timezones and cannot make it to all lecture times (recording lectures are important).
  • Remember that some students may not have good internet connections.
  • Get familiar with your teaching tools before your OH/lecture, maybe ask a friend to practice briefly to check the connection if this is your first time.
  • Ask for student feedback (via Piazza, Email or Google forms).
  • Reach out to CMS TA Fellow, CTLO or instructor for help if needed!!