Graduate Teaching Assistant Online Course Design Boot Camp: Peer-to-Peer Onboarding and Training

Concurrent Session 4
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

As graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) are often responsible for online course design, there is a need for targeted training to ensure their success. This panel gathers GTAs, designers and administrators in a discussion around the creation of a boot camp on online course design, designed and facilitated by the GTAs.


Angela Gunder serves as Director of Instructional Design and Curriculum Development for the Office of Digital Learning at The University of Arizona. Angela came into instructional design rather circuitously, helming large-scale site designs as webmaster for The City College of New York, the honors college at ASU, and Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA).  Her over fifteen year career as a designer for higher education informs her instructional design practice, where she leverages her expertise in usability, visual communication, programming, and standards-based online learning. Angela holds a B.S. in Computer Science and Fine Art from Fordham University, and a M.Ed. in Education Technology from Arizona State University.  Prior to her position at UA, she was a member of NOVA’s instructional design team, supporting over 23,000 students in 550 unique courses.   Angela is an Associate Editor for the Teacher Education Board of MERLOT, and a Quality Matters certified peer reviewer and online facilitator.  Her research interests include technology for second language acquisition, open educational resources, and emerging technology to promote digital literacy. A voracious culinary nerd, Angela spends her free time composing, cooking and photographing original recipes for her food blog.
Dr. Vincent Del Casino is Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and San Jose State University. Previously, he was Vice President for Academic Initiatives and Student Success. He oversaw programmatic and curricular development for online learning and played a leadership in the expansion of digital learning experiences on campus more broadly. He also oversees the University of Arizona’s 100% Engagement Program. He also oversaw four core areas of student success and retention programming at the university, including C.A.T.S. Academic Center, the Salt Center, Think Tank, and Academic Success and Achievement. Before taking up his post as Vice President, Dr. Del Casino was Vice Provost for Digital Learning and Student Engagement/Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management (2014-2017) and Associate Dean in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (2011-2014) at the University of Arizona. He also is a Professor of Geography and Development with interests in social and cultural geography, health geography, geographic thought and history, sexuality studies, HIV/AIDS, and sexual and health politics in Southeast Asia and the United States. He has collectively published five single-authored, co-authored, and edited books as well as over 30 articles and invited book chapters. He has held grants from the Metrans Transportation Center of the University of Southern California and the University-wide AIDS Research Foundation of the University of California and been part of collaborative research funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services administration (SAMSHA). He has held a Visiting Research Fellowship at The Australian National University and given numerous conference presentations and invited lectures at a number of national and international venues. For more information on Dr. Del Casino's research and teaching profile, click
Kristen Chorba is a Curriculum Development Specialist for the Office of Digital Learning. Before coming to The University of Arizona, Kristen worked as an instructional designer for the College of Communication and Information at Kent State University, where she collaborated with faculty to design and build online courses in Communication Studies, Journalism and Mass Communications, Library and Information Sciences, and Visual Communication Design. Kristen earned a Ph.D. in educational psychology from Kent State University, as well as a master’s degree in higher education administration and a certificate in college teaching. The focus of her dissertation research was a peer mentoring project, which had originally been created by a colleague to support undergraduate teacher education majors. Kristen’s dissertation research incorporated reflecting processes, photo elicitation, and phenomenological interviewing to describe the experiences of the mentors who participated in this mentoring project and aims to continue the conversation regarding what it is to be a mentor. This research project is ongoing and continues to evolve. Kristen’s research interests include teacher education, mentoring, relational learning, and online education. She has presented her research locally, regionally, and nationally. In addition to her work in instructional design, Kristen has taught undergraduate educational psychology, graduate learning theories, and, most recently, designed an online workshop about peer mentoring, which she currently teaches for Kent State University. In her free time, Kristen practices yoga, reads about health and wellness-related topics, and travels.
Nicole Schmidt is a Course Support Specialist at the Office of Digital Learning and a PhD candidate in the Second Language Teaching and Acquisition (SLAT) program, both at the University of Arizona. She has taught learners of English in Spain, the Netherlands, Japan, and the United States over the past decade. She currently lives in Tucson, Arizona, where she researches the use of digital technologies in the ESL university writing classroom.
My name is Janelle Moser, a first year SLAT student. I hold a BA in International Affairs/Middle East Studies from the George Washington University. It was there that I developed an interest in Arabic language and culture. This led me to a short stay in Lebanon after graduation and eventually to an MA in Middle East Studies and Linguistics here at the University of Arizona. I have studied Arabic in Beirut, Irbid, Jordan, and most recently on year-long fellowship in Cairo and Amman through the Center for Arabic Study Abroad. My research interests center on the challenges and opportunities for adult non-native learners of Arabic as a Foreign Language from both a Psycholinguistic and Pedagogical perspective. I am interested in learning more about the contents and arrangement of the non-native Arabic mental lexicon throughout the learning life cycle. I am also interested in Pedagogy, Program Administration, and Curriculum Design, which I got a bit of a taste for this past summer as Resident Director for the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) Program in Amman, Jordan as well as in my current position as a GA within the Arizona Arabic Language Flagship Program.

Extended Abstract

With the ubiquity of online course offerings, there is a fundamental responsibility to our students that we design learning environments that offer the same level of engagement, collegiality, collaboration and academic rigor as the face-to-face (F2F) offerings on campus.  In that our graduate assistants are often tasked with the aforementioned responsibility of shouldering the design of fully-online courses, there is a need for targeted support and resources to help them to be successful.  In Spring of 2016, a group of graduate teaching assistants at The University of Arizona were asked to answer two key questions for their peers related to the aforementioned challenge:

  1. What does an effective, well-designed online course actually look like?
  2. What resources are available at The University of Arizona to support the design of a good online course?

Featuring members of the UA Online community, including administrators, instructional designers, and graduate teaching assistants, this panel will discuss the experience of mobilizing a team of graduate students in providing to their peers critical instructional support for the design and development of online courses.  Under the guidance of the UA Online instructional design team, the students constructed, deployed and measured the effectiveness of a series of interactive, user-centered learning modules, which were offered fully-online within the learning management system D2L.  The students sought to address common myths and misconceptions of online course design held by their peers, offer best practices for effective design work, and connect their fellow graduate teaching assistants to the myriad technology tools currently available at The University of Arizona.

This high-energy, interactive panel discussion will invite participants to explore the following questions relating to the redefining and support of graduate teaching assistants designing and facilitating online courses:

  • How can we effectively prepare our graduate teaching assistants for the challenges and opportunities afforded by the task of designing online courses?
  • How can we support our graduate teaching assistants in reimagining the online classroom as a constructivist, student-centered learning environment?
  • How can we enrich our graduate teaching assistants' professional and personal growth with a student-voiced and student-facilitated resource?
  • What innovative approaches and emerging technology can we leverage to support our graduate teaching assistants in accomplishing all of the aforementioned tasks?

In addition to posing questions to the members of the panel, participants will be encouraged to share their own challenges and successes in successfully onboarding and mentoring graduate teaching assistants in designing and facilitating fully-online courses.  Backchannelling will be encouraged using the polling tool so as to support a lively discourse amongst participants, and keep the conversation alive past the session and conference end.  Ultimately, participants in this session will leave with new perspectives on the essential effective practices to implement at their home institutions.