As UCI transitioned to a remote setting amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, challenges were inevitable. However, the campus came together and adapted to this difficult situation, reaffirming a commitment to pedagogical innovation and educational accessibility.
At the outset of the transition, UCI’s graduate students found themselves in a unique and challenging position. In addition to adjusting to their own remote learning and interruptions to their academic plans, many of them also served as instructors and TAs. In their teaching role, they had to quickly restructure courses for their students while learning how to use new technology and address student concerns.
Campus Supports Graduate Students as Learners
UCI Graduate Division made substantial, rapid changes to deal with the emerging and ever-changing context of graduate education. From dropping processing fees to funding hundreds of new fellowships, Graduate Division and Graduate Council, the Academic Senate committee on graduate education, worked towards maximizing flexibility and being as understanding as possible.
UCI Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation (DTEI) assisted faculty teaching graduate courses as they adopted effective online teaching methods, while all central campus services transitioned to an online space. This included all Graduate Research Center services, which have proved instrumental to the success of UCI’s graduate scholars over the years. These services included writing consultants, tutoring, access to certificate programs, career advice and more.
Campus Supports Graduate Students as Instructors and TAs
To assist the graduate students in teaching assistant (TA) and instructional positions, DTEI provided a range of much-needed guidance. The DTEI team developed a variety of tools and resources to help graduate students adapt to the new demands of teaching in a digital setting. For instance, the team moved all of their regular programs and courses to a digital format to ensure that all graduate students had access to important training and development resources. The team also modified their usual workshop offerings to include advice for remote teaching. Because of these adjustments, the team has seen increased interest and participation in these workshops.
Both DTEI and Graduate Division made serving graduate students a priority. The DTEI team offered virtual office hours specifically for graduate students to offer support for the technological issues that arose in real-time. Likewise, Graduate Dean Gillian Hayes takes time out her day to meet with students individually and listen, guide and help address challenges.
Speaking on the commitment of UCI’s graduate students, DTEI’s Director of Graduate Student Instruction Development Danny Mann says,
We are so proud of our graduate students for their sustained dedication to student learning during the transition to remote teaching. In addition to strengthening their pedagogical knowledge and skills, they continue to build supportive interdisciplinary communities, which we deeply value and promote at DTEI.
Preparations for Summer, Fall and Beyond
In preparation for a remote Summer Session, DTEI partnered with the Division of Summer Session to develop the Summer Teaching Apprenticeship Program. Graduate students participating in this program will receive teaching training, practice and mentorship from Director Mann as well as UCI faculty. Program participants will be given the opportunity to teach their own course during Summer Session. To further prepare graduate students for the demands of remote teaching this summer, Director Mann and DTEI’s Director of Learning Experience Design & Online Education Megan Linos collaborated to create the new Summer Remote Teaching Institute.
As the campus is still determining when and at what level in-person teaching on campus will resume, the DTEI team has taken steps to continue training for incoming TAs for the 2020-21 academic year. For the first time ever, DTEI’s Pedagogical Fellows Program will offer its TA Professional Development Program in a fully remote format. This proactive measure ensures that UCI’s new group of TAs are adequately prepared to offer UCI’s undergraduates the top-tier education they deserve.
Accolades for Support
The efforts of the DTEI team have not gone unnoticed, as graduate students have expressed their gratitude. Students like Ph.D. candidate Theresa Duong from the Program in Public Health have directly benefited from all digital teaching tools and resources the team has provided.
DTEI has supported me in learning how to use Zoom features for office hours, breakout rooms, and best practices for online classroom management. Their guidance has been instrumental to helping me feel less stressed overall.
Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate Division Gillian Hayes seconds this sentiment as she comments,
Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning Dennin and the Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation team have been instrumental in helping our graduate students adjust to not only remote learning, but teaching as well. Their best practices combined with a knowledgeable team has helped turn a less than ideal remote teaching situation into something very manageable.
While adapting to the changing conditions brought about by this global pandemic is undeniably difficult, graduate students can find comfort in the support offered by the DTEI team and UCI’s campus as a whole. For more information on UCI’s campus-wide transition to remote teaching, click here. For more information on DTEI’s programs and resources for graduate students, click here.