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Faculty and GA Roles in Online Courses

The development and teaching of an online or hybrid course involves a wide range of tasks, a number of which are unique to the online environment. For example, in addition to course design and development, which is common to both face-to-face and online courses, there can be a larger degree of interactivity in online/hybrid courses, some aspects of which simply don't exist in a face-to-face course (such as online discussion boards and online chats).

Other differences that often occur between online/hybrid courses and face-to-face courses include a large number of emails from students to faculty, the necessity to manage and assess groups of students in an online environment, and the requirement to develop rubrics to assist in grading online assignments and discussion posts. Students often expect online faculty to be available much more frequently (via online resources such as email) than they are during the usual office hours, and unless managed carefully, this can become burdensome. Graduate Assistants (GA) can play a large role in helping the faculty member to deal with these issues that are unique to online courses.

Some of the tasks mentioned above should only be accomplished by the faculty member responsible for the online course; other tasks can be performed by either the faculty member or GAs when they have been provided with sufficient training. For many reasons, online course development and teaching can often require a substantial commitment of faculty time, and GAs can often help lighten this load when they are used in an effective manner. This article will provide you with information about the different roles that can be played by faculty and GAs in the performance of the tasks that lead to the successful development and teaching of an effective online or hybrid course.

Roles Generally Performed by the Faculty Member

  • Instructional design of the course (such as organizing content, designing presentation strategies, and addressing different learning styles)*
  • Course content selection and/or development (if this requires a high level of expertise)
  • Managing GAs/TAs (if there are any)
  • Managing the online environment of the course (or supervising GAs who are tasked with this responsibility)
  • Resolving any disputes between students and GAs such as in grading

*Note: Instructional design assistance is also provided by the Office of Distance Learning (ODL).


Roles That Can Be Performed by Either the Faculty Member or a GA

Note: Training for a GA may be required to perform the following tasks.

  • Media selection and/or development
  • Blackboard course site creation
  • Assessing learners
  • Clarifying course assignments and content (provided the GA has sufficient expertise)
  • Providing technical support with the online functioning of the course
  • Basic communication, whether synchronous or asynchronous (such as via phone or email)
  • Moderating discussion boards and chats


Roles That Can Only Be Performed by the GA

  • Acting as a liaison between the students and the faculty member.

Online and/or hybrid courses often are large, with a lot of necessary interaction between the students and the faculty member. The GA can often handle a large amount of this interaction.

The above list does not include every possible role for the faculty member and GA in the development and teaching of online or hybrid courses. Please discuss this further with your ODL consultant.

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  • 13-Feb-2020
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