Transitioning Back to Campus: How DTEI Grad Fellows Are Facilitating the Shift to Post-Pandemic Instruction

 

At the University of California, Irvine (UCI), departments across campus are unified by their goal of empowering students to succeed here at UCI and beyond. Programs like the Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation’s (DTEI) Graduate Fellows Program represent the commitment to supporting the success of graduate students who want to pursue a career in education.

Led by Daniel Mann, Director of Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Scholar Instructional Development at the DTEI, and backed by Vice Provost for Graduate Education Gillian Hayes and Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning Michael Dennin, the DTEI Graduate Fellows Program provides several benefits. First, it offers graduate students training and professional development opportunities that they can leverage at UCI and in their future teaching careers. Second, it cultivates a pool of well-trained graduate students that can provide faculty support and assistance with preparing courses.

Established in Summer 2020, the program helped UCI prepare for fully remote teaching in the 2020-21 academic year. The goal was to train graduate students to assist faculty in developing remote courses. For instance, the 2020 Graduate Fellows received training on essential tools such as Zoom, Canvas, and YuJa. Program participants learned best practices for encouraging student engagement, hosting virtual office hours, and managing online classroom environments. Then, the Graduate Fellows put their training to use throughout the pandemic as they worked with faculty to offer students the best remote learning experience possible.

Now, as UCI looks forward to returning to in-person instruction, the DTEI has adapted the program to develop essential resources to support a transition to post-pandemic instruction. The 2021 iteration of the program will help faculty and fellows leverage assets developed during the remote instruction period for hybrid course delivery for the 2021-22 academic year and beyond. Specifically, the program focuses on repurposing online instructional materials, video lectures, and Canvas discussion pages for in-person courses.

This year, the program covered subjects such as course design, hybrid classrooms, building flexibility into a course, and most importantly, building an inclusive classroom environment,” says Ian Baran, a PhD candidate in Urban Policy and Planning and 2020 Grad Fellow who returned to train faculty participating in the 2021 program. “These topics are extremely valuable to any classroom, whether online or in-person, and really work to meet the needs of students at UCI.

According to Daniel Mann, the program highlights the importance of fostering teaching-related collaborations between graduate students and faculty. He explains:

“We’re excited to bring back the Graduate Fellows Program after a successful pilot in 2020 because it shows UCI’s dedication to fostering inclusive teaching through faculty and graduate student collaboration and development.”

Ellen Kladky, PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology who has participated in both the 2020 and 2021 iterations of the program, also emphasizes how the program fosters mutually beneficial partnerships:

Something I really value about the program is that it creates a symbiotic relationship between the Grad Fellows and the faculty we are working with. In my experience, Fellows are able to meaningfully help the faculty—whether it is through technical help and resources, advice about the best practices for remote teaching, or ideas for improving course accessibility and engagement. But, at the same time, we are working with faculty who have decades of experience teaching, so it is a great learning experience to see what they think about as they design a syllabus and prepare class materials.” 

For more information on the DTEI Graduate Fellows Program, contact Mayank Verma at mayankv@uci.edu. To learn more about the DTEI and its various services and resources, visit their website here