Teaching Learning Continuity GTAs

Teaching Continuity for Graduate Teaching Assistants - Communicating with Students

Maintain communication

Plan for frequent communication with instructor(s) of record and students.

Remember to set appropriate boundaries around your availability for communications – just because you are working online doesn’t mean that you need to respond at all hours.  Discuss appropriate response guidelines with your course instructor and other GATs, i.e., answering emails 3 times a day, responding within 24 hours, etc. Then share that info with students.

  • Use the Announcements function in D2L to keep students updated on essential information. This keeps the most current information at the front of the D2L course shell.
  • Create a FAQ page in D2L. Once you get a sense of what students are unsure or concerned about, start adding information to a FAQ page in the Content area of D2L. Encourage students to check it regularly; they can receive notifications when this information is updated. This is a more effective strategy than responding to numerous emails with the same questions.
  • Hold 1:1 meetings with instructors or students via Zoom (with or without video). Sometimes a short, live conversation can save a flurry of back-and-forth emails.
  • Set up a Zoom meeting
  • Accessing Zoom from D2L

Hold virtual office hours

Even though you aren’t meeting on campus, you can still hold regular office hours to meet with individuals and/or groups of students.    

Tips and best practices

  • Email students to let them know the specific date and time you will be available online.
  • If possible, be consistent with the days and times you are available for virtual office hours.
  • Consider using the waiting room feature. You can use the waiting room feature in conjunction with your Personal Meeting Room. This will allow you to use the same meeting link for all of your office hour sessions throughout the semester, but to admit only one student at a time into a meeting for privacy. You can still have students sign up for a specific time slot on a calendar or spreadsheet to avoid long wait times. 
  • Log in early. You can mute your mic and camera until you’re ready to begin.
  • You can share documents, screens, or a live whiteboard during a Zoom session.

Other resources for virtual office hours:

Facilitate discussions online

In remote learning courses, the D2L discussion forum can be an important way for students to connect with each other to share and enhance their learning. 


  • Consider including a Virtual Café – a separate Discussion area for more informal, sometimes off-topic social exchanges among students. This helps to humanize the course and encourage questions and advice about important topics like how to be successful in the remote environment. Establish guidelines for appropriate and respectful discussions.
  • Asynchronous discussions provide more flexibility for students and GATs/instructors

Best practices for setting up and facilitating online discussions

  • Clearly communicate with your students about your expectations for online discussions: how many posts are student expected to contribute? Is there any deadline for those posts? How are students graded? 
  • Connect course materials with the design of online discussions prompts or questions. 
  • Ask thought-provoking questions to get students started and encourage students to ask their own questions.

Other resources for online discussions


For courses with labs as a component of the course, please speak with your instructor about the plan for lab work in a remote or online format.

Did you know that many universities are sharing their virtual lab resources?


Related Content

Teaching Continuity for Graduate Teaching Assistants - Assessment 


Teaching Continuity Essentials


Taking care of yourself

We know that GATs are often the first point of contact for students. During this challenging time, you may become aware of students who need extra support. 

Mental wellness - If you or a student would like to talk to someone who can listen, support, and help focus on learning and wellness, please reach out to the UCalgary resources. Student mental health support is still available at UCalgary through Student Wellness Services and our community partners. Find what’s right for you.

If you suspect that a student or peer may be in crisis, please contact the Student at Risk Team.

Physical wellness - Please ensure that you are taking appropriate precautions for your own physical health (i.e., hand washing, social distancing, etc.), but also try to maintain healthy eating, sleeping, and exercise despite your changing routine. Even just a walk outside in the fresh air is a positive move!  If you do become ill, please let your instructor of record know as soon as possible.

Adjusting to remote learning

Here are some great resources for you and to share with students: