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Creating a Diverse and Inclusive STEM-eLearning Environment through an Online Graduate Teaching Assistant Training Module

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2019 Fall Mid Atlantic States Conference


New York, New York

Publication Date

November 1, 2019

Start Date

November 1, 2019

End Date

November 30, 2019

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Hui-Ching Kayla Hsu New York University

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Hui-Ching Kayla Hsu is a research assistant professor and instructional designer at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Her research focuses on engineering education, online learning development, and motivation to learn. She received her doctoral degree in Learning Design and Technology from Purdue University, where she worked at the Center for Instructional Excellence for four years. She strives to combine research-proven pedagogy and innovative technology in the course she designs to offer students an active learning environment. Because of her previous career as a journalist and internship at the United Nations, she is highly aware of her social responsibility as a global citizen. She would like to work with educators in the STEM fields to develop the next generation of engineers who can be catalysts in solving strategic challenges of the global society.

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This presentation will demonstrate an online graduate teaching assistant training module that aims to embrace diversity and promote inclusion in online programs offered by an engineering school. Located at the heart of a metropolitan area, our institution is diverse in our student body as well as in faculty and teaching assistant composition. When we expanded our programs into online learning environments, we realize that the importance of promoting inclusion becomes even greater. One of our online programs is a bridge program that encourages people with non-STEM majors to step into the STEM fields. The transition to a different discipline adds a layer of complexity for students and amplifies a need for us to recognize their different academic and cultural backgrounds.

Graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) have a substantial opportunity to impact student perceptions of disciplinary knowledge due to their higher level of interaction with students. In some research-oriented universities, GTAs cover more than 90% of laboratory sections. Therefore, enhancing their teaching practice will directly influence students’ learning experience. In an online learning environment, some students perceive a lower degree of social presence of others in the course, which might result in a feeling of isolation. Compared to a face-to-face classroom, there are more barriers when forming an online learning community that promotes an inclusive learning experience. These findings from previous studies prompt us to create a training module for our GTAs to recognize student backgrounds in their online classrooms.

The presentation will highlight different elements of our GTA training module, Gateway to Online Teaching, with a focus on one of the main topics, Cultural Awareness for an Inclusive Classroom. This topic starts with a scenario in which a student is having issues with her online statistics instructor. The GTAs are invited to jot down their thoughts after reading this student’s experience. In the following section, the GTAs are asked to reflect upon this activity and examine if they are making assumptions towards certain cultures or socioeconomic groups. To wrap up, the final section covers practices that are suggested by literature to promote an inclusive online learning environment. References are provided for the GTAs to engage in further readings. To enhance GTA’s learning experience with this online module, we also designed a game for them to play as well as to reinforce the concepts they gain from the training module. A QR code is provided for conference patrons to access the training module and the bonus game.

Hsu, H. K. (2019, November), Creating a Diverse and Inclusive STEM-eLearning Environment through an Online Graduate Teaching Assistant Training Module Paper presented at 2019 Fall Mid Atlantic States Conference, New York, New York.

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