I’ve won the College of Computing Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award

This was announced a few weeks ago, but since I received the award itself today, I figured I’d wait until now to announce it here: I’ve been selected as the recipient of the 2015 Georgia Tech College of Computing Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award for my work on the Fall 2014 Knowledge-Based AI class in the OMSCS. This post is half news post, half blog post.

First of all, I’m grateful to Ashok, the professor for the course (and my PhD adviser) and to the students in the course for their unbelievably kind words during the nominations. Thank you as well to the College of Computing for ultimately selecting me.

This experience has inspired a number of thoughts in my mind, though, that I hope to explore in the coming weeks. One major question I have is: is the role of the teaching assistant more significant in online classes than in on-campus classes? So far, the key determining factor I’ve observed in how well a class is run in the OMS is how involved the head TA is. I could see how that may be true in on-campus classes as well, but in an online class, an enormous responsibility falls on the TA to manually recreate elements of the class experience that happen naturally on-campus. Do we need to re-explore how we choose head TAs based on this potential increased importance? Do we need to reconsider what the responsibilities of a head TA in an online class even ought to be? Do we need to re-examine the qualifications a head TA for an online class ought to have?

The second question I have is a little arrogant, but I’ll mention it anyway. It’s not surprising that I was a good TA in Fall: I have ten years of teaching experience, ten years of experience interacting on online forums (an underrated skill in this setting), ten years of experience constructing assessments in other domains. On top of that, I had more time to devote to TAing the class than most TAs have: my dissertation work was done, and my primary responsibility for the semester was TAing the class. Under those circumstances, it’s no surprise that I did a pretty good job.

We can’t hire someone like me to be a TA every semester. The skillset I just described commands a high salary. Even if it didn’t, simply finding people with that skillset is difficult. Finding 30 people with that skillset, each to run a class? That’s absolutely impossible. We can’t just have a bunch of me TAing every course every semester. So the question then becomes: how do we replicate some of what went well in our course in classes that don’t have the same resources?

That second question is what I’ve been exploring in my new role working with all the classes. That second question is also what I hope to explore soon in this space. Hopefully I’ll catch BuzzFeed’s eye with “10 Mind-Blowing Tricks Your TA Should Use In Your Class!”

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One thought on “I’ve won the College of Computing Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award”

  1. Hello David,

    I am a GT OMSCS student from the Spring 2015 KBAI class. I think it will be nice to have an AI Agent that can work as a TA Assistant. I get this idea from some personal conclusions I had during the Course:

    AI is the transferred and/or enhanced Ability that a Computer System can execute to solve problems of certain level of complexity.

    This ability may be normally are assigned to Humans, but in the absence of them or when they show limitations a Computer System may well be used.

    In the same way you use a Telescope to see the Universe which otherwise you weren’t able to do so, you can use AI Agent as Assistant to help you with any ability you need to transfer to other entities to whom you can not help directly, or any enhanced ability you can not execute (may be not easily) yourself.

    I myself chose for my assignment 7 a “Student MOOC Learning Assistant” which will help me review quickly previous learned material from a MOOC Course for an Exam or for future Project or future Course, taking into account my previous Behavior when seeing the Lectures. These speeds up and makes more efficient your learning process and the application of that knowledge in the Future.

    I encourage you to Read my Assignment 7, and also 8 that talks about how to encourage a student on a learning Platform through capturing Visual expressions. Those will give you an idea of my best intentions to participate in this new trend in Education.

    I also did a peer feedback for an assignment that talks about an agent that may use any information in your smart cell phone to solve intelligently issues in your regard without you asking for it.

    So I believe personal Assistants specially in this new MOOC movement can be used, as Telescopes to see the sky, multiply your TA actions as long as your are at the command.

    One of this TA AI Assistants based on your experience may be used to transfer it to other Head TAs, at least at the beginning. Later it can be customized to other experiences.

    Due to my also expressed interest in the field of education improvement and enhancement, I will be glad if I can help you on this endeavor. Other students could also be interested, I will be for sure.

    Indeed I was planning to develop my assignment 7 this summer on the OpenEDX platform, which I started to learn about and help as a volunteer before starting the GT OMSCS.

    I can also comment these education ideas in Piazza to see if other students add to it in the few days that are left.

    With gratitude for your enthusiasm and hard work, I look forward to see your comments on this.

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