Guiding Principles for Teaching Fellows

Faculty, teaching fellows, and staff across the University are working together to ensure students’ learning experiences maintain the academic rigor associated with residential learning experiences. Your first online class session, section, or office hours might feel daunting for both you and your students. Teaching Fellows should focus on the following recommendations and considerations as Yale transitions to an online learning format:


Contact the lead faculty member and any other teaching fellows in your course to understand and develop a joint plan for academic continuity. While working together, create a uniform set of expectations for student assignments and participation across all sections. You may want to agree on a set number of online sessions and offline assignments. Try to maintain an equal division of work among teaching fellows and faculty members to ensure you experience a balanced workload, per Yale guidelines for teaching fellows.


Communicate with students about their learning goals and modified course expectations:

  • What counts as participation in lectures and sections?

  • Have assignment due dates shifted?

  • What format should students use for assignments?

  • How should students submit assignments?

  • How can students contact you with questions or concerns?

  • When will you respond to questions?

Hosting office hours

After sharing how students can participate in online office hours, determine how you plan to respond to questions in an online format. Will you group students according to their questions? Will you ask them to work in pairs or small groups? Will you host breakout rooms on Zoom? How will you use email to conduct office hours?

Leading online sections

As you prepare to lead an online section, think about limitations, challenges, and opportunities presented by an online format. How can you use a combination of offline assignments and shorter online meetings to achieve the same goals? How can you use features within Zoom to engage students (e.g. sharing their screens, using the Chat window, etc.)?

Assignments might include:

  • online discussions around a question you post

  • reflective writing shared with you or the entire class

  • low-stakes quizzes, problem-sets, or worksheets provide extra practice

Try to minimize the number of tools and platforms you use to lead sections or course sessions. Students will feel overwhelmed if you introduce too many technology solutions. Avoid too many transitions between parts of a class or section.

Careful planning before each section will ensure students have a better learning experience. You might consider writing out a list of discussion questions or sketching out the logistics of any activity. The challenges of an online learning environment make it harder to enact spontaneous ideas.

Try your best to express the same social cues you would use during an in-person section or class, greet students as they join your session and encourage people to use their cameras when they participate online. Manage discussions by using the “spotlight” feature in Zoom, calling on students by name, and by monitoring the chat window. Remember to pause after asking a question as you will experience a slight delay. Sections work best when one to two people have their microphone on; therefore, you might need to remind students to unmute their microphone when you ask them to answer a question.

Above all, do not feel like you are alone in this endeavor. The entire University is working to implement a new teaching and learning model. You might not master running an online session the first time. If you run into difficulties, indicate that you’ll need time to find a solution or learn the technology.

Share Feedback

Do you have other questions? Please contact us with questions.