UCLA Computer Science TA FAQ

This document answers some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Teaching Assistants (TAs) in the UCLA Computer Science Department.

Feel free to add, correct, or organize the information in this document, and share YOUR experience. If you are a TAC, you should have write permission to this file: /u/class/ta/faq.html

On the Web this document is http://www.cs.ucla.edu/classes/ta/faq.html.


QUESTIONS


Getting Started
Who is the TA Coordinator (TAC) for the dept?
Who were the TACs of the past?
What courses do I put on my study list?
How do I receive TA notices?
What is there to know about paychecks and paperwork?
Where can I find out what old TA's did?
Who are the TAs for the past few quarters?


Duties and Responsibilities
What are "Discussion Sections"?
What are "Lab Sections"?
What about Lectures?
How many office hours do I need to hold?
How do I sign up for office hours?
What are my grading duties?
What do I need to know about discussion section video-taping?


Accessing TA Materials
Where do I store on-line class materials?
Where do I get copycards?
Where do I get supplies?
Where and How do I make APS's for my class?
How can I set up a newsgroup for my class?
How can I get text books?
How can I get a laptop projector for my discussion?
Can I use an online gradebook? How?
How can I access an old class' TA materials (such as handouts)?
Are there any useful scripts available?
How do I perform ABET materials collection?


Webpages
How do I edit my class webpages?
How do I get permission to modify the webpage?
What should the website contain?
What is the "Forum"?


Locations
Where is the TA Office?
Where do I pick up TA evals?
Where do students hand-in homework?
Where do I meet students?
How can I get in these rooms?
My swipe key doesn't work.


Useful Web Sites
UCLA Catalog of classes
Academic Calendar
UCLA Schedule of Classes
URSA On-line You can look at your study list and enroll online.
UCLA electronic directory Look up students.
UCLA libraries - computer science
CS 495 class webpage
CS /r/share1 repository
CS user-run FAQ (answers to common questions)
CS newsgroups archive, including "ta" announcements
CS Archives

Contributing to this FAQ

How can I contribute to this FAQ?


ANSWERS


Getting Started


Who is the TA Coordinator (TAC) for the dept?


Who should you talk to when you have questions about locks for mailboxes in the Learning Lounge (BH 2432)?
What if you need white-board markers (or erasers)?
For questions in general, contact the current TAC, Andrew Forney (forns@cs)

Who were the past TACs?

What courses do I put on my study list?

All TAs are required to take the TA training seminar (CS 495) once. This must be taken before or during your first quarter of TAing. Note that CS 495 is only taught in Fall quarter. Thus, you'll typically need to plan a year in advance. If you plan on TAing next academic year, take it Fall quarter of this academic year. If you have not completed 495 before your TAship starts (or if you are not taking it during the quarter of your first TAship), you will lose your position and financial support.

To help you fulfill the 12 unit minimum, you can also sign up for 1-4 units of the Teaching Apprentice Practicum (CS 375). This class has no meetings and simply allows you to get units for your work as a TA. You should be sure to sign up for the section that corresponds to the professor you'll be TAing for.

In summary,

You can check your study list or even enroll online using URSA.

How do I receive TA notices?

You should receive all TA notices by e-mail. Look in /u/class/ta/dist-ta.list. If your login name is not in this file, send mail to the current TAC.

What is there to know about paperwork and paychecks?

As far as filling out paperwork, picking-up paychecks or arranging for your paychecks to be direct deposited into a checking acct. You will want to talk to Freda Robinso (freda@cs). She handles all payroll matters for TA's. It is not a bad idea to check in with her occasionally to make sure everything is in order. Before the quarter begins, you will need to see Freda in order to sign your TA contract. If you are TAing during a given quarter, you should receive email from her inviting you to her office to sign these documents.

Along with your hiring paperwork, you will need to complete a "TA Responsibility" form with your course's instructor that outlines your workload expectation for the quarter. Though these forms are stated to be due before the first day of instruction, this is a soft deadline; you should still strive to complete them as close to the start of the quarter as possible.

Where can I find out what old TAs did?

The best way to find out what previous TAs have done or to access to their materials is to talk to the TAs themselves. To find out who has TAed your course in the past, you can consult the professor or the TAC.

Also, you can access the CourseWeb page for previous quarters.

Who are the TAs for the past few quarters?

Past TAs are an excellent resource for getting started. Talk to the professor you're TAing for or the TAC to see if they can point you to past TAs.


Duties and Responsibilities


What are "Discussion Sections"?

These are held only for courses. Your interaction with the students will mainly be during the Discussion sections, usually during Fridays. You might be in charge of more than one section. This time is used to go over the material that was covered during lectures by the professor - new material is not introduced unless the professor asks you to do so. Presenting examples and solving problems are a good way to review the material. Students are encouraged to ask questions. Depending on your class, you may also have to: Give quizzes, collect homeworks, give back graded homeworks and quizzes, discuss homework/quiz solutions, go over programming exercises. Your work in CS495 will well prepare you for the expectations and challenges of leading a successful discussion section.

What are "Lab Sections"?

Usually, you start out by going over the work that has to be done during that day. You will also have to go over any theory that they might require. You then move around helping the students do their experiments.

What about Lectures?

These are given by the professor. It is up to you and the professor to decide if you need to attend them.

How many office hours do I need to hold?

You are expected to hold two office hours per week unless otherwise stated by your course's instructor (sometimes, as is the case with CS31/32, TAs are expected to hold a minimum of three office hours per week). Preferably, hold them on different days and times so that all students can make it to at least one of them. Also, try to schedule office hours to span standard class times. In other words, an office hour from 9:30-10:30, 11:30-12:30, 1:30-2:30, or 3:30-4:30 will allow a lot more students to be able to attend. You can ask your students for suitable times before fixing your office hours. Extra office hours may be held during examination weeks. Post your regular office hours on the CourseWeb homepage for your course, under the Syllabus/Info section. Office hours are usually held in Boelter 2432.

How do I sign up for office hours?

Around one week before the start of each quarter, the TAC will send an email with details on how to sign up for specific days of the week and hours in Boelter 2432. This schedule will be enforced throughout the quarter, and if you find that a TA hosts their office hours in contradiction with the official schedule, please contact the TAC.

TAs for large intro classes like CS31/32 may schedule office hours internally (i.e., with the instructor, rather than the TAC). The office hour sign-up email will have more information on any special-case courses and their associated office hour policies.

What are my grading duties?

Talk with the professor to find out about homeworks and quizzes (how many, when will they be given, who will prepare the questions/solutions, grading scheme ...) If you handle over 45 students ask your professor if you can get a "reader" (usually a student who has taken the course previously and who will grade the homeworks for you; you will still be responsible for collecting and giving back the homeworks). Make sure that you return graded material in time.

You can collect homeworks in class or ask them to drop it off in one of the drop-boxes in Boelter 2432. Pick an empty one, label the box clearly, and contact the TAC for a combination lock.

What do I need to know about discussion section video-taping?

All new CS department TAs are required to have one of their discussion sections video-taped for feedback and review. Generally, these tapings are scheduled the first quarter that a TA leads a discussion (note: lab sections are exempt from the taping requirement, but are instead deferred until the first quarter that the TA leads a discussion).

At the beginning of each quarter, the TAC will send an email with details for scheduling a discussion taping. Once your taping is confirmed, a representative from Audio-Visual Services (AVS) will attend the first half of your discussion section (first ~50 minutes) and require that you provide an SD card at least 4GB in size to hold the video. After the discussion, or at the break, the representative will return the SD card for you to hold until your taping review at the beginning of the following quarter.

This is an incredibly valuable learning experience for you as an instructor, and the feedback you'll receive from reviewing your tape can vastly improve your teaching!

How can I get textbooks?

The department should have ordered a textbook for your use during the quarter. Contact the Undergraduate Student Affairs Officer (currently TBD) in suite 4732, and they can order a textbook for you if she doesn't have it already.

How can I get a laptop projector for my discussion?

Material/Building services has laptops and laptop projectors. Fill up their "Audio and Visual Services Request" form at www.matserv.ucla.edu. Don't fill in the recharge ID. Do give your course number and professor's name. They should then confirm your order. You can pick up the equipment from their office in Boelter 2685 (entrance from the outside corridor).


Accessing TA Materials


Where do I store on-line class materials?

The best place to make class announcements, send emails to your class, and post materials is on the CourseWeb homepage for your course.

Additionally, you can use the following directory on the department servers: /u/class/XXXXYY/csZZZ. Where XXXX is the quarter (fall, winter, spring, summer), YY is the two-digit year, and XXXX is the course number. The web address for accessing this directory is http://www.cs.ucla.edu/classes/XXXXYY/csZZZ. If you can't create your files, check to see if you are in the "ta" group with "ypmatch ta group." If your login name is not on this list, send mail to the current TAC.

How can I obtain a password/code for the photocopiers?

Each TA is allowed to use the photocopiers on the 3rd floor (BH 3507) for making class-related photocopies. You will need a code in order to access these machines. To obtain a code, see Osanna Kazarian (in BH 3531K) or Edna Todd (in BH 4532N).

Where do I get supplies?

A TA should not pay for any supplies necessary for teaching a class. Things like paper, folders, staplers, transparencies, dry-erase markers/erasers, etc. may be obtained from Edna Todd (in BH 4532N) or Osanna Kazarian (in BH 3531K).

Where and How do I make APS for my class?

APS stands for Academic Publishing Service, which is the on campus service for a professor or TA to produce some type of manual, or supplemental for their class. APS is located in the ASUCLA Copy store on the 3rd floor of Ackerman union. However, APS takes 3-4 weeks to produce anything. On the other hand, you can go to Copymat located in Westwood on Westwood Blvd, Across from the Bankof America, next to the Mrs. Fields. They will create your APS, and sell them to your students, and give you a free copy. The best part, is they will do this within 3-4 days, usually faster. So if you have a choice, go to Copymat and make your APS manuals there.

How can I set up newsgroups for my class

The CourseWeb homepage for your course includes a forum that you can enable your students to use.

How can I get textbooks?

The department should have ordered a textbook for your use during the quarter. Contact the Undergraduate Student Affairs Officer (currently TBD) in suite 4732, and she can order a textbook for you if she doesn't have it already.

Can I use an online gradebook? How?

You don't have to use an online gradebook, however you may set one up if you decide the students will find it useful. Here is a document in PDF format describing how.

How can I access an old class' TA materials (such as handouts)?

If you would like to view some past course materials, all you have to do is email courseweb@seas.ucla.edu and they will give you guest access to certain past course webpages. However - you *need* to have the instructor's permission (of the past course you want to access) and prove to the courseweb person that you have the permission. They will not otherwise accommodate your request. You could forward them an email with the written instructor permission, for example.

Are there any useful scripts available?

A webpage has been set up here where useful TA scripts can be found.
If you would like to add to this list, please email the TAC.

How do I perform ABET materials collection?

A TA's role in collecting sample material for ABET is at the discretion of a course instructor. Some instructors rely on their TAs to collect sample student material, and some will perform this task themselves (or with other assistance). You should speak to your instructor about collecting samples of student work before returning any handed-in assignments to students. A document has been created which describes the typical TA role in ABET sample collection. That document can be found here in Microsoft Word (.doc) form.


Webpages


How do I edit my class webpages?

All undergraduate classes should have a webpage. These webpages are accessed by students from CourseWeb: http://courseweb.seas.ucla.edu/listClasses.php?subarea=COM+SCI
You can follow a link to your class from the CourseWeb webpage. After you log in, click on "Switch to Admin Mode" to edit the webpage.

How do I get permission to modify the webpage?

Before you can modify the webpage, the professor has to activate it. This is a simple matter of him/her logging into CourseWeb and activating it. After this has been done you should have admin rights to the webpage.
If you do not have admin rights, or have any other issues getting started, please email the TAC.

What should the website contain?

The webpages usually contain the following information:

  • Contact information: of the professor and TA, office hours, lecture and discussion hours and locations.
  • Syllabus and Course Outline
  • Homework assignments: Depending on the professor, solutions may also be posted.
  • Notices of upcoming quizzes and examinations.
  • Lecture slides (if available)

    What is the "Forum"?

    A forum is available for each class (a link is there on your default course webpage). This is meant for the students and TAs to ask/answer questions, make announcements, etc. Anyone can post on this board - please make sure that no inappropriate material gets posted.


    Locations


    Where is the TA Office?

    There is currently no space for a TA office. I would suggest you talk to your advisor to see if he/she can come up with a desk for you. Office hours can be held in BH 2432.

    Where do I pick up TA evaluations?

    Your teaching evaluations are now made available digitally via MyUCLA (under the "Classes" tab, find the course for which you are a TA and then the "Evaluations" column therein). They are accessible in PDF format once the course's instructor has submitted final grades.

    Where do I meet students?

    Office hours and student meetings are held in the Learning Lounge (2432 Boelter Hall). There are two sides to the room, each with a pair of white boards. If you need dry erase markers, see Edna Todd (in BH 4532N) or Osanna Kazarian (in BH 3531K).

    Where do students hand-in homework?

    There are drop-boxes available in the BH 2432. Contact the TAC to get access to one. They are assigned on a quarterly basis.

    How can I get in these rooms?

    To enter you need a "swipe card". If you don't have a swipe card or you need to add TA access, contact Mildri Lopez-Duarte (in BH 4732L). Ask for access to the Learning Lounge (BH 2432).

    My swipe key doesn't work

    If your swipe key doesn't work for some reason, you will need to talk to Mildri Lopez-Duarte (in BH 4732L).


    Contributing to this FAQ


    How can I contribute to this FAQ?

    1.  Edit /u/class/ta/faq.html.
        Please add your name/e-mail address to the end of your comments.
    2.  Add your name to the document history at the end of faq.html.
    3.  Save a copy of faq.html in /u/class/ta/old_faqs; i.e. "faq-15.html".
        Please "chmod 664 yourfile", so that other TAs can read your file.