By: Matthew King (he/him)

Students serve as “the glue” when it comes to supporting students and staff.

Co-op students are the backbone of the Computer Science (CS) Instructional Support Group (ISG) at the Cheriton School of Computer Science. Staff share that without the invaluable contribution of co-op students, it would be challenging to support the number of students taking CS courses each term.

Instructional support assistant (ISA) co-op students work closely with instructional support coordinators (ISCs) to support the CS courses. The instructional group hires more than 30 students most terms. The students assist the more than 4,000 students who take the multiple CS offerings in a term.

Remote video URL

Our co-op students are the only full-time staff working on a dedicated course. They're at the front line. The co-op students directly impact the experience of all students taking a course, because they're that resource, they're that support.

Shoshannah Holdom (she/her), undergraduate studies manager in the Cheriton School of Computer Science

Co-op students are responsible for assisting staff with administering and grading assignments. As the points of contact, they are available to support students through consulting hours, online forums and emails.

The primary role of instructional support assistant co-op students is to provide peer-to-peer support for the students taking the CS courses. They often bridge the gap between students and instructors or other course staff.

They're the glue. We couldn't do this job without them. They have this important role in computer science to help students be successful.

Barbara Daly (she/her), instructional support co-ordinator at Cheriton School of Computer Science

Four ways to equip students for success

With a large cohort of co-op students each term, it is important to the CS instructional group that they set their co-op students up for success during their work terms. They do so with activities including:

  1. An intensive onboarding program
  2. Weekly ‘Coffee and Learn’ meetings
  3. Weekly check-ins
  4. Reading week activities

“We cover as much as we possibly can so they can hit the ground running,” says Holdom. “We have a huge emphasis on soft skills. We're really passionate about developing the whole person.”

Taebin Kim (he/him), a third-year Computer Science co-op student and ISA for CS 240, found the orientation program offered by the instructional group provided insights and approaches that were helpful when working with students. “The orientation materials give us the tools we need to be more creative throughout the term,” says Kim. “They try to introduce different approaches that you can take when it comes to leading tutorials and to make it as meaningful as possible.”

Jennifer Phovixay (she/her), a Fine Arts student, has spent all five of her work terms with the instructional group. She is one of many students who return for multiple work terms and appreciates that the team members are allies and supports of co-op students. "Every Monday, there's 'Coffee and Learn’ and they teach you soft skills,” says Phovixay. “One of the skills I especially appreciated was learning how to put this job onto a résumé."

The Instructional Support Group’s emphasis on building a sense of community for co-op students to thrive and grow plays a large part in students’ interest in returning for multiple work terms.

“One of my favourite parts of this job is watching the growth of my co-op students from either the beginning of their work term to the end or from their first work term to their last work term with me,” says Daly. “I can't even describe how gratifying it is to watch the shy, unsure, quiet person become this confident, incredibly joyful, outgoing character ─ because it often happens.”

Daly stresses that the students they hire help keep them grounded and connected. In the role of ISAs, co-op students bring a lot of value to the faculty, the school and the students taking the courses. This value is one main reasons they continue hiring co-op students.