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CS Course Assistants

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Current CA Guide

Welcome to the Team!

Please consider the following to ensure you are prepared to conduct your Computer Science Course Assistantship responsibilities:

  1. I-9 Form: Check your offer letter to see if you will need to come in and complete an I-9 Form. If your offer letter includes a section about the I-9 form then we do not have one on file for you and you will need to follow the instructions provided in the letter.
  2. English Evaluation: International students, including Permanent Residents, are required to pass an English competency evaluation prior to holding a CAship. If your offer letter states that you need to complete the English Evaluation, please contact the Language Center to request a waiver or schedule an appointment. 
  3.  CA Training: Check your offer letter to see if there's a paragraph starting with "CA Training". If so, you are likely a new CA and will need to complete a mandatory CA Training held for all new CA's. If you need to complete the training then you will receive an email from Bettina Santos ( prior to the start of the quarter. 
  4. Harassment Prevention Training: Student's that are new to CA-ing will also need to complete the Harassment Prevention Training called "Harassment Prevention for Non-Supervisors." There will also be a paragraph in your offer letter about this training if you still need to complete it. Check your offer letter for information.

CA Commitment

Now that you've accepted your offer, you've made a commitment to fulfill the CA position for the entire quarter. You may not subsequently withdraw from your position in order to pursue another job opportunity (e.g., drop the CAship in order to take an RA appointment). You are required to be on campus and ready to work from the first day of class through the completion of finals grading. Contact the instructor as soon as possible about any time that you will need off or if you have any questions about the dates in which you will need to be available as a CA.

  • Attend CA training. Before the quarter begins, new CA's are required to attend a Department-wide training. These are typically held on Monday or Tuesday evening of the first week of the quarter. 
  • Connect with your instructor to provide the following:
    • Basic course information. Prerequisites, Meeting times and locations, the required and optional textbooks (links to electronic versions should be provided and copies of the textbook should be available on reserve at the library). 
    • A syllabus. This syllabus should detail the exam dates and times, expectations for students (e.g late policy, attendance, etc), grading criteria, calendar of lecture topics and assignment due dates, and a clearly defined means of communication (e.g email lists, online forum, etc).
  • Review typical CA duties:
    • Grading homework. For most CA's, this will be their most time consuming and least rewarding responsibility; CAs should carefully streamline their grading process in order to maximize their availability for other, more rewarding, aspects of the job. Consult the CA training materials or CA Mentors for many tips on efficient grading.
    • Monitor communication channels. Email and other communication platforms are an important part of the job. Students should be directed to a single address for any content-related questions. Answers should be made available to the entire class and instructors should take turns answering questions.
    • Hosting office hours. Successful office hours come to those who are prepared. Be sure to review the assignments beforehand and give some thought to what hints are appropriate, so that you will not accidentally give away too much. It is also incredibly helpful to attend class whenever possible, as you will be aware of which topics may need review.
    • Assist in exam & homework creation. Depending on the professor, you may be asked to help write questions for the homework or exams. Rely on your experiences in office hours, and remember to get feedback from the rest of the course staff in order to make questions as clear as possible. For large classes, you may wish to schedule “make-up” exams before the scheduled exam, in order to gather feedback on which questions need revising. However, primary responsibility for designing homeworks and exams should always rest with the professor. 
    • Maintaining grades. The CA's will maintain the list of grades. We recommend using a simple spreadsheet accessible by the entire grading staff. This should be handled with extreme care, both in terms of correctness and privacy, and should be backed-up regularly.
    • Provide feedback. Don’t hesitate to let the professor know what is going well with the course, as well as what could be improved. CA's typically enjoy more face-to-face contact with students than the instructor does, and can see from grading homework how students are doing. Students often feel more comfortable addressing their criticisms and concerns to the CAs; these should always be (diplomatically!) passed along to the instructor.
    • Administer & grade exams. The midterm and final, if any, are graded by the CA's and the instructor together. It is customary for the instructor to provide food during the session. Contact Vanessa Zamora ( with any questions on ordering food for exam grading sessions.
  • Office hours. Connect with your faculty member to determine when you should hold office hours. If you need to book rooms for TA Office hours, please contact Vanessa Zamora (
  • Reimbursement requests. For midterm and final exam grading sessions, the CS Department will cover $15/person for up to two grading sessions. If you have reimbursement requests, please contact Vanessa Zamora (
  • Room scheduling for midterms/alternate final exams. If your class is having an alternate final exam or midterm, please let Vanessa Zamora ( know at the beginning of the quarter to ensure you get the correct rooms. The larger the class and the later the request, the harder it is to find an appropriate room.
  • OAE exam rooms. If your course needs to book rooms for OAE exams, you are able to book Gates building rooms through GIN if you have a CSID (here). If you are not able to find enough OAE rooms in GIN, please contact Vanessa Zamora ( to help with booking rooms outside of the Gates building.
  • Poster Sessions. Poster boards, easels, and tacks are available to be lent out to students for poster sessions. Please contact Vanessa Zamora (vanessa.zamora@stanford.eduearly on in the quarter if your course needs to find a poster session venue and to also borrow poster session equipment. Equipment and venues are limited and given out on a first come, first serve basis.
  • Set Boundaries. As a CA, it’s important to find tactful ways to set boundaries. A 50% CA is expected to work an average of 20 hours/week, and a 25% CA is expected to work an average of 10 hours/week. We stress "average" because the workload will vary significantly over the course of the quarter. Properly allocating one’s time and energy among each life’s priorities (research, family, CAship, etc.) is immensely valuable, and requires consistent vigilance and self reflection. Keep in mind that the professor should be expected to respect reasonable boundaries that guard priorities to other commitments. As CA's, by expressing care for the quality of the course, compassion for the professor, and a firm resolve to balance your various commitments demonstrates maturity and professionalism.
  • Be Efficient. Graduate students and CA's in particular often face many competing priorities, and finding your own balance is an important part of being a good CA. Here are some ways that you can make the most out of your limited time: 
    • These are examples of “corner-cutting” that can save unnecessary time and effort without significant negative impact on course quality:
      • Don’t spend time typesetting. Aesthetic concerns are noble, but time-consuming (exceptions to those that are faster typesetting than handwriting).
      • Avoid writing long emails. Conceptual problems can be worked through more efficiently in office hours or on the phone. Don’t hesitate to reply by asking the student to come to office hours.
      • Avoid overly detailed grading. You want to maximize the help to the student while minimizing time/effort/burnout, all while applying the grading criteria fairly. Concentrate on the major difficulties and devote more time to developing clear solution sets or grading rubrics, which will benefit all students.
    • If you’re still overwhelmed by the average weekly work after doing your very best to use your time efficiently, find a way share responsibilities. Be humble, honest, and firm about your limitations, however, ensure that the faculty member can be reassured that you care about the course and are doing your very best to fulfill all of your commitments with integrity and excellence. This can be difficult, especially when teaching with your research advisor.
      • Have your professor prioritize your tasks. Then, you will both understand the tasks at hand, and it should become apparent if there is too much on your plate.
      • Give reasonable time estimates for each task, and when the professor can expect each to be done. Then, follow through.
      • Volunteer for specific duties. Being positive (“I can do…”) reinforces which responsibilities you’ve taken on (and which you have not). It also sends the important message that you are eager to assist within reasonable limits.
      • Avoid counting minutes, but watch your hours closely. If a course is insufficiently staffed, it is the responsibility of the instructor and department to hire additional CA's.
    • Most faculty are reasonable and respectful. If they understand that you care about their course but have other commitments you need to keep, they will usually help you find ways to manage your time for the maximum benefit of the class. If, after doing everything to be efficient, communicating your commitment to the course, and drawing lines as tactfully as possible, you still find yourself in a bad working relationship, seek counsel from Bettina Santos ( or the University Ombudsman as a last resort.
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