Columbia University

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Fall 2020 Communications

Resources for Fall Teaching (08/26/20) 

Dear Arts and Sciences faculty members and graduate student instructors,

Summer is coming to an end, and we are fast approaching the beginning of an unprecedented academic year. In this letter we summarize and compile the resources, policies, and materials we believe you will find useful as you finalize your plans for the semester. What follows is undeniably lengthy and some information may be familiar -- but there is much to remember and know for this fall. For ease of access, we have grouped the information into the following topics.

  • Returning to campus and accessing campus facilities
  • Preparing to use technology for teaching and building your virtual course environment
  • Designing your courses for online and hybrid modes of instruction
  • Helping students prepare for online and hybrid learning

Returning to campus and accessing campus facilities

If you are planning to spend time on campus this Fall -- whether coming to campus regularly to teach or dropping by on occasion to access campus facilities -- you will need to abide by the public health safety protocols established by the University. These are noted at the top of the home page of the Covid-19 Resource Guide for the Columbia Community and include training, testing, and daily symptom checking.

Buildings on campus will remain secure (i.e., locked), but provided you have completed these public health safety protocols, you will be able to swipe into any building to which you would normally have access (although some buildings may have limited hours this Fall). Many of the coffee shops and cafes on campus will also be open for take-out food and beverages.

Faculty who are comfortable coming to campus may choose to teach online from their offices, while faculty who are interested in teaching online from a classroom should contact the Office of the Registrar ([email protected]) to request a classroom assignment. Faculty may also plan to hold office hours and meet with students in person, individually and in small groups, keeping in mind that public health protocols should be observed at all times.

While some libraries will be opening in order to provide study space to students, books and other materials from the libraries must still be requested through the "pick-up" service in operation since July. Updates on the Libraries reopening plans can be found on this page of their website.

The University will be operating a shuttle service to and from campus during the Fall semester within four of the NYC boroughs; details will be posted on this website when available.

Regardless of whether or not you plan to spend time on campus in the fall semester, you are encouraged to stay abreast of the developments on campus by consulting the Covid-19 Resource Guide for the Columbia Community regularly.

Preparing to use technology for teaching and building your virtual course environment

With all undergraduate courses conducted online and graduate courses offered remote or in-person/hybrid with an online component, it is important to consider whether you have the technology (computer hardware, software, internet bandwidth, etc.) to teach effectively online. If you lack the necessary technology, please consult with the administrator of your department about whether Arts and Sciences can assist with a purchase.

The "Online Teaching Toolkit" page of the Covid-19 Resource Guide for the Columbia Community website provides a handy compilation of various online tools for teaching, with links to training materials provided by CUIT.

Faculty who have not yet taught with Zoom should review this page on the CUIT website, and can make extensive use of the live training workshops, the training documentation, and the Zoom "office hours" staffed by CUIT staff members. It is important to know the more advanced functions of Zoom and of CourseWorks -- and perhaps other platforms as well, depending on your course -- in order to be able to successfully facilitate the online pedagogical strategies provided by the Center for Teaching and Learning (see more below).

Please note that each instructor is responsible for creating the links for all Zoom class sessions for the semester within the CourseWorks site for each course. If you need help with this process, please call CUIT at 212-854-1919 or write to [email protected].

Designing your course for online and hybrid modes of instruction

Teaching effectively online requires an understanding of the strategies that work particularly well in an online environment. The Columbia Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) has created numerous resources that provide guidance and support for designing and teaching online and hybrid courses. These materials can be particularly helpful in considering strategies that work more effectively in online teaching, such as creating different forms of assessment and supporting academic integrity in this setting.

Faculty are also strongly encouraged to create the conditions in an online setting for inclusive teaching and to provide students with greater access through the use of asynchronous materials. If you are planning to incorporate pre-recorded materials into your course, please be aware of guidelines that the Office of the Provost and the CC-GS Committee on Instruction (COI) have provided regarding credit hours and active learning.

Helping students prepare for online and hybrid modes of instruction

Incoming and continuing students alike have expressed their enthusiasm for pursuing their academic plans this Fall, as well as their concerns about performing successfully in an online environment. The University and the schools have prepared resources to support students in these endeavors, and the "Online Learning Toolkit" on the University's Covid-19 Resource Guide for the Columbia Community provides students with materials and platforms to help them learn productively online, including the resource guide for students titled "Maximizing Student Learning" which has helpful tips and strategies for students.

To help your students prepare for the expectations you have for your online or hybrid course, please post your syllabus as soon as possible, and no later than Monday, August 31. Your syllabus should state how remote instruction will operate in your course -- e.g., the structure of a flipped classroom, the use of breakout rooms or chat functions, the expectations for the in-person and remote elements of hybrid courses, etc. Undergraduate students enrolled in courses with graduate students (whether 4000-level or higher) are permitted to engage in any in-person elements of the course. Your syllabus should provide clear expectations regarding student attendance and participation online. The COI has developed suggested guidance for students for ways that they can engage productively an online classroom community, and you may wish to include some of the language on your syllabus and in early class discussions.

Some students are enrolling while living in time zones that are far from New York City's Eastern Daylight Time, and these students may want to understand in advance course requirements for live participation, or if there is a possibility of participating asynchronously.

Book orders are still being accepted by local campus bookstores, but please remember that students in remote locations may need to acquire course materials through other means. Accordingly, please make any required course materials for the first three weeks of the term available remotely, either by posting scanned copies on your CourseWorks site or by providing links on your syllabus to digital copies. The Columbia University Libraries may be able to provide access to digital copies of course materials through their reserve system, and faculty who wish to ask the Libraries for help in acquiring digital copies of texts should contact their departmental liaison librarian.

The "shopping period" (i.e., the first two weeks of the semester) for all students in Fall 2020 will take place online. CourseWorks sites will be set to be accessible to anyone with a Columbia UNI and password, so that students can access the Zoom class meeting links. Faculty may opt out of this shopping process by changing their individual CourseWorks setting, and all CourseWorks settings will be adjusted at the end of the "shopping period" so that only enrolled students can access a CourseWorks site. More details can be found here.


We want to provide you with the support you need for a successful Fall semester, so please contact the following people/offices if you have questions about the following topics:

All our best wishes for the new academic year ahead,

Lisa Hollibaugh
Dean of Academic Affairs, Columbia College

Rose Razaghian
Dean of Academic Planning and Governance, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Victoria Rosner
Dean of Academic Affairs, Columbia School of General Studies

Andrea Solomon
Vice Dean and Dean of Academic Affairs, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Copy: DAAFs