Online Learning at Columbia: Provost’s Committee Report and Faculty Small Grant Program

October 16, 2014

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community,

To help Columbia navigate the changing landscape of online education, I convened the Provost’s Faculty Advisory Committee on Online Learning, chaired by David Madigan, EVP of Arts and Sciences. I am pleased to share the Committee’s report and to highlight a key outcome: a Request for Proposals for a faculty small grant program, which will support novel approaches to course design and educational technologies.

While MOOCs have received significant media attention, the primary focus of the report is the central role of the learning sciences and their import for the way we teach Columbia’s own students in degree programs, both residential and online.

The leading recommendation of the Committee is that Columbia should create a University-wide Center on Teaching and Learning with a mandate “to provide support for schools, departments, faculty, and graduate students in all aspects of teaching, including the use of educational technologies.” The report affirms that more effective and coordinated deployment of University resources, in concert with existing school-based teaching centers, will make it possible for such a center to serve as a catalyst for enhancing the classroom experience.

The report is available at the website This new site describes the full range of Columbia’s online activities, from online degree programs to MOOCs, as well as on-campus events and resources.

In response to the Committee’s recommendation that the University provide support for faculty in this area, the Office of the Provost has launched a Request for Proposals. The RFP invites faculty to apply for funding to support redesign and delivery of courses using innovative, technology-rich pedagogy and learning strategies.

Key goals of the program are to measure the effectiveness of these designs, delivery methods, and learning strategies, as well as to improve instructional delivery and learning outcomes of Columbia University students from all disciplines. Awards will include grants of $5K-$20K accompanied by in-kind support from the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning.

The proposal deadline is Monday, November 10 for courses taught in 2015; an additional RFP will be held in the spring for courses taught in the 2015-16 academic year. RFPs are available at

We look forward to supporting our faculty and schools in all of their efforts to improve teaching and learning, including the use of new educational technologies and course designs.

John Coatsworth