Pedagogy Follow-Up

March 12, 2020


Dear Colleagues, 

With the transition to a virtual learning environment underway (with great success on day one), questions about teaching, class arrangements, and related issues abound. Here, below, is current guidance on questions that have been posed in recent days. A more dynamic resource is the University’s COVID-19 site, a central repository of information, where updates are posted as developments progress.

I have never been more proud to be at Columbia. We collectively owe thanks to a long list of colleagues for their thoughtful and effective mobilization under very difficult conditions, not least the talented staff at the Center for Teaching and Learning and at CUIT. I add particular thanks to Suzanne Goldberg, Executive Vice President for University Life, who has played the lead role in collecting and shaping the information that follows. 

With appreciation,

Ira Katznelson
Interim Provost 
Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History




Teaching guidance for online formats:

Columbia’s Center for Teaching and Learning offers guidance on how to teach well online, including tips on working with Zoom.

For technology questions, CUIT is available at 212-854-1919, and via email at [email protected]. CUIT maintains a Faculty Resources site.

Classes, student meetings, independent projects, and gatherings:

Independent study meetings: No in-person meetings, as these are credit-granting, like classes. Please meet with students by Zoom or phone.

Office hours: To be held in person or by phone or Zoom. If conducted in person, please observe the health and social distancing protocols noted below.

Small classes and seminars:  Rules pertaining to virtual classes apply to small classes and seminars. 

Recording classes from an empty classroom: Free to do so.

Graduate and professional student access to labs, classrooms, and other spaces: Students can have access, so long as they follow health and social distancing protocols noted below and do not congregate in groups larger than 25.

Internships/externships for academic credit:  Can continue in non-healthcare settings, should the individual student wish to proceed.  With many workplaces moving to remote work for non-essential employees, schools will have to collaborate with placement agencies and locations to determine which can continue. When students continue with their field placements, health and social distancing protocols should be reinforced.

Accreditation and licensure issues: Schools are making adjustments consistent with their particular accreditation requirements.  Academic administrators can consult with the Provost’s Office regarding these matters.

Student attendance/absence from class:  

  • Offer students excused absences without a doctor’s note when they indicate they are absent for health reasons.
  • Communicate directly with your students about participation expectations.
  • To take attendance with Zoom, ask students to write their names and UNIs in the chat window, which can be exported after each Zoom session.

Faculty business, including meetings:

Most are being postponed or held virtually. If it is essential to have in-person meetings, health and social distancing protocols must be observed, and an option for virtual participation must be offered, as some colleagues may be following CDC guidelines for people at high risk.  

Basic health and social distancing practices:

  • Anyone who is not feeling well should not participate in person.  
  • Health reminders should be clearly posted. 
  • Hand sanitizer or handwashing available or nearby.
  • Limit number of people in the space to fewer than 25.
  • In small spaces, cap at half the usual capacity.
  • Students can choose to meet in these spaces in small groups (25 and under) to work on projects, so long as these protocols are followed.
  • Social distancing practices include remaining out of congregate settings (gathering in a large group for a prolonged period of time), avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible.

Additional guidance for faculty: 

Disability accommodations: Disability Services (DS) is working directly with students who need accommodations to participate in online learning. Please be responsive to messages you receive from DS or your students about such accommodations.

Student mental health: Counseling and medical services are open through Spring Recess and beyond. All students have received information about these resources. They include:

General information about COVID-19:

  • The University’s COVID-19 website has up-to-date information.
  • Columbia Health’s COVID-19 phone line is available for questions, Monday to Friday, 9 am-5 pm, at 212-854-9355.


Suzanne Goldberg sent an announcement to students yesterday providing guidance on classes and university resources (first-year medical and dental students received a message recognizing that they are on spring break this week). Other University Life messages are available on University Life’s website. University Life staff are an invaluable resource to help navigate student-related questions.