Carnegie Mellon University

COVID-19 Updates

Information and resources for the CMU community

Scotty with mask and vaccination bandaid
March 15, 2020

Preparing for a Remote Learning Experience

Dear Pittsburgh Students:

We are writing to help you prepare for the many changes you will face as we transition to online teaching and learning for the remainder of the semester. This communication will supplement any direct communications and instructions you may have already received from your college or department. We have prepared guidance to help you navigate the transition and want to ensure you are knowledgeable of the university support resources available for all students.

There are several steps you should complete to assure you will be able to resume your classes.

  1. Assess your online learning set-up. To help you, and to make us aware of any potential issues that need to be addressed, please fill out this very brief Google form on your personal computing needs as soon as possible.
  2. Set up and test the necessary tools. The majority of your instructors will use Zoom and Canvas for online course delivery. Both tools are available to CMU community members at no charge. Instructors have been guided to embed the dedicated Zoom link into Canvas course pages for ease of access. If your courses were using other particular online/digital tools, you should expect that will continue.
    1. Even if you are familiar with all of the tools, please test their functionality in the location where you will access your courses – well in advance of your first class. Please review detailed directions and guidance provided by Computing Services at the Remote Learning Guidance for Students website.
  3. Review and prioritize your classes. You should review your course schedule and be attentive to any course-specific messages and specific instructions sent from your instructors that may be delivered via Canvas, email or other methods. All students — especially those planning to complete their degrees this May — may want to review the courses required to complete their degree and reflect on their current course enrollments. Colleges, departments and programs are preparing for remote advising. Follow their instructions to consult with them if you need assistance or have questions.
  4. Put your course schedule into your calendar. Classes will be offered at their regularly scheduled days and times – for those offered from Pittsburgh, that will be Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). Because many classes will not be recorded, students need to plan to engage in their classes virtually at the designated class time. Students who face challenges to engage in class at these times due to significant time zone differences should discuss this issue directly with their instructors. Course recitations, office hours and other supports will also be delivered remotely.
  5. Access help as needed. Please be assured that the entire university community is working together to navigate this unprecedented challenge and is prepared to help you complete your courses this spring. Students who are experiencing difficulty when accessing university technology resources may contact the Computing Services Help Center or call (412) 268-4357 (HELP). Students who seek additional instructional support should know that the new Academic Success Center has transitioned to remote services that can be found on the website. There are a number of FAQs available on the university’s coronavirus website that may also be helpful to you. Your college and departmental advisors and resources are also valuable resources for you.
  6. Recognize this will be different. This is all new terrain for everyone. There will be differences in the experience and there are likely to be difficulties to overcome. We will all need to be thoughtful, patient and flexible. Know that the academic leadership has already been exploring the potential opportunity to make temporary modifications to policies and practices to balance our commitment of maintaining the integrity of our academic programs, while also recognizing the realities of this unprecedented situation. In light of the extraordinary circumstances, an interim grading policy is under discussion and we hope to have it in place before classes restart. 

Once classes begin, you may notice that your instructor has chosen to broadcast from his or her classroom. Students are not permitted to attend the class in-person, even if you are virtually engaging with the class from a nearby location. All students will only be able to complete their coursework remotely and online to give everyone as much of a consistent experience as possible. Faculty and TA office hours, advisor appointments and other academic supports will be available online or by phone.

In closing, we acknowledge that the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted not just your traditional educational experience but also is impacting your lives, families and communities in a multitude of ways. As President Jahanian conveyed earlier this week in his message to campus, we are all here to support each other through these unprecedented challenges. As we move forward together in this new remote educational experience, we are confident our community will rise to the occasion and persevere with strength, innovation, collaboration and compassion.


Amy Burkert, Vice Provost for Education
Stan Waddell, Associate Vice President and Chief Information Officer