Columbia College Bulletin

2020-2021 | Columbia College | Founded 1754

2020-2021 Academic Year

In order to allow for the de-densification of campus and to offer the maximum amount of flexibility in course offerings, the 2020-2021 academic year will be comprised of three semesters of equal length: Fall 2020, Spring 2021, and Summer 2021. Students are not required to enroll in Summer 2021 but may wish to spread their academic-year coursework over the three semesters.

Modifications to Academic Policies for Fall 2020

After an abrupt and brief introduction to online courses in Spring 2020, students now taking a fully online semester are in a system of learning that is still less than familiar to them — one that continues to require them to develop and practice new types of engagement in class, new strategies for learning with online materials, and new habits for work in remote locations. It is also a system of learning that can suffer interference from a variety of technical difficulties or limitations. In recognition of these current challenges, the CC-GS Committee on Instruction (COI) has approved some temporary modifications to certain academic policies for the Fall 2020 semester:

  • Students will be able to elect the pass/d/fail option for one class this semester without restriction — i.e., the course chosen for this grading option can fulfill a requirement for the Core Curriculum; a requirement for a major, concentration, or special concentration; or an elective.
  • The deadline for declaring the pass/d/fail option for a course will be extended to the last day of classes for the term (December 14).
  • Students who completed an immersive course in the “Fall A” term can choose to retroactively apply the pass/d/fail option to that course as their one pass/d/fail course for Fall 2020.
  • The deadline to withdraw from a course will also be extended to the last day of classes for the term (December 14).

The usual policy for lifting a “P” to uncover a grade will continue. Students will be able to see their assigned grade for the course in question in SSOL and decide by the end of the second week of the Spring 2021 semester (by January 22) whether to uncover the grade or let the “P” remain on the transcript permanently.

It is important to note that there are situations in which it may not be desirable or beneficial for students to use the pass/d/fail option for particular courses of study. The notation of a “P” on a transcript can be read differently by different audiences (within a department or program, within a school, by admissions programs of graduate and professional programs, by employers), and it is important for students to consider future plans when considering a decision that will affect their educational records. Students are therefore strongly encouraged to speak with their academic advisers and their Directors of Undergraduate Studies before making the decision to use the pass/d/fail option, particularly for a class within a major or concentration or for a class that is required or may be important for graduate study.

2020-2021 Academic Calendar

The dates for the three semesters are as follows:

Fall Term (September 8 - December 23)

Spring Term (January 11 - April 26)

Summer Term (Summer A: May 3 - June 18; Summer B: June 28 - Aug. 16)

(Students are not required to enroll in Summer 2021 but may wish to spread their academic-year coursework over the three semesters.)

Commencement will be held the last week of April.

Modality of Courses offered in 2020-2021 Academic Year

Courses offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2021, or Summer 2021 may be offered in one of three modalities: in-person only, online only, or a hybrid of the two. These modalities are further defined below:

In-person: Courses that utilize a traditional, face-to-face format, with no or minimal digital content (up to 20% of contact hours). In this format, both the instructor and the students are in the classroom. For Fall 2020, this modality is available only to courses with fewer than 50 students. The class needs a physical classroom that will have the capacity to accommodate all enrolled students with the required physical distancing. In-person classes should be prepared to allow students to join remotely since some students will not be able to return and there may be more than the usual number of absences (e.g. students who are in isolation or quarantine, or who are late arriving on campus because of visa delays).

Online: Courses that are primarily digital/online -- 80% or more of contact hours are online using practices that effectively engage learners, faculty, peers and content.

Hybrid: Courses that include both teaching in-person and teaching on-line as part of the fundamental course design. As a general guide, digital content can range between 20% and 80% of the course contact hours. Faculty members planning to offer a hybrid course should add to the syllabus the kinds and rough frequency of in-person and on-line course components students can expect.

There are several kinds of courses that fall into the hybrid category. Among other models, these include the following types of courses:

  • In-person attendance will always be less than the full enrollment to enable required physical distancing, with all other students participating remotely in real time, enabled by appropriate classroom technology.
  • Classes will be on-line for some sessions, but with in-person meetings for subsets of students at other times--e.g., a lecture with some meetings in-person and some on-line or a lecture that is fully on-line but the discussion sections are offered in-person.
  • HyFlex: Courses that are hybrid flexible or “HyFlex” are courses that combine in-person and online learning with each class session offered in-person, synchronously online, and asynchronously online. In order for this modality to be utilized, classrooms must be equipped with the appropriate technology.

The modality of a course is noted on the course page in the online Directory of Courses.

Subterms and Immersive Block Courses

Most of the undergraduate curriculum will continue to be offered as semester-long courses. However, departments have also developed immersive “block” courses that take place over half a semester, or 7 weeks. An immersive course will cover a semester’s worth of material in half the time, with twice as many hours of class meetings per week to allow for more sustained focus on the course topic and more regular contact between faculty and students. The 7-week period is considered a subterm of a semester--i.e., the subterm “Fall A” takes place during the first half of the full Fall semester, and the subterm “Fall B” takes place during the second half of the full Fall semester. The Spring semester will also offer subterms, Spring A and Spring B, and the Summer semester will offer full 14-week courses as well as subterms Summer A and Summer B.

If a course is being offered in an immersive block structure, the subterm in which it will be offered is noted on the course page in the online Directory of Courses. If students are interested in immersive courses in both subterms -- e.g., enrolling in a Fall A course and then enrolling in a Fall B course -- they should add both courses to their academic programs during the change-of-program period in the first two weeks of the full semester. While changes to Fall B courses can be accommodated at a later date if necessary, the Fall B course must be noted in the full semester plan in order to reflect the number of credits that a student is pursuing during the full semester.


Students who enroll for the academic year must enroll in a minimum of 12 credits in the Fall and in the Spring. This constitutes full-time status and will also ensure successful progression towards completion of your degree requirements. As is usually the case, students may take up to a maximum of 18 credits in the Fall and in the Spring.

Fall and Spring will have the normal tuition structure. Furthermore, for students enrolled full-time in Fall and Spring, Summer courses will be offered at no additional tuition cost, up to a maximum of 40 credits spread across the three semesters. Students are not required to enroll in Summer 2021 but may wish to spread their academic-year coursework over the three semesters. Academic departments and programs have adjusted their curricular offerings across the Fall, Spring, and Summer terms to allow students greater flexibility in fulfilling their requirements and making progress to their degrees. This expanded three-term structure then gives students flexibility to either spread their full set of courses over three terms and/or to pursue additional courses towards a minor and exploring wider interests across the academic year.

Academic Support Services

Berick Center for Student Advising (CSA) advisers are available to help students navigate the multiple opportunities in the 2020-2021 academic year. Given that most classes will be taught entirely or partially online, please read these tips for online learning. Advisers will be checking in regularly with their student advisees once the school year commences, to offer support and discuss strategies for success. Throughout the summer, students can also make an appointment with their CSA adviser. Please also check the CSA website for updates about the upcoming academic year.

For additional information please see:

The University’s COVID-19 site 

The Registrar’s Office academic calendar 

Columbia College FAQs 

Communications from President Bollinger and Dean Valentini.

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Coordinated by the Office of the Dean and Academic Affairs
Amy Kohn, Editor
Cai Voice, Assistant Editor
Megan Friar, Administrative Assistance
Cover Photo: Geoffrey Allen