Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science

SCS Teaching FAQ

Information for teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic

Updated on January 17, 2022


Spring 2022 Teaching and Education Meeting

Recording and meeting slides are available on Box (requires Andrew login)


Be sure to check CMU's Faculty FAQ page, which is updated at least weekly.

Frequently Asked Questions

SCS Remote Sections

Starting this Fall, federal guidelines require that if we have remote students, we will need to document that students are receiving at least two of the following forms of interaction for remote students*:
  • providing feedback on assignments or exams
  • providing office hours at reasonable times for students in other time zones
  • answering questions via discussion boards
  • sending email weekly with course content, and
  • running a synchronous class or discussion session where remote students can ask questions.

*TAs can help support engagement if they are qualified to deliver course content.

We believe that most SCS classes already provide at least two of these engagements (e.g., individual feedback on assignments; office hours).  Thus we expect that for most classes what we face is a documentation requirement rather than a requirement to change how the class operates. Contact for any questions about these guidelines. (Also see the following page for detailed information about this requirement: )

At CMU, the methods for achieving “regular and substantive interaction” for each DE course must be documented (to, among other things, support Title IV aid eligibility) using a standard set of documentation methods. You can ask your administrative assistant for help with these matters.
  • The course syllabus that includes a specific section on remote student engagement (which should also be uploaded into the Eberly Center’s Syllabi Registry at
  • The S3 Course Profile, updated to include information about remote student engagement
    • Assessments Structure [How will students be assessed in the course? (i.e., assignments, exams, final exam, presentation, project)]
    • Learning Resources [Which resources will be available for students? (i.e.,websites, learning applications, texts, case studies)]
    • Extra Time Commitments [Will students have extra time commitments for the course that are required outside of the regularly scheduled course meeting times?]
We are waiting for additional guidance on any additional ways that we will need to document our support for remote students, if necessary.  

In general, unless a student has a document medical/disability accommodation or government-imposed visa or travel restrictions, the student is expected to be on campus to attend classes in person.

Health or disability related: If the student has an accommodation for remote learning from Disability Resources, you will need to make reasonable adjustments to help that student take the course (just like other disability accommodations). Make sure to have the student first work with Disability Resources for an official accommodation.

Government travel/visa restriction: If you don’t have an REO section for your course and you are not able to accommodate remote students, please refer the student to their academic advisor for re-registration in other courses.


  1. Make sure the student is working with the Office of International Education on their situation.

  2. Make sure the student has their program coordinator approval for remote learning.

  3. If they do in fact have a travel restriction and approval from their program, you can accommodate them in your course if you choose to.

  4. See FAQ “If I have students enrolled in a remote section for my course, how will I be required to support these students?”

  5. See FAQ “If I have an REO section, do I need to document how I’m teaching them?”

A notable exception: See FAQ “I normally teach a course that has a remote section as part of its design. Can I still teach this course with the remote section?”

TRADITIONAL ONLINE-ONLY COURSES: A few SCS classes (e.g., 05-839, 11-637, 15-513, 15-319/619, …) are routinely offered in an online-only fashion, in which case approval is not required for students to take these classes during Fall 2021.  However, international students in the U.S. must be present in Pittsburgh and cannot enroll in more than one REO class per semester.

OVERFLOW SECTIONS: The Dean has decided that courses with prior experience using remote/recorded lectures to deal with overflow (e.g., 10-703, 11-485/685/785) can continue to do so, but other courses with longer waiting lists who wish to use the REO section as overflow should NOT do this. Instead, they should consider switching their course from IPE to PER (In-Person with Rotation). PER will allow ALL students to engage with the instructor(s) in person regularly.  If you wish to switch your class to PER, or wish to pursue using an REO section for overflow, please contact your department’s course administrator.

14-week Semester

Faculty looking for assistance in adapting their course to a 14-week format for the Fall semester may tap into the following resources:
The 14-week semester is being run as a pilot this year, and the Eberly Center is doing an extensive assessment of its impact. 

A/V Support

Faculty who wish to have their lectures recorded have several options.

  • Panopto videographers - most requests for this service have been placed already, but contact them if you want to see if they have any remaining availability. Panopto costs must be paid by the course’s department.
  • Recording equipment in SCS - SCS is ordering recording equipment that can be loaned out for use to record classes. Training will be provided for teaching assistants (or staff if teaching assistants are not available) to help with recording and uploading to the web. More details to come soon.
  • Zoom - Recording can still be done using Zoom if a basic video of the instructor and slides are all that is necessary. Classrooms are still set up with appropriate connectors to attach laptops at the podium or front desk to allow for Zoom recording.  Make sure to test your microphone in your lecture hall to make sure that zoom is adequately recording the audio, especially if you step away from your laptop.
Details of the equipment available, training and online resources are available on the the Computing Services webpage
All classrooms will still have the hookups on the podium/front desk for faculty to plug in a laptop to use Zoom.


The Eberly Center is running a set of Webinars on Zoom, Canvas and other topics, and has a page on tools and strategies for online teaching.   You can contact the Eberly center at Zoom also has their own training resources.

New: For help on Canvas try

The SCS help desk will help individual faculty who request one-on-one help with setting up for online teaching.  This includes setting up equipment.

You can send mail to, the Eberly center or your departmental liaisons with questions:   Phillip Compeau (CB), Dave Eckhardt and Mark Stehlik (CSD), Chinmay Kulkarni and Ken Koedinger (HCII), Matthew Bass (ISR), Robert Frederking (LTI), Matt Gormley and Dorothy Holland-Minkley (MLD), David Wettergreen (RI), Guy Blelloch (SCS).   The teaching-continuity address goes to all the liaisons.

The settings in zoom can be confusing. There are settings per meeting when you set up the meeting on, there are settings in the settings menu item on, and there are preferences on the zoom app.

Suggestions for individual meetings:

  • "Telephone and computer audio" (some people might need to call in)
  • "Allow join before host" (it is nice to not be blocked until the host arrives)
  • "Mute participants upon entry" (students sometimes don't realize they are live if not)
  • Participants can remain muted and use the spacebar only when speaking.
  • (Maybe) "Enable waiting room".    Can be used for office hours.   Another option for office hours are "breakout rooms".  Note that this disables "join before host", and puts everyone in the waiting room to start.
  • (Suggest against) "Record automatically".   In conjunction with "join before host" you can get empty time at the beginning of the meeting, or random comments.  Just don't forget to hit the record button before you begin class!

For general settings (note tabs at top for "Meeting", "Recording", and "Telephone").

  • Chat (assuming you want chat).   Generally a nice place for students to ask questions, especially in large classes.   Note that some faculty have found it can be hard to keep up.   You might have a TA or co-instructor help answering questions on chat, or responsible for interrupting you if something important comes up.
  • (Maybe) "Prevent participants from saving chat".   Students might prefer if the chat is ephemeral.  Note you should also turn off "save chat messages" under Recording.
  • (Maybe, but think about it) "Record thumbnails when sharing" and "Display participant's names in the recording".   In a big class, do these make sense?
  • "Polling".   Can be useful but we have gotten several complaints from participants that the polling window does not always show up.   This might be an issue of it being hidden somewhere.  When working it is a reasonably quick way to ask students questions.   Polls can be created dynamically or before the meeting.
  • Critical: To avoid a "zoomboming" carefully control screen sharing. For classes make sure it is set to "Host only" under "Who can share".  Otherwise a rogue person can enter meeting and take over screen.  For office hours and other meetings it can be useful to allow participants to share.   You can turn it on a per-meeting basis (see up-arrow next to "share screen").
  • (Off) "Allow removed participants to rejoin" (should be off by default).   If you kick off a rouge visitor, you don't want them to come back.   Note however, this means that when finishing a meeting with a student for office hours let them drop out or move them to the waiting room, but do not "remove" them.
  • (Off) "File Transfer" (should be off by default).  Opens up the possibility of unwanted attendees sharing inappropriate files.
  • "Breakout rooms".  Many faculty have found these useful for several purposes, including project based courses, breaking out for discussions, and even office hours.

Chat, virtual backgrounds and breakout rooms seem to be some of the most popular features of Zoom.  It can be used for group discussions, small group problem solving, or office hours (as an alternative to waiting rooms).   For office hours you have the people who are waiting in a room such that they can talk/chat with each other while they wait.   You can then move them to and from the meeting, or work with groups of them.

For breakout rooms, faculty have had some problems with "pre-assigning to the rooms" (an option under "Settings" on    However the automatic assignment seems to work OK.   Note that you can set it so students cannot return to the meeting automatically.    This can be useful if you are using it for office hours.   Once you close the rooms, they can return immediately, and will be forced to return after 60 seconds (or other time you can set under options).

Hands up or chat?

You can decide to have students ask questions either by chat or hand-up, or both.   Faculty seem to be happy with all options.   If you use chat, some faculty say it can be hard to keep up.

Zoom has an annoying feature that you can only have one meeting open at a time that you scheduled. Some faculty created a bunch of meetings for their recitations to later find out they cannot overlap.   One way around this is to have your TAs create their own meetings for their recitations. It also turns out that by scheduling a meeting on someone else's behalf (see "Schedule Privilege" in "Settings") it counts for the person who schedules it (go figure).

Keynote hides the mouse by default making it hard to then click on buttons to start/stop recording, answer questions, or write on the slide. In Keynote, go to the settings->slideshow and set “show pointer”.

Remote Teaching

The FAQs below were provided for the Spring and Fall 2020 Semesters, but may still be useful for remote teaching in the future.


Yes. Some students might lose connectivity, be in different time zones (see below), or be sick and have to miss the lecture. Recording can be done with a click of a button, or even better by setting it as a default when setting up the Zoom meeting. See privacy message below about making them available.

You can use Zoom. Zoom allows you to live-stream and record (simultaneously) slides, writing on a tablet, or using the camera. When in these scenarios (with a camera), it will place the camera output in the upper right corner (if selected) so students can see you while lecturing. Students can interact in real time either via audio or chat.

You can also use Panopto, especially if you've used it before. It may not be as convenient for live questions (it has some delay, 15 seconds or so). It however has the benefit of generating an index of your slides, and allows students to jump to the slide they are interested in. It also allows editing. It is easy to use, but you need to request access for recording. Please contact: Aaron Caldwelll.

Yes. If you have a live synchronous lecture with students asking questions then the live stream and the recording must be private to the class. For example, you can put them on Canvas or Panopto's site to restrict access to your class. You should also tell students the class is being recorded, and tell them the recordings are to be used for the class only.

Important: please add the following notice to your recordings to make sure students do not post it elsewhere: "Recordings of course sessions are provided solely for educational use by students enrolled in the course and may not be distributed to any other person or posted on the internet without the express written permission of the course instructor"

What do I do with my recorded lectures?

“Uploading to the cloud” is an option when you start recording in Zoom. You will then have access to them on your zoom account through CMU ( You can then either download them or get a link to them. You can put them on Canvas, or put a link to them on your course web page (note privacy issue above). You can also record to your local computer and copy---probably better if you have a questionable connection. 

Important:  We have had a handful of issues with recording to the cloud which likely have to do with the overload at Zoom. Most importantly some recordings took over 24 hours to show up. This seems to be better now. Another issue is that went down for about 30 minutes on Friday. Also Comcast went down in some areas last week. Given the increasing load on Zoom and local networks, you are advised to record locally and have contingency plans if the network goes down.

There are various choices. For small classes you can use the “raise your hand feature” in Zoom. For larger classes you could take breaks for answering questions, possibly via chat. You could also have a TA or co-instructor answer questions live while you lecture.

Not if it is live with interaction. The students have multiple classes and we don't want them to conflict.

Yes. Some of our classes are doing this. You probably want some structure to your discussion. You should record the discussion for students who cannot make it, but the recording of the discussion should only be made available to the class.

What if my students are in vastly different time zones?

You should ask your students whether they will have difficulty participating in your regular class hours.    For recitations, you should be flexible about allowing students to move. For group projects hopefully the students can work this out among themselves, but you should check.

Zoom lists the participants live, and keeps a report of who attended.   On your Zoom account page (, go to the "Reports" menu item on the bottom left, then "Usage", then click the number under "Participants".  It can even keep track if students take focus off of the zoom application for more than 30 seconds.   If this is going to affect a “participation” part of the grade, make sure you tell the students.

You can also give a Canvas quiz at some point during the class.

Also, Panopto has continued attendance tracking and Zoom lectures can be uploaded to it.   This means you can see what percentage of your students have viewed the lecture.


Any special suggestions for recitations?

As with lectures you can use zoom, but most likely in a more interactive mode.   One suggestion is to have worksheets available in PDF, or otherwise online, before the recitation.  Then the recitation leader (probably TA) can work through them during recitation. Whether worksheets or not, the recitation leader can possibly use breakout rooms in zoom for discussions among smaller groups of students, and then bring them together to summarize their solutions.  Innovation is welcome.

Office Hours

What should I do for office hours?

Zoom has a waiting room feature that allows you to admit students one by one, or in batches.   It is probably worth having a tablet or writing surface for office hours. You can share both ways so both parties can see what they are writing. 

You can also setup an office hours Queue at Email Austin Schick <> to add your course to OHQ.    They will set up an online queue which students can sign up in the order they arrived. TAs then go through the queue in order answering each student before moving onto the next.   The TAs will find the student on Zoom as long as the student adds their Zoom personal link to their question.

Note that a student should not "remove" the TA/instructor from the call since this will "permanently" remove them.   Instead they should let the TA/instructor hang up.

Should I use audio, chat, and/or video?

Chat is most likely sufficient for simple questions.   We are sure you have all had a live chat with some business online, and it usually goes OK.     For more involved problem solving, audio along with a writing surface is better.

Is it OK to have in person office hours?

We strongly discourage this, except for special cases and on request by the student and acceptance by you.  

Exams and “In Class” Assessments

How do I give an exam or quiz?

If you already use online quizzes or exams, of course you should continue.   If not, we suggest, for now, that you give open-book “take-home” exams. These could be during your regular exam time.    One way to implement this is to send the students the exam as a pdf file at the start of “class” (via email, a link, or your existing assignment distribution system).   They can then print it out, or use some form of pdf markup. When done they can scan it by taking photos on their mobile device. One such app is “Genius Scan”, which is free.  The student can then submit via Gradescope, or similar tool.    It is strongly advised you try a test run with the students, e.g., have them do a small quiz and submit.   Some leeway for the students is likely necessary.

How do we prevent cheating?

As with any take-home exam, there is an element of trust that is required.   You can ask your students to sign a cover sheet that says they did not collaborate with anyone else on the exam.    We do not suggest making an online exam closed book.  

What about various lockdown browsers (i.e., only allow access to specified web pages) for preventing cheating?

At present we are advising against these unless you have already used one.    Our assessment is that they are not 100% portable across platforms, and are overly intrusive on the student platform.   That being said, Respondus is available via Canvas at CMU using the Canvas quiz utility.

What options are there for interactive online quizzes or tests?

Canvas has a quiz feature.    Gradescope has a quiz feature (in Beta).   Diderot will soon have a quiz/exam feature.    There is also Google forms. Whatever you use, consider how easy it will be for students to use.

Other suggestions?

You could replace an exam with a homework assignment.

You could reduce the weight of an exam.  But, clearly communicate this to students.

You could replace an exam with multiple online quizzes.   Again, clearly communicate this to students.


What about assignments?

Most SCS courses already distribute and accept solutions for assignments online.    Many tools are used, including Gradescope, Autolab, canvas, and github. Please continue.  It is important that assignments are also handed back online. If you want help here, contact us.



It depends on the situation. If you are teaching with slides from your desk, then a computer or laptop microphone and camera will probably suffice. If you plan to lecture on a board (either a whiteboard in your office, or in a classroom), then you might consider a separate camera and/or microphone. We have some suggested microphones and cameras below, and the school has purchased many of these and are available at the help desk as they last (note that they are due to be delivered on March 17).

If you want to write and you do not have a physical board, you can use a tablet. This could be, for example, an ipad with an apple pencil. You can then install one of many apps that allow you to write and this can easily be broadcast on zoom. There are also cheap single-purpose tablets/writing-surfaces for writing on. With either you can write over slides, or switch between slides and writing, or just write.   Zoom has a built-in "whiteboard" so you do not need a third party application.

Note: you should practice ahead of time.

Here is a list of tablets that Zoom supports.

Zoom supports Windows, Mac and yes, Linux. It is important to note there have been some complaints about certain combinations of browsers and platforms.  You should test ahead of time.

Here is a complete list of system requirements for Zoom.

Course Syllabi

The Eberly Center has created a new webpage with suggested updates to your syllabus that address the current context, including sections on:

Please refer to this page, adopting or adapting the sample language provided to best fit your course context.


On-campus Recording Studios

SCS offers on-campus studio rooms for lecture recording.

Spring 2021 Teaching Meeting

Materials from the January 25th meeting are available on Box (requires Andrew login):
Spring Teaching Meeting [video]   |  Spring Teaching Meeting [slides]