Articles about opening indoor spaces safely in the pandemic. (All about air flow.)

There’s an increasing pressure to re-open schools, colleges, and therefore college libraries, especially when it seems the end of the pandemic is getting closer and closer each week. Thank goodness! How do you safely open a college library, a space designed for multiple purposes? A library is like a bookstore, in terms of finding and leaving with a book; like a public study hall, where students gather and linger for hours while reading; like a computer lab, where students linger for hours while touching a shared keyboard. It’s also a space with service points, where students sit and talk one-on-one with library faculty and staff, and a space with group study areas, where students linger for hours while talking out loud together (breathing!) Initial library reopening plans have focused on surfaces and shared objects (books, keyboards) which is not incorrect, per se, but I’m concerned that we are overlooking the main way the virus transmits: out of one face and into another face. That’s probably a crass way of stating it, but it seems accurate (to me) in its literalness. These are the articles that have most compelled me to think we should be most worried about airflow. Ideally, through windows, if not through expensive HVAC systems. (Oh, and don’t open until it is actually safe to do so.)

Bartzokas, Nick, et al. “Why Opening Windows Is a Key to Reopening Schools.” The New York Times, 26 Feb. 2021.,

  • This is an interactive visualization tool that shows you how virus particles move through spaces in a variety of conditions. The example is a classroom with one infected student, and you can see how the virus may dissipate in the air if a window is open, if there is a fan in the window, and if there is a filter in the center of the space.

Anthes, Emily. “How to (Literally) Drive the Coronavirus Away.” The New York Times, 16 Jan. 2021.,

  • Ways to mitigate risk while riding in a taxi (or any car with a person outside your pod driving). The article looks into how airflow inside the car affects your risk and makes suggestions for which windows to open to improve airflow for driver and passenger.

Brazile, Liz. “It’s All about Air Flow: How to Keep Coronavirus at Bay Indoors.” KUOW, National Public Radio. 23 Dec. 2020,

  • A radio journalist talks to scientists and academics in the field about how coronavirus pay spread indoors and steps to mitigate risk.

McCabe, Caitlin, Daniela Hernandez, Sarah Toy. “New Playbook for Covid-19 Protection Emerges After Year of Study, Missteps.” Wall Street Journal, 26 Jan. 2021.,

  • This article looks at overall strategies for minimizing virus transmission risk, and suggests revising the list of priorities now that we have nearly a year of experience. Hint: it’s focusing on direct contact and breathing, and de-emphasizing surfaces.

McCabe, Caitlin. “Key to Preventing Covid-19 Indoors: Ventilation.” Wall Street Journal, 1 Sept. 2020.,

  • This article is authored by one of the authors of the article above, and just looks at how ventilation affects risk of covid transmission indoors.

Singer, Natasha, and Kellen Browning. “Colleges That Require Virus-Screening Tech Struggle to Say Whether It Works.” The New York Times, 2 Mar. 2021.,

  • Discusses efforts open campuses have made to “ensure” safety. This one struck me as a reader because some of these efforts are VERY expensive and yet ineffective.

Critical Thinking on Remote Learning & Teaching—a Bibliography of Ideas

Hello, this document was created to help CUNY faculty and staff support remote learning during the COVID19 global pandemic. If you would like to add a resource to this list, please respond in the comments box & include a full citation with author and publisher, and of course include the direct link. Then I can add it to the list. Thanks!  Lawyer’s note: these are ideas; I may or may not agree with them.

{Disclaimer: this post is current as of May 7th. I added articles between the dates of April 2nd and May 7th. I am NOT keeping this up and it should be understood as a snapshot in thinking at the time.}

—Anne Hays, Asst Prof and Librarian, College of Staten Island, CUNY. 

While working on this I came across a few channels of ongoing news, articles, and think-pieces relating to higher ed and coronavirus. You might add one of these to your news feeds to stay updated:

  • The Chronicle of Higher Education— free access to articles about COVID19 & higher ed. You can even subscribe to their newsletter to see all new posts if that’s of interest.
  • Inside Higher Ed— all corona virus updates live here. Trigger warning: a lot of these updates are in the “dire news” category rather than think-pieces.


Corona and CUNY — think pieces about what Corona reveals about CUNY (by CUNY professors)

These articles are not all about pedagogy! However, as professors we need to understand how our students are experiencing this pandemic in order to know how to meet them in the classroom.

Strassler, Karen. “What We Lose When We Go from the Classroom to Zoom.” New York Times, May 4th 2020.

  • Strassler teaches anthropology at Queens College. She describes her transition from in person classes to zoom classes. She warns us that it reveals inequities in the student body.

Robin, Corey.”The Pandemic Is the Time to Resurrect the Public University.” The New Yorker, May 7 2020.

  • Corey is a professor of political science at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center. Thoughtful critique of assumptions people make about the typical college student, and a pitch for funding public universities.

Brim, Matt. “Not a Novel Crisis at CUNY.” Gotham Gazette, May 6 2020.

  • Brim is a an associate professor at the College of Staten Island and the CUNY Graduate Center. The piece speaks to how the startling underfunding of CUNY schools both reveals and reinforces inequity during the Coronavirus crisis.

Yarbrough, Michael W. “What CUNY Teaches Us about the Corona Virus, and Vice Versa” New York Daily News, April 17 2020.

  • Yarbrough is an assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. This piece addresses student realities at John Jay and how these realities might shape our understanding of higher ed.

Critical Think-Pieces on Remote Teaching 

Barrett-Fox, Rebecca. “Please do a bad job of putting your courses online.” Author’s personal blog. March 12, 2020. 

  • This post got a lot of buzz online. The title is flashy, but the post is actually about tempering expectations for both the prof and the students, and it’s about putting together a reasonable course in a very quick amount of time. Even if you disagree with her stance, she makes bold points that will certainly make you think. Bonus: she writes a lot of other blog posts with suggestions about handling a plethora of issues that come up while teaching online. 

Swauger, Shea. “Our Bodies Encoded: Algorithmic Test Proctoring in Higher Education.” Hybrid Pedagogy. April 2 2020.

  • A critique of the rise of algorithmic test proctoring, cheating and plagiarism software in use in higher education.

Lederman, Doug. “Will Shift to Remote Teaching Be Boon or Bane for Online Learning?” Inside Higher Ed. March 18, 2020. 

  • The author includes a panel of thinkers in higher ed who share their thoughts on what online learning means during a global pandemic. 

Greene, Jody. “Keep Calm and Keep Teaching: Shifting unexpectedly to remote instruction requires as many human solutions as tech solutions (opinion).” Inside Higher Ed. March 17, 2020.

  • This article is both practical and critical. Greene breaks down how to get support and how to rethink your pedagogical framework. 

Cumming, Tammie,  et al. “Ensuring Fairness in Unprecedented Times: Grading Our Nation’s Students.” University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA). April 2020.

  • This piece covers the timely issue of grading and assessment, and how to deal with pass/fail options in a way that is equitable.

Govindarajan, Vijay and Srivastava, Anup. “What the Shift to Virtual Learning Could Mean for the Future of Higher Ed.” Harvard Business Review. March 31 2020, 

  • Pontifications on the future based on today’s growing pains with teaching online. 

Professors Discuss the Weirdness of Teaching Remotely in a Pandemic.” Chronicle of Higher Education. April 7 2020,

  • A professor at University of Colorado and at University of Mary Washington hold open office hours for faculty to discuss teaching issues during Coronavirus. The piece discusses their takeaways.

Noguchi, Yuki. “Coronavirus Triple-Duty: Working, Parenting and Teaching from Home.” All Things Considered, NPR. March 17 2020,  

  • Radio journalism with teachers, parents, students speaking about their new lives online. 


Best Practices Guides for Remote Teaching Published by Higher Ed Institutions 


Wheeler, Anthony. “Online Communication & Learning: A Collection of Instructor Resources” In Common: CUNY Academic Commons. April 02, 2020.

  • This is a great bibliography of articles, recommendations, and tools specific to the CUNY community. 

Teaching and Learning Center: CUNY Graduate Center. “Quick Tips on Transitioning Modes of Instruction from Face-to-Face to Online – Google Docs.” April 02, 2020. (Open Google Doc)

  • Very CUNY-specific. A how-to guide with sections detailing how to deal with lectures, group work, discussions and participation, quizzes and tests, office hours, and more.  

Rank and File Action (previously 7K or Strike). “How to Transition to Online Teaching during these Difficult Times – Google Docs.” Web. April 02, 2020. (Open Google Doc)

  • Tips for faculty trying to cope in a challenging situation while still getting the class taught. 

Outside CUNY 

Cohn, Janae, and Seltzer, Beth. “Teaching Effectively During Times of Disruption.” Google Document. Updated March 17 2020.

  • Two Academic Tech Specialists at Stanford created this guide to be used for Stanford professors teaching in two seminar programs there. It’s openly licensed to be used by anyone, and provides practical solutions that speak to pedagogy and tech issues.

Indiana University Teaching Center. “Keep Teaching During prolonged campus or building closures: Indiana University.” Indiana University Teaching Center. Web. (N.D.) Accessed April 02, 2020.

  • IU created a simple and down to earth guide to help stressed out faculty “keep teaching” during a sudden move to online learning in a crisis. For CUNY, we will need to insert “Blackboard” for Canvas, and WebEx for Zoom, etc.  

Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning. “Teaching Resources.” CITL at University of California Santa Cruz. (N.D). Accessed April 2, 2020. 

  • This is a hub of resources, organized around topics like: alternatives for instructional delivery; student learning; and resources from other institutions. 

Center for Teaching and Learning. “Teaching remotely.” University of Washington Center for Teaching and Learning. Web. April 02, 2020.

  • This guide is very thorough, and very practical. It includes a lot of resources directed towards specific educational goals, though CUNY readers will need to substitute our tools for ones we don’t have, such as BB for Canvas, etc.


You’re a Person! Self-Care and Remote Work 

Lorenz, Taylor. “Stop Trying to Be Productive.” The New York Times. April 1 2020. 

  • Tagline is: “The internet wants you to believe you aren’t doing enough with all that “extra time” you have now. But staying inside and attending to basic needs is plenty.” 

  • Adjustment advice from a professor who has lived and worked in conditions of war, violence, and poverty, and considers the virus’s long-term impacts on home and work.


Open Textbooks about Teaching Online (OER)

Bates, A.W. Teaching in a Digital Age: Guidelines for Designing Teaching and Learning (2nd ed). BCcampus, University of British Columbia. 2019.

  • This book was written before the pandemic, so it’s less about spontaneously converting a course and more about how to thoughtfully teach online with the benefit of time to plan. Could be useful, though, for teaching online in the fall 2020 and beyond.