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College of Arts and Sciences

Academic calendar changes; other coronavirus FAQ updates

By: Susan Kelley
Cornell Chronicle
March 19, 2020

Cornell leaders have announced changes to the academic calendar (see below) and to policies related to drop deadlines and grading options.

Below is the latest information; for the full list of frequently asked questions, visit the university’s coronavirus resources and updates webpage.

The webpage now includes a new “teaching and learning” page, which has FAQs for faculty and students and resources for academic advising and student support resources.

The situation is fluid; check back often.

Academic calendar, grading and scheduling

How will the move to online instruction impact the academic calendar?

Numerous changes have been made to the academic calendar. Key dates for this semester are:

  • First day of online instruction: Monday, April 6
  • Last day of drop/grade change: Tuesday, April 21
  • Last day of online instruction: Tuesday, May 12
  • Study days: May 13-15
  • Exam period: May 16-23

Please note the following exceptions:

  • This revised academic calendar applies to all undergraduates except students in the Cornell in Rome program and the College of Architecture, Art and Planning’s New York City programs and those completing their semesters through study abroad.
  • The revised academic calendar applies to all graduate students in research degree programs, except those enrolled in courses offered by Cornell Tech, which will maintain the existing calendar.
  • The revised academic calendar does not apply to many professional master’s programs. Refer to program-specific calendars for the following programs: the ILR School’s Executive Master of Human Resource Management; doctorates of veterinary medicine; Cornell Law School programs; and Cornell Tech professional master’s degrees.

Will exam schedules, grading or other course expectations be modified?

Yes, we expect that shifting to an online format will make a range of changes inevitable. For example, expectations for how students will interact with classmates and instructors, and in some cases the nature of assignments, may be modified. The goal is to ensure that students can complete their academic work despite the circumstances, and to maintain the flexibility needed to do so. Students should stay in close touch with their instructors as necessary changes are communicated.

Undergraduate admissions

What is Cornell University Undergraduate Admissions doing to support freshmen and transfer applicants for fall 2020?

The university is closely monitoring COVID-19, and Cornell University Undergraduate Admissions understands that this is a very difficult and uncertain time for freshmen and transfer students around the world applying to colleges and universities. Cornell University Undergraduate Admissions will work closely with affected applicants on a case-by-case basis and do all that we can to assist and support applicants regarding the submission of required admissions application materials and information. Applicants who are not able to submit required application items are asked to be in touch with us at admissions@cornell.edu.

Will Undergraduate Admissions delay fall 2020 regular-decision notification announcements?

There may be lingering questions about how the coronavirus situation has impacted the selection process at Cornell for the Class of 2024. We want to assure you that while the university has been working to ensure the safety of the campus community and the continuity of learning for our current students, there has been no disruption to our holistic selection process for fall 2020 regular-decision applicants. Cornell’s undergraduate admission committees are now finalizing our review of all fall 2020 freshman regular-decision candidates. Our regular-decision notification date and time, common for all Ivy League institutions, is March 26 beginning at 7 p.m. (EDT). Cornell applicants will be sent information via email in late March regarding how to view their decision online using their Cornell application status portal.

For faculty

Undergraduate classes have been suspended until April 6. Does that mean that all academic requirements have been suspended, including assignment and exams that were assigned prior to the March 13 announcement?

Yes, all academic instruction on the Ithaca campus has been suspended until April 6. In accordance with Policy 6.1 in The Faculty Handbook, faculty members are being asked not to frame assignments in a way that will necessitate academic work over the break. This means no assignment deadlines or exams can be scheduled for April 6 and April 7. Be mindful that many students may face an overload of deadlines in the latter half of that week, when they are also trying to adjust to remote instruction. Graduate and professional students should refer to specific guidelines shared by their deans.

How can faculty members cover all of their course content now that they’ve lost two weeks of instruction time? Will the academic calendar be extended?

The last day of instruction on the Ithaca campus will be extended by one week, to May 12. According to SUNY, the New York State Education Department, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and United States Department of Education, faculty are still expected to cover 100% of their learning goals in order to award full credit. Please keep in mind that one credit requires a total of 15 hours (of 50 minutes each) of instruction and at least 30 hours of supplementary assignments across the course of the semester.

With our move to a revised academic calendar and remote instruction, the total learning time should remain the same, although these contact hours can be redistributed across all modes of interaction, including course lectures, discussion boards, email exchanges, reading, assignments, research and group work.

Faculty teaching in professional programs should check for program-specific information about changes to the academic calendar.

Can faculty just deliver all of their course content asynchronously?

No. The Department of Education requires that faculty maintain “substantive contact” with students. Online instruction cannot solely consist of “asynchronous” instruction, such as solely posting all lectures online. Lecture material can be posted online, but instructors must also initiate communication and give students opportunities to engage, ask questions and discuss course material on a regular basis.

Faculty should offer about the same amount of time they usually allocate to answering questions in lecture and office hours, group work or discussions. This can be achieved by using one or more of the tools described here, such as online office hours, answering student emails and offering a discussion board so that students can communicate with each other. Providing feedback on work submitted electronically by students also counts as a form of substantive interaction. In those instances where a student lives in an area with limited internet connectivity, instructors may consider teleconferencing and postal mail alternatives.

What do faculty members need to do to ensure that their online courses are accessible?

CTI is offering recorded webinars on Inclusion, Accessibility, & Accommodations in Online Learning, and also have experts on call to help. Please call the help desk or submit a request.

What do faculty members need to keep in mind about assignments once courses move online?

Not all students will have access to a printer or scanner, and therefore printing assignments and scanning them to submit may not be possible. Please be mindful of providing alternatives for students in this position. CTI is offering webinars on online assessment and is also available to answer individual questions.

Read the story in the Cornell Chronicle.