Information for Faculty

The transition to virtual instruction can be challenging for both faculty and students. The Center for Teaching Innovation has assembled an array of tools to help faculty move their classes online, engage students in distance learning and meet course learning objectives.

Please note:

  • These FAQs will be updated on an ongoing basis, so please check back as we work to answer emerging questions.
  • These FAQs are intended to provide general guidance. Please pay attention to college-specific communications you may be receiving, in case there are special circumstances or guidelines that are specific to your college. If you notice any discrepancies from what you see here, contact your associate dean for clarification.

Academic Calendar

The last day of instruction on the Ithaca campus has been 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. Questions should be directed to department chairs or associate deans.

*Faculty teaching in professional programs should check for program-specific information about changes to 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, May 12
  • 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 or AAP NYC programs and those completing their semesters through study abroad.
  • The revised academic calendar also 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 masters programs. Please refer to program-specific calendars for the following: ILR-EMHRM, DVM, all Law programs and Cornell Tech professional masters degrees (Meng, MBA, LLM).
  • The Law School and College of Veterinary Medicine have both modified their spring break timelines and resumed virtual instruction before April 6. Cornell Tech, which has already transitioned to virtual instruction along with some of our other NYC-based programs, will continue to conduct classes online. Please be sure to refer to your program’s leadership for guidance.

Teaching assistants will continue to be paid their usual stipend and are expected to support remote instruction, with an average of 15 hours/week of assigned duties (and not to exceed 20 hours). We ask that TAs be available to support students who reach out to them, while at the same time avoid setting any expectation that students should focus on academic work during the suspension on instruction.


Moving to Online Instruction

IT@Cornell provides guidance about working from home.

For guidance about remote teaching tools, visit the Center for Teaching Innovation (CTI) website, which is updated frequently with information about webinars and other resources available to help you get ready for moving to online instruction. CTI is now offering online drop-in sessions for remote teaching questions, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Join a drop-in session by Zoom.

In response to Governor Cuomo’s “New York State on Pause” executive order, faculty and staff who are preparing to teach online must do this work from home unless university facilities are absolutely required. Exemptions will be limited to extraordinary circumstances and must be approved by your dean, who will be consulting with the provost. Faculty should plan to do their teaching using the resources and techniques suggested on the CTI website. These resources include support for faculty who had hoped to continue utilizing classroom whiteboards or blackboards for their teaching.

There are a range of ways that will not require that you actually be in a classroom with a whiteboard or blackboard, for example using a tool such as an iPad or a variety of apps that can be used in combination with Zoom. CTI has developed a page that will describe your options to help you decide what approach would work best for you.

Please also check the remote teaching-specific FAQs for more detailed information..

Universities across the nation are in the same position. There is a lot of great information available online, being posted by instructors everywhere, about how to adapt your discipline-specific teaching to an online format. Some standard scenarios (with instructions) are offered here to get you started.

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.

You should offer about the same amount of time you 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.

Not all students 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.

It is important for compliance reasons that you document substantial changes that you make to your course and that you provide students with a revised syllabus as soon as possible. Plan to communicate clearly and often. If you have questions about the appropriateness of changes you are making to your course, please contact your department chair or associate dean to discuss.

Adjustments to core courses should be communicated to your department colleagues and chair so that adjustments, as needed, can be made to courses taught in future terms.

Due to the challenges introduced by our transition to online instruction – with students dispersed across time zones, facing different family circumstances and embedded in unequal learning environments – faculty are strongly urged to consider alternatives forms of assessment. Faculty who are unable to identify viable alternatives are advised to consider the following:

  1. Students with unreliable connections could be dropped part way through the exam, meaning they may not actually have the same amount of time to complete the exam;
  2. Some students might not have regular access to the internet and may have to physically get themselves to an internet connection in order to download the exam, but be unable to complete the exam in that location;
  3. Students may be on a cell phone, and if the exam is using the Canvas quizzing tool, the Canvas mobile app does not contain all question types (and even if they use mobile browsers, not all questions are easy to use); and
  4. Synchronous timed exams are not recommended due to time zone differences. As always, faculty should be prepared to adjust the timing of the exam for students with time accommodations.

Timed exams can be offered through Canvas Quizzes. Good practices for creating online exams include the following:

  • You should assume not all students will have the necessary connection to complete an online, high-stakes exam, and you should have alternative assessment prepared for them.
  • You need to expect that some students will not be able to finish the exam because of in-exam connection issues. You should have a make-up exam policy prepared in advance and ready to use.
  • Some students will require time accommodations for exams. Once a quiz is created, you can moderate the quiz to change the amount of time or number of attempts available to individual students. Visit Canvas FAQs for instructions.
  • Put questions into "question groups" in a quiz. This will randomize the order of the questions within each group. If the question groups have more questions than the groups are set to pick, this will also randomize which questions each student gets (creating a question pool).
  • Shuffle the answer order.
  • Do not allow students to see their quiz responses after the quiz. (This can be manually changed after the quiz is no longer available.)
  • Show one question at a time.

Scheduling: Exams, Course Meeting Times, Accommodating Time Zone Differences

Faculty are strongly recommended to consider alternate assessments in place of previously scheduled preliminary exams and as well as final exams, where possible. If it is critical to retain a university-scheduled exam, faculty should reference the following table, which provides alternative dates for prelims scheduled after March 13, 2020. Faculty who intend to administer a final exam should follow the original final exam schedule, pushed back by one week.

Faculty must be prepared to provide accommodations to students who may not have reliable access to an online exam or who are in different time zones (see FAQ about time zones below). Faculty who need to make accommodations for students or intend to move their prelim exam to a Monday or Wednesday should communicate with their students in advance to determine the number of conflicts that may be created.

Changes to prelim dates
Originally Scheduled Prelim Date Proposed Alternative Prelim Date
19-Mar 9-Apr
24-Mar 14-Apr
26-Mar 16-Apr
7-Apr 21-Apr
9-Apr 23-Apr
14-Apr 28-Apr
16-Apr 30-Apr
21-Apr 5-May
23-Apr 7-May
28-Apr 7-May
30-Apr 7-May
5-May 7-May

You should maintain your regular meeting time for contact with your students. However, please keep in mind that students will be dispersed across a wide range of time zones and some will simply not be able to participate during the normal meeting time. If you use this scheduled time for lecture, your lecture must be recorded or otherwise posted. If you pre-record lecture material and post it for students in advance of the scheduled session, you can use scheduled time for students to interact with you and each other (discussion, group work, etc.). If you choose this model you should plan to schedule alternate times to maximize the chances that students will be able to participate in at least one of them regardless of time zone. We recommend that you take a poll of your students to find out what time zones they are in so that you can schedule these in a way that makes the most sense.

You can find tips for pre-recording lectures here. The university will not distribute your recorded lectures beyond providing them to your current students. You will be able to delete any recorded lectures at the end of the semester. According to Cornell University Copyright Policy, faculty own the copyright of original content delivered online during the ongoing health emergency, unless other contracts or agreements have been arranged specifically between the faculty member and the university.

Time zone accommodations may be necessary for students who live far away and are expected to attend class, take an exam or utilize office hours at a specified time. A time zone accommodation for a student is generally not required for any course-related event that takes place between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. in the student’s time zone. Thus, an evening prelim scheduled for 7:30 to 9 p.m. EDST “works” for all students who live in the continental USA. On the other hand, a time zone accommodation would be made available to a student in the Pacific time zone who needs to take a 9 to 11:30 a.m. EDST final exam unless they say, “I am OK taking an exam between 6 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. PDST.” Faculty will need to be flexible in terms of offering alternate exams, office hours, etc. Generally speaking, a student with a time zone issue should be accommodated so that the problematic event is handled as expeditiously as possible, typically within 24 hours.


Online Security & Access

We've configured Zoom's privacy and security settings to reduce the possibility of unknown or unwelcome guests joining a meeting or webinar. If used within Canvas, only Cornell participants with the zoom link are able to join.

If, despite these precautions, someone you don't know shows up in your meeting, you should take it seriously; it's possible that these incidents may constitute a phishing attempt to obtain confidential information or access to Cornell services. This may of course be hard to tell for a large course.

There are options such as removing unwanted guests, enabling a waiting room feature, disabling join before host, disabling share screen expect for hosts or enabling a meeting password. See the following IT web page with detailed instructions:

Instructors should be aware that course materials accessed by students residing in certain countries may not be secure and may be monitored by their government.

Canvas and Zoom are reported to be accessible in China, but Google is not, meaning students may not be able to access their Cmail accounts. If you typically use email to communicate with your students, we recommend sending announcements in Canvas, or using the Canvas Inbox to mail your students directly from Canvas (this will not use the student’s Cmail account). Students connecting via external cellular service such as Verizon and AT&T will be able to access Google, but such service is expensive and not widely available.


Web Accessibility, FERPA Compliance, Accommodations

In these challenging times and with the immediate need to convert to online teaching, faculty should prioritize addressing known accessibility needs for students enrolled in their classes. If faculty learn of any additional student accommodation needs as the semester resumes, faculty should refer those students to SDS. Faculty should work closely with SDS to support students who may need accommodations for remote learning, including additional time or support to complete classwork or examinations for the Spring 2020 semester. For information about Student Disability Services (SDS) and disability access, see the Faculty Guide for Virtual Instruction.

The Center for Teaching Innovation (CTI) is offering (recorded) webinars on Inclusion, Accessibility, & Accommodations in Online Learning, and also has experts on call to help. Please call the help desk or submit a request. For information about Student Disability Services (SDS) and disability access, see the Faculty Guide for Virtual Instruction.

It is very important for faculty to review FERPA compliance guidelines (pdf). If students are included in the recordings, either through questions or interactions, then the platform use for your classroom sessions must be FERPA-compliant. (See the guidelines for information on which platforms are FERPA compliant.) The primary restriction is that the material can only be distributed within the course, and you must take reasonable precautions to prevent any broader release. Further, personal information such as grades should be restricted to individual students only.

The presumption is that you will not have students “appearing” in your lectures, but rather only as ancillary participants through questions or active teaching. It is not “illegal” to capture student presentations or comments in a class and to share recordings with members of that same class. However, such sessions should not be posted publicly on platforms such as YouTube, Instagram or similar social media sites, as set forth below.

Almost all activities within Canvas can be expected to be FERPA compliant, with some restrictions, including Zoom sessions that are initiated outside of Canvas. These restrictions are described in these FERPA compliance guidelines (pdf).

Faculty are still expected to make reasonable accommodations for religious observance as required by both Cornell policy and New York state law. However, traditional accommodations that you are used to giving for your classes may not work in a virtual learning environment. For example, many religious feasts and fasts begin at sundown. Because our students are now located across the globe, the time at which they begin their religious observances will vary based on their location. CTI is offering some easy, helpful solutions to help you navigate making individual accommodations in Canvas. For more information, you are encouraged to consult with Oliver Goodrich, Associate Dean of Spirituality and Meaning Making at or 607-255-6003 or the Office of the Dean of the Faculty at or 607-255-4843.


Online Course Reserves, Texts & Library Collections

To help students gain access to online course materials, The Cornell Store has partnered with VitalSource and publishers to launch VitalSource Helps, a program offering free access to e-books for students through May 25, 2020. Visit for more information and updates about course materials. In addition, the university libraries have verified that copyright restrictions can be relaxed for this semester to enable faculty to scan and upload copyrighted material to share with students, provided they do so within their Canvas course.

The Cornell Store course materials team is available for one-on-one assistance, including virtual help via Zoom or Skype; please contact Faculty can also get assistance converting custom course packets to digital formats by emailing Additional resources from publishers and course material providers can be found at:

Yes, temporary online access to about half of Cornell’s print collections (i.e. about 4 million volumes) is now available. This Emergency Temporary Access Service will be available for as long as the physical facilities of the Cornell Libraries remain closed due to the current public health crisis. Access for Cornell faculty, students and staff will be through the library catalog. An additional 6.7 million full-text books can be explored at HathiTrust Digital Library.


Research Continuity

Research continuity guidance for laboratories and research facilities, grant-related guidance, pandemic preparedness communications from the Center for Animal Resources and Education to PIs and additional employee guidance is available on the Cornell Research website.

COGR, NASA, NIH, NSF, USAID and other federal agencies have provided guidance to assist researchers. A list can be found on the Cornell Research website.

The Graduate School website had additional resources and guidance for graduate students.


Tenure and Promotion

Except for those individuals whose reviews are currently in progress, the evaluation period for reappointment or tenure review for all current tenure-track faculty members will be extended by one year, and the term of appointment will be adjusted accordingly. Faculty members, with the approval of their department chair and dean, may elect to forgo the extension and be reviewed in the normal time frame.

All reappointment and tenure reviews that are currently in progress (i.e. those tenure reviews due for provost review August of 2020) should continue unless the unit dean in consultation with the provost’s office determines that pausing a specific review is warranted. Deans and department chairs will closely monitor all review processes to ensure a fair and accurate assessment.

Because promotion-to-full-professor reviews are not subject to a maximum clock, the timing of those reviews is not affected by this extension. Faculty who have completed the necessary years in the associate professor rank may elect to undergo review or delay their review as circumstances dictate.