Preparing for Fall Instruction
Frequently Asked Questions
For an in-person course, do I need to offer remote access to all students?
In-person courses held on campus will also have to provide remote access into the classroom for students who do not return to Ithaca for the fall term or are in Ithaca but in quarantine.
Note: It is anticipated that there could be a small subset of hands-on courses that require access to special facilities or materials that render a fully remote option implausible (except short-term accommodations for students who are in quarantine/isolation but otherwise able to participate in the course in-person). Dean-level approval will be required for courses to be exempt from the expectation of offering remote access.
What’s the difference between offering remote access to an in-person course and teaching an all-online course?
Online courses are designed a priori to be delivered completely online, with no in-person participation among instructors or students. This is different from providing remote access into the classroom for courses that are taught in-person but have students participating from outside of the classroom (e.g., students who are unable to return to campus, are in quarantine, etc.).
There are some notable similarities and differences across the two. An all-online course requires more work ahead of time, since teaching materials should be pre-recorded. Students can then access teaching materials at their own pace. However, frequent opportunities for instructor/student engagement need to be made available (including for students in different time zones). Instructors who will be teaching all-online courses are expected to:
- Pre-record shorter video lectures and upload them for students in advance;
- Communicate regularly and clearly about what is required versus optional material;
- Create a sense of course community by offering frequent opportunities for instructor/student engagement (including for students in different time zones);
- Make adjustments to course materials to improve web accessibility based on course diagnostics provided by an accessibility tool called Ally that is integrated into Canvas (Note: Ally will be automatically activated in Canvas for online courses).
In contrast, instructors of in-person courses are not required to pre-record their lectures—they will teach "live" in the classroom, much like their regular mode of teaching)—and Ally will only be turned on to assist them with web accessibility if they so choose. They are, however, expected to provide a way for students who are not in the classroom to participate. Depending on the time zones of the students enrolled, remote participation could occur synchronously using Zoom or asynchronously using recordings of class meetings.
What is the expectation for accessibility?
As always, whether a course is taught in-person or remotely, course materials should be accessible to all students. New materials developed for online courses should be designed to be accessible to individuals with vision and hearing impairments (i.e., text readable by screen readers, audio transcription and video captioning, alternative text to describe images and graphics, descriptive hyperlinks).
Cornell now has Ally, an accessibility tool that is integrated with Canvas, to facilitate this process. Ally automatically checks course materials for accessibility and provides a specific report for each item. It can help instructors identify what needs to be done, making it easier to take some immediate steps toward making course materials more accessible. Ally also allows students to automatically generate accessible, alternative versions of course materials for their use.
Ally will automatically be turned on for fully online fall courses. Faculty teaching courses that meet in person can request that Ally be turned on for their fall courses by filling out a form and identifying the course(s) to be enabled.
Though Ally provides tools to help diagnose accessibility issues, it is important to remember that faculty are the best judge of which course materials to prioritize for ensuring students are able to achieve the desired learning outcomes for the course. The focus should not be on achieving perfection, but on making key course items as accessible as possible. As has been the norm with in-person teaching, Student and Disability Services (SDS) will assist with additional accommodations that may be needed for other individual disabilities, upon request. Individual faculty members and their departments have primary responsibility for ensuring that their courses meet the baseline accessibility standards.
The CTI will also be coordinating training workshops for Ally. Dates and additional information are available online. For support with ensuring accessibility of your course content, please request assistance from CTI's trained staff volunteers.
I didn’t teach in the spring and am new to all this. Where do I start?
If I teach a course that is greater than 50 students, does that automatically mean I should teach it online?
In-person class meetings will be capped at 50 individuals (including the instructor), but that does not necessarily mean that all courses with enrollments greater than 50 need to be taught online. Options for how to teach in person include: (a) if historical enrollments are close to 50, cap the in-person portion of the course to 50 (students who participate remotely would not count toward the classroom occupancy); (b) split the course into smaller class enrollments that are less than 50; or (c) have students alternate between in-person and remote participation (e.g., every other course or week).
I understand that instructors can adopt a “hybrid” approach in which subsets of students take turns participating in-person versus remotely. Will that also be possible for lab courses?
Lab course teaching modality will be decided by departments. Depending on room and TA availability, the best way to achieve learning goals while also de-densifying the lab may indeed be to take turns participating in-person versus remotely.
If students have assigned seating that ensures they maintain six feet distancing, can they remove their masks in class?
Masks have been shown to lower the risk of infection. Students will be expected to wear their face coverings in class even when they are seated at least six feet apart from other students.
I’m worried that students will not be able to hear me if I’m wearing a mask. Can I wear a face shield instead?
We are currently exploring face shields and masks and how they work with personal microphones. It is likely that due to masks/shields and distanced students voice lift microphones will have to be used even in medium-size classes. It is also important that remote participants (on Zoom) can hear the instructor. Both options will likely be available so that instructors can choose the option that works better for them. Masks, shields and personal microphones will be ordered centrally.
Exams are a challenge in an online class. What options and resources are there?
CTI offers an Assessing Learning Online workshop, which will run over the summer, and is recorded and available on its Guided Course Support page. This course is designed to help instructors identify alternative assessment strategies for any course. Additionally, CTI has guidelines available for the best way to use Canvas quizzes, whether for persistent quizzing or high-stakes exams. These include randomized questions, test question banks, limited question availability windows and limits on backtracking to earlier questions.
In addition, the calendar has been modified to allow for in-person "semi-final" exams just before Thanksgiving for instructors who would prefer this option to online final exams at the very end of the term. Instructors of online courses also have this option.
Who is responsible for procuring technology that instructors will need to support remote access?
An initial order of generic technology to support remote access is being placed centrally. The order includes laptops, microphones for voice lift and for Zoom, webcams, tablets, etc. Due to national backorders, the university could not risk delaying a central order until the course roster had been rebuilt (with information about the modality of each course); therefore, orders are being placed based upon the best possible estimate. Once the equipment arrives, CIT will work with local IT teams to disseminate and support classroom technologies.
I’m teaching an online course but don’t have an ideal home setup to pre-record lectures. Would it be possible for me to prepare online course materials on campus?
Yes, faculty are permitted to use their offices. CTI also has information on equipment for improving your home-office studio. There are a limited number of high-quality recording studios on campus that faculty may request access to through their colleges.. Small conference rooms can also be transformed into mini recording studios (of more moderate quality). Interested departments should reach out to their local IT teams as soon as possible to coordinate central equipment orders, where needed.
How can I do active learning in this new teaching environment?
Instructors involved in the Cornell Active Learning Initiative have successfully adapted active learning strategies to remote courses of different sizes. Guidance, challenges, examples and lessons learned can be found on this webpage.