COVID-19 update: Revised academic calendar and online instruction resources

March 22, 2020

Dear Cornell Undergraduates,

Greetings from Ithaca. We hope that you are safe and comfortable wherever you will be for the rest of the spring semester. I’d like to acknowledge how stressful this transition has been for everyone. I suspect that, like me, you may have times when you feel completely overwhelmed by uncertainty and the demands of adapting to an entirely new lifestyle. I hope that, like me, you are also feeling more connected to loved ones – even if you can only connect virtually – as you check in on, support and even have fun with them. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about exactly how the rest of the semester is going to unfold, not only because of uncertainty about the virus itself but also because a fully online learning environment is new to almost all faculty and students.

Please know that faculty have been working extremely hard to learn new technologies and rethink how they can deliver a meaningful learning experience using different media. They are aware that you are now in different time zones and that some of you may be worried about whether you will be able to connect reliably to online course materials, have an environment that is conducive to learning and be able to maintain your standards for academic engagement and performance. Many of them are worried about the same. At the same time, faculty are excited to re-think traditional modes of teaching. This experience may offer opportunities to explore innovative online classroom ideas.

We all need to learn as we go and be patient with each other. Please communicate clearly and often – about how you are doing, your needs and concerns and any other questions you may have – and also do your part to remain informed about what others are trying to communicate to you. The university is posting new information as it becomes available through this FAQ page; I highlight here some key updates.

To accommodate for lost instruction time due to the two-week suspension of classes, the academic calendar for this semester has been revised as follows (these changes apply to all undergraduates except students in the Cornell in Rome and AAP in NYC programs and students who are completing their semesters through their study-abroad institutions):

  • First day of online instruction, Monday April 6
  • Last day to ADD a seven-week course, Tuesday, April 14
  • Last day for DROP/Grade Change, Tuesday, April 21
  • Last day of online instruction, Tuesday, May 12
  • Study Days, May 13 - 15
  • Exam Period, May 16 - 23

The FAQ page provides specific guidance on how to adjust to the revised calendar. Please note that the deadline for drop/grade basis change has been extended to April 21, and undergraduate students may opt for S/U grading in any course (except seven-week courses that have already been completed and graded), with S grades counting towards major, minor and academic good standing requirements this semester. Students should contact their college advising office prior to any drops or grading basis changes to discuss potential implications. Please be aware that dropping below 12 academic credits will pose significant difficulty to your academic progress and financial aid. Virtual student advising will continue to be available throughout the semester as will other counseling and support services.

The Learning Strategies Center (LSC) has prepared a remote learning preparedness checklist that you should follow carefully. Please test your online access and familiarity with Canvas and Zoom well in advance of April 6 to troubleshoot any problems. If you run into problems, staff are ready to provide you with general IT help or support related specifically to Canvas. The LSC has prepared useful tips for adapting your learning strategies for a remote learning environment as well as guidelines you can share with your families to support you during this transition. If you do not have Internet access at home, Spectrum is providing free Internet access for a limited time amid COVID-19.

Classes will meet online at their original time to reduce conflicts, but all lectures will be recorded or otherwise posted to accommodate students in alternate time zones. Faculty have been advised to be flexible when scheduling discussion sessions and office hours to ensure that students have opportunities to interact with them and each other regardless of time zone. The LSC will also continue offering tutoring and other academic support, and Student Disabilities Services (SDS) will continue to support students’ needs for accommodations, including those who are not yet registered with SDS but have concerns about needing an accommodation in order to participate in online learning.

As mentioned, the full FAQ page provides all of this information and more. We will not send out new emails with every update, so I urge you to check the FAQ, which will be updated regularly. Again, we truly do understand how disruptive and challenging all of this is for you. This is not how any of us expected the academic year to unfold. Stay healthy and stay strong. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to your academic advisor, department chair or me, at We, your Cornell community, are here for you.


Lisa Nishii
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education