Faculty & Staff: Spring 2021 Class Roster and Pre-enrollment information

Dec. 2, 2020

Dear Faculty and Staff,

I hope you enjoyed a restful Thanksgiving break. As we enter the home stretch of the fall semester, I write to you with updates about the spring semester. The information below is most relevant for faculty, particularly those who are developing their spring syllabi, as well as advisors.

Course roster and pre-enrollment: I am happy to announce that the spring 2021 class roster will go live on December 3, and pre-enrollment will begin next week on December 8.

Instruction modes: Like the fall 2020 semester, we will be offering a mix of in-person, synchronous online, hybrid and asynchronous distance learning courses in the spring; slightly more than one-third of courses will be taught in person. However, in the fall, approximately one-quarter of the courses that were originally listed as having an in-person component switched to all-online instruction. This was disappointing for students who lost an opportunity for in-person instruction and could potentially be problematic for international students who are required to enroll in at least one in-person course for visa purposes.

We learned from our survey of faculty that the two most common reasons for these changes were concerns about contracting COVID-19 and the difficulties of managing online and in-person teaching simultaneously. Thankfully, concerns about the former have abated, given that we found no evidence of classroom-based transmission, for both students and faculty. Neither contact tracing nor the results of our rigorous adaptive testing (of classmates and instructors in classes attended by a student who tested positive) revealed instances in which COVID-19 had spread in classroom settings. To address the challenges of simultaneously teaching students in person and online, we are investing in improvements to instructional technologies and classroom audio-visual systems, as well as centrally hiring and training classroom technology assistants to help instructors set up and operate technology. New workshops and tutorial videos will be available to instructors in early January.

With these assurances in place, absent extenuating circumstances, the instruction modes of courses should not be changed after students have enrolled in their classes. If changes to spring courses are unavoidable, we ask that faculty discuss proposed changes with department chairs and the relevant dean’s office before being implemented.

Wellness time off: With only a few exceptions, we have been able to avoid scheduling classes between 4:35 to 7:30 p.m. so that students have a break each day. In addition, there will be two separate two-day breaks in the spring semester: March 9 (Tuesday) and 10 (Wednesday), and April 23 (Friday) and 26 (Monday). In accordance with Faculty Resolution 85 on Academic Work During Scheduled Breaks, which was reinforced in the recently released Mental Health Review Final Report (PDF), there will be no prelims scheduled on these days off, nor on the day immediately following. Similarly, there should be no graded assignments due, or in-class tests given, on these dates.

Scheduling of exams: All exams that are not held during a regular class meeting time must be scheduled centrally to minimize conflicts for students. This applies to exams given in person, online or as a timed take-home exam within a 24-hour period.

Additional information about enrollment for advisors

Course conflicts: We have eliminated the five-minute overlaps between classes that contributed to many requests for permission to enroll in conflicting courses this fall. Therefore, students should not expect course overlaps to be approved in the spring like they were in this fall. It may be helpful to remind students that online does not mean asynchronous unless a course instruction mode is explicitly listed as an “asynchronous distance learning” in the roster. Students are expected to participate in online courses synchronously unless time zone differences make it impossible for them to do so.

First-Year Writing Seminars: Balloting and enrollment for FWS will occur in January after students have enrolled in their other classes. Students who need to enroll in an FWS should be advised to save at least three credits below their college’s maximum enrollment limit to leave space for an FWS in their schedule. Please visit www.knight.as.cornell.edu/fws-ballot for updates and details.

Credit overloads: Credit overloads are a significant source of mental health stress for Cornell students. With the added stressors introduced by COVID-19, we continue to strongly urge students to limit their credits to 18. Students who wish to enroll in additional credits should discuss their intentions with their faculty advisor or college advising office.

For more information, see the Guide to Spring 2021 Enrollment (PDF).

I am very grateful to all of you for your contributions to a successful fall semester, and I look forward to working together to apply what we have learned to make the spring semester even better.

Please stay safe and healthy,

Lisa Nishii
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education