Committee on Preparation for Online Teaching

Professor Courtney Roby  (Classics) is the Faculty Senate representative.

Comments and suggestions can be posted below. Totally anonymous unless you share your identity in the posting itself.


The committee should consider the implications of a situation in which we need all or most of our classes online in the fall semester, and possibly the spring semester as well, and under that scenario make recommendations to the president about the following questions, not later than June 15. They should also provide intermediate updates to the cabinet every other week.

  1. Should we attempt to offer all classes online, or only a restricted subset of them? If so, how would we make these decisions: as one example, would it make sense to start upper-level classes in the fall, and then defer freshmen to start in January?
  2. Would we work with faculty over the summer to enhance the quality of their offerings further or assume that faculty, having had the experience of the current semester, can do this on their own?
  3. Would we pay faculty for the extra work of converting their classes to online format over the summer?
  4. Would we temporarily eliminate large classes?  (There has been some discussion that very large classes are especially ineffective in the current online format?)
  5. Would we make spring and summer offerings more robust for 2021 and beyond?
  6. What are the ADA issues we’d need to address?
  7. How would we handle technology issues?  What have we learned from the current experience?  For example: what do we do about students who are in very different time zones?  What do we do about students who do not have reliable access to wifi? What do we do about students in China who may have VPN issues? What other issues have arisen or might arise?
  8. What would we offer to students outside of their online classes?  Would there be any attempt at virtual co-curricular offerings? Would we continue to provide telehealth services?  And if so, how would this be factored in tuition and fees? (If the students are not on campus, it seems unlikely that they will be willing to pay fees, but if they’re not paying fees we can’t provide things like health services.)
  9. What other changes would we implement, e.g., any changes to grading policies?
  10. Would it be feasible to have some students on campus, and others taking classes online? Would they be in the same classes?
  11. What are the financial implications? This should include a consideration of whether tuition levels should be changed.
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11 thoughts on “Committee on Preparation for Online Teaching

  1. As a student, if it goes online we would like to see a tuition decrease. The level of education is not even remotely comparable. I would consider taking a leave of absence instead of attending online for the same price.

  2. Since it’s likely that physical computer lab access will be limited in Fall 2020, we will need the university to subsidize remote access to course software via Apps on Demand, like it generously did in Spring 2020. Many of the Apps we use in courses run only on Windows computers. Students with Windows computers can run these Apps on their computers. Others will need to use Apps on Demand which worked really well in Spring 2020.

  3. Having access to AppsOnDemand will allow me to assign to students the specialized software that we would otherwise have been using in a computer lab. Having the cost of that access subsidized for students would be greatly appreciated.

  4. I am trying to prepare a large class for the Fall, having not taught in the Spring. It would be helpful to know if — assuming students return to campus — we will be offering large classes (by large I mean over 50), or if they will be broken into smaller sections, or if students will take turns going to a lecture while others will watch on line? I also have a family member that is in a high risk population, so worry about how exposure to students may affect the health and well-being of my family. But I also cannot imagine how to make these large classes all that engaging if they are offered in an on-line format. Yes, there are lots of links and webinars to attend for help — but one can spend a boatload of time trying to figure this out, and in the end, it’s a taped lecture that students won’t listen to all the way through . . .

  5. Current format of online instruction has allowed those who can attend a live do so and provided video recordings for those who are in very different time zones to watch and review later. Technology on maintaining this access for video recording throughout the semester is thus important. In light of COVID-19 and the scale of its spread and the speed of its infection, a face-to-face instruction which increases the risks of cross infections between students and faculties should not be made mandatory especially for a class size bigger than 10 students. If a hybrid version of instruction is offered, face-to-face instruction should require everybody to wear a face mask.
    This would also allow to minimize the risk of infection for those who can and want to stay home. Social-distancing is definitely needed. Lives are top priority to guarantee in current uncertainties and disasters. The cornavirus is highly likely to become a coexisting disease during seasons and given the size of confirmed cases in the U.S. and the relatively uncontrollable following of social-distancing that results in more difficulties to contain the spread can add more risks to the situation as a whole. (Especially that we are in the NY state and student fluidity is great).

  6. Currently, there is no reliable method to give online exams that prevents wide scale cheating.
    There are rumors on social media that students are forming ‘study’ groups to take exams collectively, or arrange for people to look up answers in books and online resources for them.
    We need to worry as a university that our grading system in large introductory courses may become completely unreliable, and a source embarrassment, not to mention a legal liability.
    The advise from CTI does not address this issue. Senate may need to discuss implications.

  7. Online class offerings should apply to all classes in the 20-21 school year if and when the campus does reopen because this will allow for students who do not feel safe or cannot feasibly reenter the country to have the option to continue their education without jeopardizing their safety. Something I feel that is also being overlooked is students who do not live in University sponsored housing. Lease considerations are a really pressing issue for these students, especially for the New York City Campuses. I don’t see the point in committing to a new lease for the school year if a potential lockdown situation could occur again. Currently spending rent on an empty apartment because I didn’t feel safe remaining in the city. If I am taking online classes and then they are all of the sudden moved in person, I would need the online option to continue as I would likely not be living nearby to the campus.

  8. An possible hybrid option not mentioned above:

    Start classes online on August 27, and after 8 weeks, students arrive and continue classes on campus.

    Reasoning for this option:
    Starting online guarantees that we will not lose the whole semester. If there is indeed a second wave of the virus and the administration deems it unsafe to bring students to campus mid-October, then they can decide to continue online for the entire semester. However, if all goes well, students will feel at ease having a set date to arrive on campus in mid-October. This option also minimizes changes to the academic calendar which is much less stressful for everyone.

    For arguments sake, if the administration decided on the other proposed scenario of starting on-campus Fall classes 1 to 2 months later, this could coincide with the predicted second wave of the virus, and we could end up sending everyone back home again. Additionally, starting this late means taking away winter break—time students need to lower stress levels and be emotionally ready to start the Spring semester.

    1. If we’re going to be offering a substantial chunk of classes online, do not assume that the experience of this semester makes all faculty into experts in online education. We are not. There must be some communication from the university or college level to faculty about best practices for online teaching, especially regarding things like office hours and academic integrity of assessments.
  9. I expect that the committee/administration has already anticipated this, but my undergrad students/advisees are telling me that if Cornell is online in the fall, they will take a leave of absence and/or attend another, less expensive, online institution. They don’t view the online format as worth the usual Cornell tuition, and they have a point.

  10. Faculty should be involved sooner rather than later in reimagining our courses under the various scenarios. I’ve noticed that many chairs are not relaying to departments any academic leadership discussions, but faculty are eager to plan and prepare. Could the committee relay to chairs how important early communication is to the broader faculty? One thing faculty can do now is to reimagine, to reenvision, to plan for various options in terms of teaching. But waiting until June 15 won’t create the best results. Is there a reason that chairs are not talking to the faculty about what is being discussed centrally about various scenarios?

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