Teaching with Covid-19 Created Uncertainty

Dear Colleagues,

As announced, instruction for spring 2022 will be remote for the first two weeks, returning to in-person on February 7.  With the expected large number of Covid cases, we will need to be prepared to deal with student and faculty absences and other uncertainties.   This makes planning difficult and thus requires either building flexibility into your course or constantly managing requests for accommodations. 

Here are some ideas for your consideration:

On-line Lectures

  • For remote lecture delivery, consider using Zoom breakout rooms to encourage interaction and engagement during the virtual start to the semester. Consider using polling either through Zoom or Poll Everywhere to engage students and also encourage attendance.
  • You can record lectures using Zoom as before.
  • During the on-line instruction period faculty can teach from their classrooms if they wish to.  Reach out to the COE/CIS It Team (email coecis-help@cornell.edu) before the semester starts if you need  technical support. 
  • If you prefer teaching on a blackboard, and wish to record short segments for a partially flipped classroom approach, both Thurston 203 and 205 are set up to record on the blackboard or with a document camera.  You could request time in either room via scheduling@cornell.edu to record the first two weeks of lectures.   Most of the  Upson classrooms, Olin 155, Phillips 101, and Hollister B14 and 110 are also set up with cameras to record lectures.


  • Clearly state how virtual classes will be delivered, including Zoom links, recording availability
    • Time zones may need to be considered for international students.  Consider recording lectures for those students to watch according to their time zone.  Limit the recordings to time zone impacted students by setting a passcode on the recording in the share menu on the recordings in your zoom account.  Email acadtech@cornell.edu if you need help with this. 
  • Clearly state how updates on class information or procedures will be provided
  • Clearly state that at all times, students must abide by the university public health requirements for students found here.  Expectations as of today include:
    • Remaining fully masked over the mouth and nose at all times in class
    • No eating or drinking in class, if you need to eat or drink, please step outside
    • Meeting all Covid-19 testing requirements (access to Canvas will be restricted by Cornell for students not in compliance)
    • Specify any course specific safety measures, especially as might pertain to laboratory sessions.
    • Add a general statement that the course instructors will update the class regarding expectations as needed, given the shifting public safety environment.
  • Explain how students should notify you if they become ill and/or are placed in isolation or quarantine.
  • Include instructions for any specific preferences on how to communicate SDS accommodations (e.g. In first two weeks of classes, at least 2 weeks before exams, timely for new accommodations, one week before accommodations are needed, etc.)
  • Specify your standard policy for attendance and late work
    • Include a statement on notifying you of SDS accommodations and stating that you will work with students needing these accommodations
    • Make sure your class rules don’t encourage students to attend when ill

Course Design

  • Consider having a small assignment due within the first two weeks so students don’t delay getting started on the course.  This could, for example, involve building up prerequisite skills.
  • Since the term starts online, it is likely that some to all students may not know others in the class to set up their own study sessions.  Consider creating a Zoom Study Hall by setting up specific open Zoom sessions that students can drop into.  These don’t need to be attended by you or a TA.  You can also point students to the LSC study partner tool:  https://lsc.cornell.edu/studying-together/find-study-partners/
  • Consider recording lectures as you give them, if possible, for the sake of students who may be ill and unable to attend. You can limit the viewing to just students with accommodations or open them up more broadly. 
  • Office hours in the first two weeks will be remote.  Once in-person instruction resumes consider holding some office hours remote and some in-person.  Many classrooms have document cameras and can be reserved at outside of scheduled times for office hours.  We can add document cameras to some classrooms, by request till we run out.

Student Illness, Isolation and Quarantine

Unfortunately, it is very likely that this semester will have many cases of students having to miss class resulting in labs, assignments and likely exams impacted.  Consider some options to reduce the logistical overhead of dealing with all the resulting requests for accommodations.

  • Consider giving all students a specified number of slip days that they can use for late assignments as needed across the semester.   Warn them to save them for use when/if they need them for Covid-19 issues.   Set up how these will be tracked and how it will impact homework grading.
  • Consider dropping the lowest one or two assignment grades.   Warn the students they will still be responsible for the material on exams, but they don’t need to stress over a lower assignment score itself.
  • With your exams or other assessment measures, consider dropping the lowest one to reduce the need for of make-ups. 

Best regards,

Alan Zehnder