September 6, 2020

Two-Thirds of Cornell Classes Are Online, Despite Hybrid Semester

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This fall, a dorm isn’t just a bedroom. It’s a dining hall. It’s a library. And for most students, it’s also a classroom.

Cornell made national news in July for pledging to bring all students back to campus for a hybrid semester with in-person and online classes. But as thousands of students settle into their Ithaca residences, many of them aren’t trekking to lecture halls and seminar rooms for class.

A Sun review of the class roster revealed that about two-thirds of Cornell courses are held fully online this fall. Less than 1 percent of the classes in each undergraduate college are entirely in-person, running on campus for seven weeks and ending before Thanksgiving break.

Cornell has split courses into five teaching modalities: in-person, online, distance learning asynchronous, in-person with transition to online and hybrid. After online classes, in-person courses that transition online after Thanksgiving break are the most common format.

Classes that only consist of pre-recorded lectures — called distance learning asynchronous — make up less than 2 percent of the roster. Hybrid courses, which require some in-person learning, consist of nearly 9 percent of the classes offered this fall.

Approximately 80 percent of classes in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations are fully online, making it the undergraduate college with the highest percentage of all-online courses. The College of Architecture, Art and Planning has the highest percentage of in-person classes that transition online — a third of them have started in Milstein and Tjaden Hall studios.

Familiar Cornell favorites also look different this semester. The thousands of students taking introductory psychology or oceanography won’t find their professors lecturing from the Bailey Hall stage, but live from their Zoom screens. Students taking HADM 4300: Introduction to Wines won’t be sipping along with their professors each week, but will enjoy the course online.

Meanwhile, students are running experiments and recording data inside the Physical Sciences Building and on the engineering quad. More than half of lab classes are held in person until they transition online in December.

Most campus lecture halls sit empty, as over two-thirds of lecture classes across colleges are online only. Cornell is holding over 80 percent of seminars over Zoom, rather than around wooden tables and in cramped classrooms.

And for students taking at least one in-person class, they won’t have a classmate beside them to turn to for help. Students wear masks and sit several chairs apart in lecture halls that were once packed, while their peers Zoom in from miles away. Even in a hybrid semester, students are often much farther than just six feet apart.

Correction, Sept. 7, 1:00 p.m.: A previous version of this article misstated which college has the highest percentage of online classes. The School of Industrial and Labor Relations has the highest percentage of online classes, not the College of Arts and Sciences. The article has since been updated.