Julia Nagel/Sun Assistant Photography Editor

The Libe Slope glows during an early summer sunset, but summer session students won't occupy it this year.

June 6, 2021

Cornell Gears Up for a Second Fully Virtual Summer Session

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As Cornellians enjoy their first days of summer, a record number will use the break to get ahead on their academic pursuits.

According to Ann Morse, executive director of communications and marketing at Cornell’s School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions, enrollment for this year’s summer session will be the highest it has ever been, topping the record-breaking summer session of 2020 by at least 25 percent.

With almost 300 courses, Cornell’s SCE will offer classes to current and visiting students fully online for the second year in a row. Morse attributed this spike in enrollment, in part, to the flexibility of virtual classes. 

“[Remote courses] are a huge benefit to international students,” Morse said, noting that they eliminate travel-related expenses and logistical problems like finding housing and managing classes with other summer opportunities.   

Even for students from areas close to Ithaca, virtual classes provide distinct conveniences. Lauren Sherman ’24 decided to take classes from her home in New Jersey this summer to fulfill some distribution requirements outside of the regular academic year. 

“Virtual classes are definitely more convenient,” Sherman said. “I don’t have to worry about housing or any other logistics. I don’t know if I would have taken classes if they were in-person.”

Nkemdirim Obodo ’22 is taking two summer classes to fulfill requirements for the Cornell Law School three-plus-three program, which allows students to complete an undergraduate and law degree in six years. To make the most of her time at Cornell, she decided to take courses that only run during the summer session.

While Obodo admitted that the online format makes courses more convenient for her, she also said that she would readily spend the summer in Ithaca.

“I think I would have enjoyed [in-person instruction] more, because I would be face to face with the people in my classes,” Obodo said, “I feel the class rapport would lead to better and deeper discussions.”

One of the courses Obodo is taking is GOVT 3887: International Human Rights in Theory and Practice, taught by Prof. Elizabeth Brundige, law. Brundige said that this past year has allowed her to become more flexible and creative with her courses by adding new interactive activities to her usual lessons. 

“It’s exciting now to be able to draw upon the insights I gained from teaching an online course last year as I prepare to teach it again this summer,” Brundige said.

Despite the benefits of online classes, however, Morse said the decision to keep the summer session online was difficult because student engagement tends to be highest during in-person instruction. Cornell SCE ultimately decided to make the session virtual because of continuing uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.

However, according to Morse, the University expects to return to a normal session next summer, with both in-person and virtual instruction.

”We can’t wait to get back to in-person, on-campus, online and abroad classes next summer,” Morse said. “But this summer we had to go all online.”