Boris Tsang/Sun File Photo

A student crosses the campus during the first stage of a winter storm in 2020.

November 4, 2021

Winter Session is Coming — and Online Instruction is Here to Stay

Print More

While students are back in the swing of classes across campus, online instruction is here to stay: In the thick of the approaching Ithaca winter, Cornell will offer fully online instruction through the School of Continuing Education.

The Cornell community’s high vaccination rates and continued COVID-19 protocols have led to a significant decrease in recent on-campus cases, according to the COVID-19 dashboard. In contrast to the University’s 57 new cases in a single day on Aug. 28, case numbers have remained a consistent single digit for the past few weeks. This Tuesday, out of the 4,994 tests, Cornell reported only two positive cases.

Despite this decrease in cases, Ann Morse, executive director of Cornell SCE, wrote to The Sun that students prefer to take courses online during winter. 

Online instruction during winter is not something new for the Cornell students, as the Cornell SCE offered its first credit-bearing online course in the communications department during the 1997–1998 winter session. 

“By popular demand, the SCE has been working for a number of years to offer more online Winter Session classes,” Morse said. “Students and faculty overwhelmingly prefer this option for the Winter Session.”

Morse added that past student course enrollment data builds a strong case for continuing online winter instruction.  

“For example, the 2019 and 2020 Winter Sessions included only two on-campus classes,” Morse wrote, “so it made sense to focus our efforts on offering as many high-quality online courses as possible.”

As of Wednesday, SCE plans to offer more than 50 online courses from Jan. 3 to 21, with additional courses being added to the class roster every day. 

Taking courses through SCE, students can earn academic credits in just three weeks of instruction. According to Morse, this option can provide a great opportunity for students who are pursuing early graduation, double majors or are simply trying to get ahead in their studies.

The tuition this year is $1,620 per credit. If a student chooses to enroll in a three-credit course, tuition totals to $4,860.

Many students have been taking advantage of this opportunity during winter breaks, saying that it helps them take courses that otherwise wouldn’t fit into their schedules, while fostering friendship in a small cohort. 

Sayo Ajagbe ’24 took Economics 1110: Introductory Microeconomics with Prof. Jennifer Wissink, economics. He said that taking a winter course last year allowed him to pursue a double major in economics, despite his packed schedule during the regular semesters.

“As a biology major, my schedule during the fall and spring semesters are packed, and being able to fit this class into my break was a great decision,” Ajagbe wrote in an SCE survey form last year. “It allowed me to make use of my time at home and learn new information that I would’ve had time to otherwise … It has been an amazing experience.”

Students also said that taking a class during the winter semester can help to build strong connections with a small cohort. Alexandra Yiachos ’24 took Nutritional Sciences 1600: Introduction to Public Health and said she found it a great opportunity to meet other students and study in an engaging environment.

“It offers a great chance to study with a small group of people and develop connections that wouldn’t have been possible during the normal semester,” Yiachos wrote. “The class was short, but engaging and valuable.”

According to Morse, Cornell SCE is planning to continue to offer online instruction during future winter semesters.

“Winter Session courses will be offered primarily online for the foreseeable future,” Morse said. “We’re dedicated to continuing to expand our online offerings to give students in Ithaca and around the world access to outstanding Cornell courses and faculty.”