Resources for online students

In addition to reviewing the FAQs below, we encourage you to visit the following pages for online study tips:

Contact us if you have any questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Eligibility, enrollment, and registration

Technical requirements

Tuition and payments

Credits, grades, and transcripts


Do I have to be a Cornell student to take an online course offered by Cornell's School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions (SCE)?

No, SCE has an open-admissions policy for all courses offered during the Summer and Winter Sessions, including our online courses. This means classes are open to Cornell and visiting students in the U.S. and abroad*.

Note: As a member of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), Cornell is approved to offer distance education to students in all 50 U.S. states. For more information, see our state authorization page.

*Cornell is committed to compliance with all export control regulations, including U.S. sanctions. Any individual located in the following regions must receive written approval from Cornell’s Export Control and Compliance Officer prior to enrolling in an online course: Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, Russia, Ukrainian regions of Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk.

How old do I have to be to take an online class?

You must be at least a high school sophomore, junior, or senior.

How many classes can I take?

Summer Session

  • Up to four credits in a three-week period (effectively a 20-credit semester)
  • Up to eight credits in a six-week period (a 20-credit semester)
  • Up to ten credits in an eight-week period (a 19-credit semester equivalent)
  • Up to fifteen credits during the entire summer period (May–August)

Winter Session

  • One class or up to four credits

If you wish to exceed these credit limits, review the credits page for details.

How do I enroll and register?

If you are a high school student, see the online courses page on the Precollege Studies website.

Otherwise, please visit the registration page.

I have registered for an online course. What happens next?

If this is the first time you enrolled in a class at Cornell University, you will be assigned a NetID. You will need a NetID to participate in your class, gain easier access to your transcript, obtain your grades through Just the Facts, access library services and Canvas, use Cornell's network services, including email, set up mail forwarding, complete online evaluations, and more.

All students enrolling in an online course are encouraged to contact the instructor before the course begins. Instructors typically have information to share with students prior to the start of class and may want to confirm that all students have an adequate connection to the online learning site.

What if I change my mind and want to drop my class?

You may drop a class by completing an electronic Add/Drop/Change Request Form.

What are the technical requirements for an online course?

All online courses require an internet connection. And although they may have different technical requirements, almost all online courses are offered through Cornell's Canvas software, a web-based learning system. Generally, you'll interact with the instructor and other students via email, discussion boards, interactive chat rooms, video conferences, and/or phone.

Visit IT@Cornell to learn more about tools for remote learning and options for poor Wi-Fi or cellular service. Also see the Learning Strategies Center remote learning preparedness checklist.

What do I do if I need technical assistance?

If you are having technical problems, your first contact should be the IT Service Desk. In most cases they will be able to resolve your questions. The IT Service Desk will also be able to direct you to the right resource if you need additional support.

How do I get access to the class materials?

Once you receive your NetID, the faculty member teaching the course will contact you with instructions for accessing the course materials, syllabus, and other class information.

How much does an online class cost?

Cornell’s online classes are regular, credit-bearing Cornell courses. The grades and credits earned through these courses are recorded on an official Cornell transcript. As such, these classes — and all credit-bearing summer offerings — are subject to the Cornell tuition rate set by the university's Board of Trustees. See the tuition page.

Cornell tuition does not include textbooks for the class. You may be required to purchase textbooks.

When do I have to pay?

For payment deadlines, see the academic calendar for Summer Session or Winter Session.

What are acceptable payment methods?

Acceptable payment methods are described on the how to pay page.

Is financial aid available?

Some Cornell students may be eligible for financial aid. Please contact the Office of Financial Aid for information.

Will I get my money back if I drop the class?

See the schedules on the refund page.

May I take a class as noncredit and pay a reduced tuition?

No. Online classes are taken for credit, and the per-credit tuition applies.

Will the credits I earn count toward my degree requirements?

If you're a Cornell undergraduate, check with your college before submitting the course-enrollment form to make sure that credit for the online course will count toward your degree.

If you're a candidate for a graduate or undergraduate degree elsewhere, consult the appropriate official in your college or university to make sure that the credit you earn at Cornell will count toward your degree.

What kind of credit do I get?

At the successful completion of the class, you will receive Cornell University credits.

How will I be graded?

The criteria for grading will be established by the faculty and outlined on the class syllabus. Online learning is very similar to an on-campus class experience; in this case the classroom is virtual.

How do I get my grade?

Approximately 10 days after the end of your class you may log into your Cornell Student Center to view your grades.

Will I have a Cornell transcript?

Yes. Approximately 10 days after the end of the class you may log into your Cornell Student Center or the Cornell University Registrar website to order your transcript.

What kind of student does well with online learning?

Students who excel in online courses are generally organized, motivated, independent, and have good time-management skills.

What methods will be used to teach my online course?

Methods vary by course and instructor but may include pre-recorded or synchronous lectures, videos, podcasts, PowerPoint slides, interactive chat rooms, blog posts, and more. Please refer to the syllabus for your course for details about how your class will be taught.

(For information about synchronous and asynchronous instruction modes, see the selecting courses page.)

Is there a class outline (syllabus)?

Once you receive your NetID, the faculty member teaching the course will contact you with instructions for accessing the course materials, syllabus, and other class information. In many cases you can find the syllabus on Canvas. If not, please contact the department offering the course.

What do I do if I have questions about an assignment?

Online learning takes place in a virtual classroom, but the skills used to succeed in it are very similar to those needed for an on-campus class. Questions about assignments or any part of the class should be directed to the faculty or teaching assistant by email or phone, or through the instructional software, Canvas.

How much time will I spend in my virtual classroom?

You should plan to spend at least 37.5 hours in your virtual classroom. Remember, this is an entire college semester offered in just a few weeks.

How much time will be involved in homework?

For each hour spent in your virtual classroom, you should plan on two to three hours of homework.

How do I get homework assignments, tests, etc.?

Homework, tests, paper assignments, and more will be clearly communicated on the class website as well as directly by the professor.

Will classes meet at a specific time?

Many online courses are delivered asynchronously via Canvas. You view class lectures on your own schedule and complete assignments within a scheduled time frame. You may be required to meet at set times with the faculty member.

In a few select cases, courses are taught synchronously, which requires you to attend lectures at a set time.

Every class on the roster is listed with an "instruction mode," which indicates how it will be taught and whether or not you must attend set meetings.

See the selecting courses page for definitions of these instruction modes.

May I begin my online class early?

It is often possible to begin readings and preparation prior to the first day of class. Please work with your professor to see if this is an option for your class.

What if I can’t start the class on the date it’s scheduled to begin?

One of the great things about taking an online course at Cornell is that once the course has started, you can sign in to access the content at any time. However, if you need to delay the date you actually start the course, it is best to contact the faculty member directly to see if it is possible to catch up on a couple of days' work.

If you need help finding an instructor's contact information, please call the SCE office at 607.255.4987, or email