Online Learning FAQs
Resources for online students
In addition to reviewing the FAQs below, we encourage you to visit the following pages for online study tips:
- IT@Cornell's options for poor Wi-Fi or cellular service
- Learning Strategy Center remote learning preparedness checklist
- Center for Teaching Innovation's resources to help students use Canvas
Contact us if you have any questions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Eligibility, enrollment, and registration
- Do I have to be a Cornell student to take an online course?
- How old do I have to be to take an online class?
- How many classes can I take?
- How do I enroll and register?
- I have registered. What happens next?
- What if I change my mind and want to drop my class?
- What are the technical requirements for an online course?
- What do I do if I need technical assistance?
- How do I get access to the class materials?
Tuition and payments
- How much does an online class cost?
- When do I have to pay?
- What are acceptable payment methods?
- Is financial aid available?
- Will I get my money back if I drop the class?
- May I take a class as noncredit and pay a reduced tuition?
Credits, grades, and transcripts
- Will the credits I earn count toward my degree requirements?
- What kind of credit do I get?
- How will I be graded?
- How do I get my grade?
- Will I have a Cornell transcript?
- What kind of student does well with online learning?
- Is there a class outline (syllabus)?
- What methods will be used to teach my online class?
- What do I do if I have questions about an assignment?
- How much time will I spend in my virtual classroom?
- How much time will be involved in homework?
- How do I get homework assignments, tests, etc.?
- Will classes meet at a specific time?
- May I begin my online class early?
- What if I can’t start the class on the date it’s scheduled to begin?
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.
You must be at least a high school sophomore, junior, or senior.
- 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)
- One class or up to four credits
If you wish to exceed these credit limits, review the credits page for details.
If you are a high school student, see the online courses page on the Precollege Studies website.
Otherwise, please visit the registration page.
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.
You may drop a class by completing an electronic Add/Drop/Change Request Form.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Acceptable payment methods are described on the how to pay page.
Some Cornell students may be eligible for financial aid. Please contact the Office of Financial Aid for information.
See the schedules on the refund page.
No. Online classes are taken for credit, and the per-credit tuition applies.
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.
At the successful completion of the class, you will receive Cornell University credits.
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.
Approximately 10 days after the end of your class you may log into your Cornell Student Center to view your grades.
Students who excel in online courses are generally organized, motivated, independent, and have good time-management skills.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
For each hour spent in your virtual classroom, you should plan on two to three hours of homework.
Homework, tests, paper assignments, and more will be clearly communicated on the class website as well as directly by the professor.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.