In keeping with its mission of outreach and extension, Cornell University's School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions (SCE) was one of the university's first providers of distance learning and online courses.

One of SCE's early forays into distance education using consumer electronics was a 1993 cassette tape series on "Western Power, Politics, Principles: Toward the Twenty-First Century" featuring three of Cornell's premier scholars — Walter LaFeber, Isaac Kramnick, and Peter Katzenstein.

The school ventured into distance learning using videotapes in the 1990s, working with Cornell's now defunct Office of Distance Learning.

SCE offered its first credit-bearing online course during the 1997–1998 Cornell University Winter Session. Taught by Vicki Jones, Communications 272: Principles of Public Relations and Advertising comprised six videotapes featuring 27 classes.

In the summer of 1998, SCE added other courses to its distance learning roster, including Communications 120: Contemporary Mass Communication, Economics 101: Introductory Microeconomics, Economics 102: Introductory Macroeconomics, Industrial and Labor Relations 210: Statistical Reasoning I, and Industrial and Labor Relations 510: Statistical Methods for the Social Sciences I.

These courses included web-based components, videotapes, and/or CD-ROMs, and students interacted with professors by phone or email.

In 2001, SCE launched CyberTower, the pioneering online offering of Cornell's Adult University. CyberTower featured

  • "Study Rooms," designed by Cornell faculty, that included video-streamed lectures, annotated bibliographies, links to related websites, and discussion boards
  • "Forums," moderated by former SCE Dean Glenn C. Altschuler, that were video-streamed conversations with Cornell faculty on current issues
  • "Views and Reviews," which were short, video-streamed commentaries by leading members of the faculty

CyberTower, produced with Cornell Information Technologies, is now part of the university's video platform CornellCast.

Today, SCE offers scores of for-credit online courses during Summer and Winter Sessions.

Most courses are delivered with the web-based learning system Canvas.

For more information, visit our online learning FAQs.

Learn more about Cornell SCE history

Read more about the history and mission of Cornell's School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions.