Answers to Faculty Questions

Frequently Asked Questions about Remote Teaching Strategies & Resources

On this page, you will find answers to many of the common questions faculty have asked about teaching online or in-person while providing remote access.

Teaching Online

I’m teaching an online course but do not have an ideal home setup to pre-record lectures. Would it be possible for me to prepare online course materials on campus?

CTI has a list of mini-studio spaces on campus that are available for faculty to use to create course materials. The list includes contacts for booking an appointment at these studio spaces. CTI has also prepared a list of some basic equipment that can help enhance lectures recorded in your home-office studio.

How do I add or edit subtitles to my videos in Canvas?

If using Kaltura or Zoom cloud recordings, your videos will be automatically subtitled. To learn how to edit Kaltura captions, see Editing Automatic Captions in Kaltura. For editing Zoom captions, see Using audio transcription for cloud recordings. Kaltura includes a transcript file, but for Zoom you will need to visit the Recordings tab on the Cornell Zoom page to get a transcript file that you can add to Canvas for students to download. To learn how to edit captions in Panopto, see Automatic Captions in Panopto.


I am concerned some of my students in China may not be able to access my course, and I may not know they are missing course materials or communication. What can I do?

International students, including those in China, may experience technological barriers to accessing course materials or communication. This may require some adjustment of how you approach the material, and accommodation of student needs for asynchronous delivery methods or other options. the Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines has resources for understanding international student learning needs. While this information is primarily directed at students, it can offer insights into what your students may be experiencing.

Can students download or share my lectures from Canvas?

If you record your lectures in Panopto, or if you record your live Zoom sessions, students are unable to download or share those lecture recordings. Of course, a determined student could always record the lecture on their phone, as they could in a face-to-face course. If this is a concern, you may remind your students that, in accordance with Cornell University policy and Cornell's Code of Academic Integrity, they may not record, copy, or distribute material from lectures without your permission.

Can I use Slack for online discussions in my class?

Slack is a communication tool built for business that facilitates team-based discussion and collaboration. You can choose to use Slack as a teaching tool, but there are some important things to keep in mind. Cornell does not have an enterprise license for the use of Slack as a teaching tool, nor has it conducted a thorough review of its services.  Slack was not designed as a teaching tool and does not meet FERPA protections.

Nevertheless, you may use it, but need to keep in mind that you are responsible for using it in a way that protects student educational records (according to FERPA) and addresses student privacy concerns. Specifically, you should:

  • Ensure communication about sensitive student information, including grades and personal information, does not take place on Slack
  • Provide alternative ways to participate in class for students who have concerns about their privacy on Slack 
There is a free version of Slack that can be used. Be aware that once a free account reaches 10,000 posts, the oldest posts are deleted as each new post is made. Also, while you can add a link to Slack in your Canvas course, there is no direct integration with Canvas.

Is there a maximum number of students allowed in a Zoom session?

Yes, a standard Zoom session is capped at 300. If you need a larger capacity meeting, please contact CIT.

What are Zoom breakout rooms, and how do I use them?

Breakout rooms are a Zoom function for grouping students into private chat sessions within a group meeting. When you click on "breakout rooms" to set up the rooms, you can choose either automatic or manual groupings. If you are using chats during your group meeting they switch to the breakout room only while the breakout session is active. The chat box will read "everyone" which means everyone within the breakout room. The instructor may join any breakout room at any time. If you are recording the meeting, the recording will follow the host throughout the breakout session, even if they move from group to group.

How can I keep my slide presentation visible to students while they are in a Zoom breakout room?

When you move to a breakout room you don’t see the shared screen anymore. One option is to post a pdf of “reference slides” before class. Then students can look at the pdf when they are in the breakout room. One person in each breakout room could even share their pdf viewer window.

How do I make sure all students participate during a Zoom session?

To give all students an opportunity to participate, request chat participation with a purpose. You can also use web-based iClicker questions; ask them to "raise their hands" in response to a question, or use breakout groups for them to discuss something and then report back to the class.

If a student "raises their hand," will they move up on the list of participants so I can see them or do I need to keep scrolling through the list?

Yes, their name will move up in the list of participants. This will also happen if they choose other reactions (such as coffee cup for "I need a break").

Usually I give in-class participation credit, how can I do this when teaching remotely?

Some instructors ask students to post to online discussion boards for participation credit, others use polling or Canvas quizzes, while others have decided not to grade participation for the rest of the semester while still encouraging students to participate in synchronous sessions if they can.

What is the policy around intellectual property for my course content and videos?

Answer from University Counsel: "Faculty own the copyright of original content delivered online during the ongoing health emergency, according to Cornell University Copyright Policy, unless other contracts or agreements have been arranged specifically between the faculty member and the university."  View current "Copyright Policy Changes during Cornell University Response to COVID-19 Public Health Emergency".

I write on a whiteboard a lot when teaching in the face-to-face classroom. How can I do this online?

Visit Recording Whiteboard Teaching to learn about the two options below:

  • One way to do this is to host the meeting in Zoom from a laptop or desktop, and then join the meeting again (from your same account) using an iPad or tablet. Then you can share your screen on the iPad or tablet while using the handwriting or annotation software of your choice (Notability, OneNote, PowerPoint, etc). You can then monitor the laptop computer for chat messages, hand-raises, etc.
  • Other faculty have used the webcam on their computer or cell phone to point at a whiteboard in their office and recorded themselves writing on the board using Panopto.

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What are best practices for assessing student learning in online classes?

Assessing student learning online can be challenging, especially in courses that were designed to be taught in-person. Our Online Assessment Strategies page provides information on a number of strategies and tools that can help you develop or refine assessments that effectively measure student learning in your class setting. We also offer a workshop on Assessing Learning Online.


Are we having final exams/assessments?

We recommend that faculty plan on administering/assigning an end-of-semester assessment. That said, we also recommend that faculty wait until there is more guidance from Administration regarding a policy. The more immediate task is to establish a clear plan for communicating with students and delivering course content. Please visit the Introduction to Online Teaching Tools page on the CTI website for more information.

What do I actually need to assess?

When planning assessment for your class, it is important to revisit your established learning outcomes. What is the essential knowledge (skills, concepts, and habits of mind) students should get out of your course? Under these unique circumstances, there may be a need to streamline planned assessments to focus solely on the most essential learning outcomes.

How do I replicate face-to-face exams?

Depending on several factors, including class size, content, and your comfort with the technologies available, it may be challenging to replicate a traditional exam in an online environment. Accordingly, you will need to determine how to best assess student learning. Consider whether there are alternate methods for assessing student learning that might be used. 

How can I design an exam to avoid cheating?

Academic integrity ideas:

  • Google your questions to make sure the answers are not readily available. If they are, restructure the question.

  • Assume that students will look up information, so write the questions for an open-book exam.
  • Prepare timed exams in Canvas (using Canvas quizzes) that do not allow a lot of time for students to look up answers. (You will need to give students with SDS accommodations additional time).
  • Make the exam available only at a certain time as the on-campus exam time so everyone takes it at the same time (this is difficult if students are in very different time zones).
  • Make questions appear one at a time (not the entire exam). This makes it harder for one student to print out the exam and have others work on it.
  • Randomize the order of how questions appear so there is no way to create a solutions key with question numbers. There's an option for this on Canvas (Shuffle Questions).

What should I do to support students who need special support?

If you have students who have documented learning disabilities, we encourage you to contact Student Disability Services to ensure that your students receive the support they need and deserve.

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How can I support my international students both online and in-person with remote access?

Global Cornell offers these tips for supporting international students while online and in-person with remote access.

How can I protect my Cornell course from “zoom bombing” or unwanted participants?

The university has taken steps to reduce the likelihood and impact of disruption in Zoom by changing the default settings. Details about these settings and additional safety measures faculty can take to require students to sign in, lock Zoom meetings, and eject disruptive attendees, among others, are outlined here.

If someone you don't know shows up in your meeting despite these precautions, you should take it seriously. Such incidents may constitute a phishing attempt to obtain confidential information or access to Cornell services. Of course, this may be hard to tell for a large course.

There are options such as removing unwanted guests, enabling a waiting room feature, disabling join before host, disabling share screen expect for hosts, or enabling a meeting password. The CIT page on how to Keep Zoom Meetings Private provides detailed information on these strategies. Additionally, CIT has prepared a checklist on how to Keep your Zoom meeting secure to help you ensure you have the proper settings for your meeting.

In our new virtual instruction environment, how can instructors remain FERPA compliant?

FERPA restricts the sharing of student educational records (i.e. records in any medium that relate to an identifiable student) without permission, except as allowed under certain exemptions. In our new virtual instruction environment, faculty have expressed concern around remaining FERPA compliant.  The Provost Office, in collaboration with University Counsel, has created a document to answer some of the common questions around specific tools that will be used this semester.

How will I accommodate requests for academic accommodation due to religious observance in this online learning environment?

Faculty are still expected to make reasonable accommodations for religious observance as required by both Cornell policy and New York state law. However, traditional accommodations that you are used to giving for your classes may not work in a virtual learning environment. For example, many religious feasts and fasts begin at sundown. Because our students are now located across the globe, the time at which they begin their religious observances will vary based on their location. CTI is offering some easy, helpful solutions to help you navigate making individual accommodations in Canvas. For more information, you are encouraged to consult with Oliver Goodrich, Associate Dean of Spirituality and Meaning Making at or 607-255-6003 or the Office of the Dean of the Faculty at or 607-255-4843.

Is Adobe Creative Cloud Suite available to Students, Staff, and Faculty?

In support of distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic, Adobe has opened up access to the full Creative Cloud suite to any user affiliated with Cornell University’s Adobe Enterprise Term License Agreement (ETLA). Temporary access will be valid through May 31, 2020, after which each user’s access rights revert to normal.

Staff and faculty: Current subscribers to the Creative Cloud All Apps Plan are unaffected by this change. Subscribers to the Acrobat Pro DC Plan will gain temporary access to the full Creative Cloud suite through May 31, 2020. Faculty and staff who do not currently have either a Creative Cloud or an Acrobat Pro license must still demonstrate business need in order to get one. Please send inquiries to

Students: Instructors or academic departments may request individual licenses for students who are taking classes that require using Adobe Creative Cloud products in their assignments. Please see the IT@Cornell website for more information on requesting an Adobe Creative Cloud license.

Do all teaching materials that are posted have to meet accessibility criteria, regardless of student need?

Faculty should prioritize addressing known accessibility needs for students enrolled in their classes.  If faculty learn of any additional student accommodation needs as the semester continues, faculty should refer those students to SDS. Faculty should work closely with SDS to support students who may need accommodations for remote learning, including additional time or support to complete classwork or examinations during the semester.

If I record my class via Zoom, to share with students who cannot attend, it may capture student names and voices. Is this allowable according to FERPA?

Yes, provided you save the Zoom recording to the cloud.

Cornell University provides access to Zoom for faculty, staff, and students for online meetings, classes, and presentations. It can also be used to record these meetings. If Zoom is used to record a class session for later playback by students or faculty and any identifying information is captured in that recording, only students enrolled in that specific course may use it. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) limits access to student educational records, including these recordings. By following the steps above, the recording will only be available to students enrolled in the course. If your captured lectures are available to a broader audience beyond the course section originally being recorded and students are personally identifiable in the recording, FERPA requires written student consent to that disclosure. Learn more at the Cornell registrar’s FERPA information page.

What about students who may not have a laptop, or other appropriate technology?

The Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education and the Provost's office are preparing plans to help ensure that all Cornell students have access to the resources they will need to succeed online. As far as we know they are not ready to announce specific plans, but we have been assured they are committed to this effort. Students in this situation should be directed to the questionnaire on appropriate technology to provide feedback that will help the university refine its planning.

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