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Cornell University

Adapting to Class Cancellations

Sometimes class meetings have to be canceled without much advance notice. Here is some advice on how your course can adapt to an unexpected cancellation.

  • The most important action is to communicate your plans to students and TAs. Don’t leave them guessing. Explain the situation as best you can, so that they understand how the cancellation will impact the course schedule and content. If time is of the essence but you don’t have the resources to think it all through immediately, let students and TAs know a time by which you’ll get back to them.
  • Be flexible and understanding in handling the disruption and how it impacts everyone. “We’ll get through this together” is a helpful motto.
  • If you had an assignment due the day of the cancellation, extend the assignment deadline without penalty. Communicate the new deadline to students. Make sure they know how to get help in the interim.
  • If you’re canceling a lecture, laboratory, or discussion section, consider whether you will make up that content or not. Depending on the priority of the content, options include:
    • Drop this content from the course this semester.
    • Push future events back a day and drop some other content later.
    • Create a video of this content (or some future content) and have students watch it offline. But, be mindful of how this contributes to everyone’s workloads.
    • For laboratory sections that usually need physical presence: supply sample data and ask students to still do calculations and a report.
    • For discussion sections: if your sections meet several days a week, try not to disadvantage students when only their day is canceled (e.g., a snow day). Offer makeup sections, videos, or exclude that content from exams.
  • If you’re canceling office hours, announce a makeup for them in the near future. Consider whether students will have enough access to help before the next assignment is due, or exam is held.
  • Adjust future assignment dates and exam coverage as needed. Assignments due soon after the cancellation might need to be delayed until content is covered. Or, specific problems might need to be made optional. Exam content could be moved to a later exam, or excluded this semester.