Faculty Guide for Virtual Instruction

As you are aware, all online courses are required to be a fully accessible experience and must meet accessibility standards from day one.  

It’s important to note: the role of SDS is to create accommodation plans for students with disabilities, and work with the student, faculty, and staff on the implementation of those plans.   

That said, we understand that the work to make an online course fully accessible is non-trivial. Here are some resources and suggestions: 

Ensuring the Accessibility of your Course Materials

It is your role to ensure your course content meets accessibility standards. We recommend you take advantage of the resources being provided by the university to aid in this process. 

The Center for Teaching Innovation is leading the efforts to guide faculty and staff on meeting course accessibility standards and offer multiple means of resources and support:

Ally is a Canvas tool that can help you identify content that may need attention to become accessible. It is not automatically turned on for all courses. You can complete the Ally Request Form to have it enabled for your courses. We highly recommend this. 

When to Contact SDS 

Our office will continue to provide support to students with disabilities. We may connect with you to help navigate the specific access needs of students in your courses. 

If you have a specific question about meeting the needs of a student in your course, we recommend reaching out to that student’s SDS Counselor. Their SDS Counselor is listed on the student’s accommodation letter (copies of letters are available in the SDS Faculty Portal).  

If you have concerns about a student who is not yet connected to our office, please refer the student to us and also contact us with any concerns. 

Tips for Taking an Accessible Approach with your Students

  • Communicate your commitment to access and inclusion to your students
    Let them know that their access matters to you. Include a statement on your course syllabus or course website inviting students to connect with you if they encounter any access barriers.
  • Let students know you are willing to be flexible during this time
    Online instruction is a very different experience than in-person classes. Considerations may need to be made for students:
    • in different time zones
    • living in environments unconducive to learning (e.g., distractions, shared spaces)
    • who have to adapt their learning style to new formats of instruction and assessment
    • dealing with life challenges during the pandemic
    • who need to limit screen time
    • who cannot sit for extended periods of time
    • whose focus may be split between necessary software (e.g., for notetaking), or captions, and viewing the rest of the screen
    • whose internet connection may be unreliable at certain times of the day
    Students may need alternate types of assessment, or may need flexibility given their circumstances.
  • Incorporate the principles of universal design into your course by doing things such as:
    • Chunking content and videos into shorter segments 
    • Sharing copies of documents presented in lectures with students (including lecture slides)
    • Giving students access to recordings of lectures
    • Providing students multiple ways to ask questions
  • Include a statement about disability accommodations on your syllabus
    Students still need to know the best way to confidentially connect with you to discuss their specific disability accommodations. 
  • Recognize that some disability accommodations will need to be modified for online courses
    For example, if a student is allowed breaks or stop-the-clock during exams, they will need to receive an appropriate amount of extended time instead. Please consult with us if you need guidance on implementing accommodations in your online course.

Legal Requirements and Standards

Students with disabilities need to be provided equal and integrated access to classes and programs, including online content.

It is required under:

Guidance about technical standards that online content (including course content) must meet comes from:

Cornell is committed to the inclusion of all student learners, including students with disabilities.