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Virtual Learning

The majority of spring 2021 courses for graduate and undergraduate students will be presented in a virtual format. Certain graduate programs may hold discipline-specific in-person classes. If your program is holding in-person courses, you will receive communication directly from that program. Some instructors may require all students to attend or log in to live class sessions. Others may record their lectures and allow attendees to watch at any time.

 GW Libraries will continue to provide the services and resources students, faculty and staff need to support research and virtual learning.

How can I learn to succeed in virtual classes?

While some students enjoy the online format, others may feel that online learning is more difficult or just not for them. Much like with classroom learning, virtual learning requires a specific set of skills to be successful. Even if you didn’t master those skills in earlier classroom experiences, you can be successful in virtual learning with a little guidance.

Academic Commons has a range of videos to help students establish a foundation for success in online classes. These include: Preparing for Your Online Class, Getting Organized During Virtual Learning, Staying Motivated During Virtual Learning, Common Online Course Assignments, and Overcoming Common Mistakes in Virtual Learning.

Academic Commons is also offering a series of live workshops on virtual learning, including: Learning in a New Academic Environment: How to Succeed in Your Online Classes and How to Communicate with Your Professors and Participate in Online Classes.

Visit for additional resources and assistance with virtual learning.

What technology do I need to attend remote sessions?

You will need a laptop or desktop (recommended specifications); surge protector; headphones; secure, high-speed internet access; and built-in or external web camera.

You may need an Ethernet dongle (if computer does not have a built-in network port); a laptop lock; external hard drive; or a flash drive.

Information for students enrolled in GW’s traditional online programs is available at Technical Requirements and Support. While this information is not required for students in virtual learning environments, it might be useful.

Visit Academic Commons to learn more about academic technology resources and support. 

What platforms will faculty use to teach remotely?

All classes are unique and each instructor will choose the techniques and technology appropriate for their course goals.

Blackboard is GW’s learning management system and provides GW students and faculty with access to the syllabi, course-related materials, assignments, assessments in one place. Instructors can stream live classes through Blackboard and post recordings of past sessions or of lectures they have pre-recorded. Instructors may ask remote attendees to use the chat feature to ask questions in a live session. Students may be asked to participate in a discussion either during class or between sessions using the Blackboard Discussions feature.

Several other platforms may be appropriate for different types of classes. Faculty may choose to stream their lectures directly through the lecture capture service. Others may choose to have a discussion using the Webex or Zoom video-conferencing platforms.

Blackboard, lecture capture, and Webex are university-licensed tools that come with GW technology support to ensure connectivity and access.

Your instructor should notify you of their preferred platform in the syllabus or in the Blackboard course page. If you have questions about how to access course materials, please contact your instructor.  

How can I obtain my textbooks?

Course material information for all students is available at and via Students may purchase from either site. The majority of course materials listed as books are also available digitally. For order specific, or other questions please submit questions online, send an email to [email protected] or call 202-994-6870.

Residential students from areas D.C. defines as high-risk states should have course materials and supplies shipped to their on-campus residential assignment. During their 14-day quarantine period limited essential items, such as course materials, will be delivered to the residence halls as part of residential package delivery. Outside of the quarantine restrictions, students will be able to pick-up textbook orders inside Marvin Center on the ground floor next to the GWorld office and will need to select on-campus pick-up.

What happens if I have to quarantine and can’t attend class?

Students who are required to quarantine but still feel well, can continue their coursework virtually without disruption. It is a good idea for students to contact their instructors to notify them that you won’t be attending synchronous sessions if scheduled to do so.

How will I attend office hours?

Communicating with your faculty members is an important part of your success at GW. If you are struggling to understand course concepts, need some guidance on upcoming assignments, or just want to ask general questions about the class, connecting with your professors and teaching assistants during virtual office hours can be a helpful first step. 

Faculty and graduate teaching assistants are encouraged to hold online office hours, where possible. Your instructor will decide when and how to conduct their own office hours. They may choose to use a Blackboard Collaborate session, Webex, GoBoard, or another video-conferencing platform to hold office hours. Blackboard Collaborate, Webex, and GoBoard are available to all GW students and are university-licensed tools which come with GW technology support to ensure connectivity and access.

Some courses require a shared area to solve equations, create graphs, or sketch out a concept. GoBoard combines video conferencing with an interactive canvas, designed to enable this one-on-one, collaborative function.

How will I meet to work on a group project?

Group work may be pursued using available collaborative tools and video conferencing platforms.

You may choose to meet using Blackboard Collaborate, Webex, GoBoard, or another video-conferencing platform. Blackboard Collaborate, Webex, and GoBoard are available to all GW students and are university-licensed tools which come with GW technology support to ensure connectivity and access. It is important to choose one platform and to not switch last minute, this is essential in ensuring access for all students and providers who may be supporting a student. 

Whether you already have a group or want to form a new one, Academic Commons can connect you with a virtual study space to work together on projects, study for upcoming exams, and much more. 

GW students have access to Google Drive, an online storage service that allows multiple people to access shared documents from the cloud. The Google Drive service is available as part of your GW email (GWMail) account. Shared documents and folders allow groups to work collaboratively while still maintaining appropriate social distancing.

What academic support will be available for students?

A full range of academic support continues to be offered virtually in spring 2021. Tutoring and course review sessions for several undergraduate courses will be offered in an online format through Academic Commons. Writing and research consultations will also be available online. Writing and research consultations through the Writing Center and Student Success Coaching, offered through the Office of Student Success, will also be available in a virtual format.

Read a message from Dean Petty and Provost Blake about additional academic and well-being respources available.

I have a disability that makes remote learning difficult. What can I do?

Disability Support Services (DSS) is available to assist students in need of additional support or access to online classes due to a diagnosed disability. Students must register with DSS to access their services. Students who are already registered with DSS, but need an additional accommodation due to virtual learning must submit an additional request.

What about classes requiring specialized technology or that usually take place in a computer lab?

For courses requiring specialized software, your instructor may arrange for you to use a virtual computer lab. A virtual computer lab (VCL) is a cloud-based service that allows you to access GW email, Microsoft Office and Windows-based software through a web browser. VCL allows users to access university-licensed applications 24-hours a day from home or any location with an active internet connection. It is not necessary to be on GW campus or VPN in order to access a virtual computer lab.

In addition, approximately half of library computers will be available for remote access. Students can access specialized software installed on those computers by logging in from their own personal device, but must use the VPN or be on the campus network. 

If you have difficulty accessing the technology with your Assistive Technology and are registered with DSS please reach out to Alisa Major [email protected] immediately to help resolve the issue.

How do I access the university’s VPN?

GW's Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows remote access to many university systems and resources that are otherwise protected from off-campus access. It does this by creating a "virtual" encrypted channel from your remote location back to GW's network.