Resources for the COVID-19 Virtual Learning Period

On March 10, the university announced that after spring break most GW classes would move online, and they will remain online through the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester. The resources below are provided to assist instructors in making a smooth transition to virtual learning and to promote best-practices in online education. 

Get Help or Ask a Question

Instructor Support for Blackboard, academic technology tools and teaching questions

For support for instructors with Blackboard, Echo360, Collaborate Ultra, and Lecture Capture, contact:

Instructional Core | Instructional Technology Lab (ITL) 

Phone: (202) 994-0485

Email: [email protected]

Support hours: Monday - Friday: 7:00am - 8:00pm, Saturday support tbd

Instructional Core professionals are available to walk you through any technical problems or questions until your problem is solved. For teaching questions (i.e. how do I do this type of activity online? how do I keep students engaged?), you will be connected with one of our Instructional Core professionals and/or paired with an expert online faculty member as part of our Peer-to-Peer Program. 

GW-Wide Technology and Software Support

For support with GW email, Adobe, WebEx, VPN and Office applications contact:

GW Information Technology Support Center

Phone: 202-994-4948, option 2

Email: [email protected]

Submit a Support Ticket

Support hours: Monday - Friday, 7:00am - 10:00pm*

*Blackboard support is available 24 hours by calling 202-994-4948, option 2

Student Blackboard Support

If students require support with Blackboard, do not direct them to Instructional Core. Instead direct them to:

GW Information Technology Support Center

Phone: 202-994-4948, option 2

Email: [email protected]

Submit a Support Ticket

Support hours: Monday - Friday, 7:00am - 10:00pm*

*Blackboard support is available 24 hours by calling 202-994-4948, option 2

Technology Guides 

Instructional Continuity Webpages 

The Instructional Continuity webpages have information and checklists for both students and faculty about how to transition to virtual learning. 

Faculty Guides to Blackboard

These step-by-step guides from the Instructional Technology Lab (ITL) cover a wide variety of functions needed to construct online activities. 

Collaborate Live Facilitator’s Guide and Collaborate Live Participant’s Checklist

These two guides walk through best practices on using Collaborate, Blackboard’s live conferencing tool for hosting synchronous class sessions. The facilitator’s guide gives guidance to instructors on preparing and hosting a Collaborate session, and the checklist shows participants steps to be a good learner in a live session.

Moving Class Online and Teaching with Technology Matrix

This document is a quick guide to getting started with teaching online, and includes a matrix of typical classroom activities (explaining concepts, having a discussion) and suggests tools to accomplish them online.  

Workshops and Training Sessions

Workshops 

Online workshops, conducted live on Collaborate Ultra, are available in multiple aspects of software needed for virtual learning. A special series on instructional continuity helps instructors make the transition to online learning. Registration is required

Teleconferenced School Training Sessions (Upon Request) 

The Instructional Core invites requests to provide teleconferenced training sessions to personnel from your school. Special requests should be made through [email protected]. One of our professionals will arrange for a session that suits your needs and schedule.

Collaborate Live After Hours Training Sessions 

The Instructional Core has created an after-hours training schedule to accommodate those who require it, especially adjunct faculty who may not be able to meet during the day. Registration is required.

Pedagogical Resources for Teaching Online

Peer-to-Peer Online Faculty Support

The Instructional Core has compiled a team of expert GW online teaching faculty from around the university. These faculty are available for one-on-one consultation by appointment to assist faculty new to online learning. The peer-to-peer expert group can share best practices, discuss pedagogical approaches, novel ideas to ensure high quality active learning, and share experiences and tips especially geared to online learning. Instructors interested in pairing with a peer should email [email protected] and request a contact. The Faculty Development Department will facilitate introductions with our Peer-to-Peer Team Members.

Online Faculty Development Course

A self-guided training course on how to teach online has been revised and updated for use by everyone with instructor status in Blackboard (faculty and TAs). It is available on the MyBlackboard page under the heading “Special Use” as Online Faculty Development. The course has six modules, including online discussion, assignments, activities, media creation, and rubrics/grading ideas. Instructors are entered as students and are able to try several multiple choice tests, upload assignments, and see grades as students do. 

Recommended Reading

Moving OnLine NOW: How to Keep Teaching During Coronavirus (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Synchronous Online Classes: 10 Tips for Engaging Students (Magna Publications)

Best Practices for Synchronous Online Discussions (Higher eLearning)

Internet Slowdowns or Disruptions

Please be aware that as GW and other universities move to online instruction, most employers are also moving to telework, and most K12 students are at home using the internet for various activities. Given that we will be operating under unprecedented circumstances, it is essential to plan for the possibility of service degradation or interruption due to the load on the overall network. 

If you plan only to use synchronous communication to conduct classes, please develop a plan B in case your internet service at home is unable to connect to Blackboard Collaborate or WebEx during your class session. An alternate plan could be creating a Discussion Board for students to respond to questions asynchronously. Here is a guide on setting up a Discussion Board

If you experience this sort of interruption, don’t panic. Contact the GW Information Technology Support Center at (202) 994-4948, option 2, [email protected], or by submitting a support ticket. Support is available Monday - Friday, 7:00am - 10:00pm.

Remote Test Proctoring  

Respondus LockDown Browser (Free)

Respondus LockDown Browser is a custom web browser that works by locking down the testing environment within a Blackboard course. Instructors can choose to require the LockDown Browser for any existing deployed test in their course. When a student uses Respondus LockDown Browser, they are unable to print, copy, go to another website, or access any other applications on their computer. Once an assessment is started, students are locked into the test until it is submitted for grading. Exams are created on Blackboard and deployed using the Respondus LockDown setting (see tutorials below). Students can then test on their own devices by pre-downloading Respondus LockDown widget using a unique link.

Respondus Monitor is an add-on video monitoring service that uses the Respondus Lockdown Browser. It serves as a deterrent to students using secondary computers, phones, calculators, textbooks, or receiving assistance from other students. After a student has taken an exam, instructors can review sessions to check for any suspect behavior. Respondus Monitor is suitable for low or medium-stakes exams that require student monitoring. Students can use either an internal or external webcam with Respondus Monitor. 

Respondus Training Resources

Respondus Technical Support

All support requests from students should initially be directed to the instructor. If the instructor cannot resolve a problem, ticket-based support is available if you encounter an issue that cannot be resolved with the Knowledge Base or the in-application help systems. Respondus staff members generally respond to tickets within 24 hours, excluding weekends and U.S. holidays. 

The GW Instructional Technology Lab will assist with the Respondus Monitor in Blackboard.

Information for Students Using Respondus

  • Students must download the LockDown Browser from the unique to GW link.
  • Respondus LockDown browser only works on PCs, Macs, and iPads (chrome books and others are not supported.)
  • Students should ensure that portable computers are charged sufficiently and can last up to 3 hours on a battery charge during exam use.

Making Your Online Course More Accessible

There are some easy steps to take to make your course more accessible. The easiest one is to ensure you’re including contact information in your course for the Office of Disability Support Services (DSS) so students can request help should they need it. Here is a statement you can copy and paste into your Syllabus or into Blackboard:

Any student who may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the Office of Disability Support Services (DSS) to inquire about the documentation necessary to establish eligibility, and to coordinate a plan of reasonable and appropriate accommodations.  For additional information, please call DSS at 202-994-8250, or consult https://disabilitysupport.gwu.edu.

DSS provides resources to help university faculty create inclusive, fully accessible course curricula. The Digital Accessibility Checklist provides a step-by-step plan to make improvements to the accessibility of online course materials.