Resources for the Virtual Learning Period

Successful fall 2020 instruction: A road map

The Steps:

 Understand GW’s assumptions for fall 2020 - and that they may change.

On July 27, 2020, GW announced that all undergraduate classes will be held online for the fall semester and that most graduate programs will be conducted online, with certain programs holding discipline-specific in-person classes.

Please see the announcement and accompanying FAQs for additional information. Contact your department chair for more information about your specific teaching situation in the fall.

 Use course objectives as your guide - and recognize that you may need to do less.

What do you want students to know or be able to do--after a particular class session? In preparation for a major assessment? As a takeaway that they’ll remember 5 years from now? Use these questions to help you prioritize course content, activities, and assessments.

Keep in mind, though, that activities in an online format often take longer. Think of a Q&A session, for instance. While delivering a typical face-to-face lecture, you can scan the room, pay attention to raised hands, call on students, and respond. In Fall 2020, video-chatting software might not enable you to see all of your students at once, and some students may have their cameras turned off. In what ways will you create space for questions, and how will students share their questions? You may need to remind students to unmute when speaking, or you may wish to have students type their questions into the chat window instead, in which case you will need time to read them. Some students may be participating in class asynchronously and viewing a recording later. How will they ask questions, and how will you share those questions and responses with everyone to that the entire class can benefit? Take into consideration the challenges you'll face in your virtual classroom, and review your syllabus and activities with that context.

 Move from course objectives to interactions.

Once you have clear goals and objectives, connect them to the activities that will help students practice, demonstrate, and reinforce their learning. Keep in mind the 7 basic interactions that characterize class time:


  • Presenting and sharing information: through lectures, readings, websites, and more
  • Demonstrating: through lectures, videos, and instructions
  • Debating or discussing: through sync sessions, discussion boards, and announcements
  • Collaborating: through group work, sync sessions, email and file sharing
  • Getting and giving help: through office hours, email, journals, surveys, and Q&As
  • Checking for understanding: through assessments, activities, and discussion
  • Socializing and team-building: through sync sessions, discussion boards, and more

Think about the different types of interactions that you include in your classroom and start to brainstorm how you can transition some of them online for your remote students.

 Plan your interactions, considering two key questions:

What do you absolutely need to talk to your students about in a synchronous format?

How will students who are participating asynchronously experience the course? 


  • You could record a session and post it for students to view later
  • Or, you could think in terms of equivalence, where students who are not present for a synchronous session receive information from it in some other way. For example, you could have some students discuss material in a text discussion board while others do so in a video chat and ask each group to prepare a page of notes summarizing their conversation for the other group to read.

How can you be flexible to accommodate different time zones, internet access conditions, and other student needs?

Online Teaching in Ten Minutes Videos

These short videos, developed by GW instructional designers, will introduce you to options for planning your interactions.

 Assess what technology is needed to achieve your goals.

The right technology can make all the difference in the experience for your students. Carefully consider what you’d like to accomplish, and then look at the teaching with technology matrix to see the suggested technology tool. Matching the right technology to your goals will help you concentrate on your instruction and not on struggling with the wrong technology.

Universal Capture: Personal allows you to upload lectures recorded from your personal computer or pre-recorded videos.

GW supports two types of web conferencing technology: Blackboard Collaborate Ultra and Webex. Some schools or instructors may choose to use other web conferencing services, such as Zoom or Blue Jeans. All members of the GW community should follow these privacy guidelines

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra


Webex is available to all GW students, faculty and staff which allows for  real-time video meetings and sharing computer content over the web. To begin using your Webex account, login to with your GW email address ([email protected]) and corresponding password.



You can build interaction into your class by using tools built in to your lecturing technology. These can be things like polls and whiteboards to break up sections of lecturing to students, and chat tools that allow remote students to participate and submit questions as well. 

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra


Tips and Tools for Recording an Online Lecture

  • Computer

    • One of the most important components is going to be your computer. Most computers will work fine, including your work laptop or a home desktop computer.

  • Camera

    • Many laptops have a camera built into them that are perfectly usable and are generally located on the top-center portion of your screen’s bezel. If you are using a desktop computer, you will need to acquire an external camera that plugs into your computer.

  • Microphone

    • If your laptop has a built-in camera, it likely also has a built-in microphone. While this can be used, it is usually fairly low quality and using an external microphone is recommended when possible.

While your laptop camera can work perfectly well, you can increase the quality of your video using an external camera. There are also steps you can take to ensure that your video comes out looking professional, like framing your shot and using light appropriately.

External Camera Options

Logitech C920 webcam Logitech C920

This webcam is affordable and has been tested for compatibility with applications like Echo360 and Panopto. It also has a built-in microphone, which makes it easy to set up and use.



Microsoft LifeCam Studio webcamMicrosoft LifeCam Studio

This webcam costs a bit more, but it records in full high-definition and has also been verified by Panopto and Echo360.


Male figure centered in frame and well litWell-optimized video




Blurry male figure in shadow with camera positioned below pointing upPoorly-optimized video





  • Ensure that your camera is at a good angle. You want it to be roughly level with your face, not looking up at you. Err on the side of the camera looking down on you if you are not sure. This provides a more flattering view of the presenter. You can achieve this with anything from some books to an empty box from a delivery.

  • Ensure that your framing is also good. Your video should show from your chest to your head and allow for a little extra space above your head, but not too much.

  • Avoid filming with a window behind you, if possible. This causes the foreground in the video, the presenter, to darken and lose detail. If you have curtains, then pull them closed or just find an angle with no window in the shot. Also be aware of your overhead household lighting being in your shot, which can cause the same issue.

  • Use as much light as you can. If you have some extra desk lamps or floor lamps, bring them nearby and use them to brighten yourself. Have the lights nearby, but not in the shot, to provide some extra light. Two-to-three extra lights will make the video look a lot better.

Try to avoid echoey areas when recording. Hardwood floors and bare walls can contribute to echoey audio. Carpeted areas and other fabric in your location will absorb the sounds and make you sound better.

If you are filming outside, consider using a wind screen. This wind screen is compatible with the Snowball and this wind screen is compatible with the Yeti. They are inexpensive and can reduce unintended sound from wind.

Using a high-quality microphone can make a big difference for your lecture. There are also steps you can take to improve your audio by changing aspects of your environment while recording.

External Microphone Options

Black wired headset with microphoneA Wired Headset

If you have a wired headset that you use for video calls already, this could be a no-cost method to increase the quality of your audio.




Silver standing snowball microphoneSnowball Microphone

This microphone is very high quality for a fairly low price point.




Silver yeti microphoneYeti Microphone

This microphone costs a little more, but is very high quality and can be customized for different situations.

Many of us already have a very high-quality camera in our possession: Our smartphones! This tool can be used to record a video that looks fantastic, given the proper accessories. These tools can even be used to film a whiteboard or flipchart with your smartphone! Make sure to hold or mount your phone horizontally instead of vertically for a more professional look.

Smartphone Accessory Options

Black tripod with smartphone mountJoby Gorillapod 3K Tripod w/ Universal Smartphone Mount

This tripod is very versatile and can be placed on a desk or even wrapped around a pole. It also comes with a universal mount that will work with any smartphone.




Webcam light standWebcam Light Stand

This light stand can accommodate multiple different lighting situations and can even hold your phone up at whatever angle you require.




Black microphone with cableRode Smartphone Shotgun Mic

Your smartphone microphone will likely not be suitable. This microphone specifically picks up sound where it is pointed, so it is perfect for a seated or stationary presentation.


Rode Smartphone Lavalier Mic

This clip-on wired lavalier microphone will allow a presenter to step away from the camera without worrying too much about speaking into a mic.

Perhaps you want to write out equations or highlight information on your computer during your live presentation. There are some additional accessories that could assist you with this task.

Presentation Accessory Options

Document cameraHovercam Solo 8 Plus Document Camera

This versatile document camera has multiple built-in cameras that allow you to show both high-quality video of your document and your face simultaneously with one device. Perfect as a substitution for a whiteboard when giving a live lecture from your home.



Overhead video phone armOverhead Video Phone Arm

This arm can attach to your desk, which can allow you to use your phone as a document camera. 




Logitech spotlight presentation remoteLogitech Spotlight Presentation Remote

This presentation remote not only allows you to move through your slides, but it can highlight various portions of the screen wirelessly, so that you provide emphasis with little effort.


Please check out these additional resources for more detailed information about creating video content. You can also reach out directly to the Create Digital Studio for more assistance by sending an email to [email protected] or requesting a multimedia and digital storytelling consultation on the GWLAI website.

  • Illinois Online Tips

    • This link provides some tips on recording lectures, including a video detailing best practices.

  • Epiphan Video Tips

    • This link goes into deep detail with ensuring your setup is optimized for recording.

  • Echo360 Supported Devices

    • This link provides a list of devices that are officially supported by Echo360 for Universal Capture. Many of the video and audio accessories listed above can be found here.

  • Panopto Supported Devices

    • This link provides a list of devices that are officially supported by Panopto. Many of the video and audio accessories listed above can be found here as well.

 Review best practices for using technology effectively.

Technology tools can be used to facilitate active, dynamic classroom experiences with engaged learners. Unfortunately, several minutes of technical problems and troubleshooting can also cause students to tune out, making it difficult to get their full attention again. Understanding the tools you are using, and practice using them, will make you feel more confident and relaxed as an instructor.

Online Teaching in Ten Minutes Videos

These short videos, developed by GW instructional designers, will introduce you to best practices for using technology effectively.


Live virtual workshops are available throughout the year to instructors and teaching assistants who want to learn more about a specific technology tool. 


Instructional Technology Consultations

Instructional technologists and education professionals are available to consult with you on what technology to choose and how best to incorporate it to reach your learning objectives.


 Build class community -- and recognize the unique circumstances of fall.


Teaching online in Fall 2020 will not be the same experience as teaching online in any semester before it. Both students and instructors are dealing with overwhelming change and uncertainty.

Building community and rapport in your classes is especially important in the Fall 2020 situation, which can require a more intentional approach than in the classroom. Some ways to start are:

  • Introduce yourself and make time for students to introduce themselves. This can be done in a live class session or you could set up an Introduce Yourself discussion board where students can post their brief bio, read others, and start to learn who is in their class. 
  • View or print a photo roster of your students so that you can become familiar with them
  • Conduct virtual office hours to meet students individually
  • Think of good introductory activities and strategies to introduce your syllabus for Your First Days of Class
  • Make opportunities to solicit feedback and accommodate student needs. You can create and share an anonymous feedback survey in Blackboard after the first two weeks of class asking how students are doing, what activities they’re liking, and what could be improved.

Communicating your expectations clearly to your students helps them to avoid the anxiety and stress of trying to interpret your instructions. Be more explicit than you think you may even need to be and it will cut down on student confusion. 

  • Have an outsider read your syllabus - this could be a colleague, friend, or family member. Someone unfamiliar with the course has a fresh perspective and may be able to help point out areas that could be written more clearly.
  • Be clear about what students need for class - not just textbooks but also point them to what technologies you’ll be using in the class (Blackboard, Webex, etc.).
  • Communicate class sessions and deadlines with a date, time and timezone. You may have international and remote students attending your class and being clear that deadlines are set to D.C. Eastern time will enable them to participate and turn in assignments on time.

Practice tips for trauma-informed teaching for fall. With fear of infection, financial concerns, and political, social, and economic turmoil to consider, students and instructors will be experiencing an unusually high level of stress. Stress inhibits learning and can cause students to have a harder time planning, remembering, and focusing on what they need to learn. 

Inclusive teaching strives to create a learning environment in which all students have equal access to learning regardless of their background or needs. Students who feel a sense of belonging are more motivated and engaged. students learn to be successful in a virtual course by sharing these video resources with them in your syllabus or on Blackboard. Like their instructors, students are adjusting to a new set of expectations for classes.

Preparing for Your Online Class from GW Libraries on Vimeo.

Getting Organized During Virtual Learning from GW Libraries on Vimeo.

Staying Motivated During Virtual Learning from GW Libraries on Vimeo.

Get help or ask a question.

Instructional Core 

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. 

Instructional Core 

Phone: (202) 994-0485

Email: [email protected]

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

Teaching questions (i.e. how do I do this type of activity online? how do I keep students engaged?), will be answered by one of our Instructional Core professionals and/or you may request to be paired with an expert online faculty member as part of our Peer-to-Peer Program. 

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*

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

Peer-to-Peer Faculty Mentors

Head shot of Diane Cline in front of green background

Diane Cline

School: CCAS    

Subject: History    

Email: [email protected]

Areas of Expertise: WebEx, Echo360, and making videos or audio recordings, Blackboard    

Diane Harris Cline, Associate Professor of History, specializes in ancient Greek historian and is a classical archaeologist. In her cross-disciplinary research, she is a pioneer in the digital humanities, applying social network analysis to study the social ties in ancient Greece.  Cline is the author of two books, The Treasures of the Parthenon and Erechtheion (Oxford) and The Greeks: An Illustrated History (National Geographic).  She has won two Fulbright awards for her research in Greece, where she also serves as an expert study leader for Smithsonian Journeys and National Geographic Expeditions. 

Head shot of Laura D'Antonio with a gray backgroundLaura D'Antonio

School: GWSB

Subject: International Business   

Email: [email protected]

Areas of Expertise: General

Laura D'Antonio, Assistant Professor of International Business, is currently teaching courses in management in developing countries. Her teaching focuses on understanding international business context, global business and international strategy. Her courses include a strong emphasis on global environmental and social issues. She has developed and taught several online courses.

Head shot of David Halliday with gray backgroundDavid Halliday

School: GWSB

Subject: Strategic Management & Public Policy   

Email: [email protected]

Areas of Expertise: Synchronous teaching

David Halliday, Assistant Professor of Strategic Management & Public Policy, has extensive online teaching experience, with focus on interactivity in synchronous classrooms. His teaching interests include engaging students online, business and corporate strategy, and business ethics and public policy.

Head shot of Anna Helm with a gray backgroundAnna Helm

School: GWSB

Subject: International Business   

Email: [email protected]

Areas of Expertise: General

Anna Helm is Director for the Center for International Business and assistant professor of International Business. She teaches courses on international marketing management, green business, the cultural environment of international business, and foreign market analysis. She has developed and taught several online courses and regularly offers courses with real client projects. Since 2010, she has taught international consulting courses in Sweden and other countries with projects in both the cleantech and healthcare industries, with a particular focus on high-tech startups.

Head shot of Shaista E. Khilji in front of windowsShaista E. Khilji

School: GSEHD    

Subject: Human and Organizational Learning & International Affairs   

Email: [email protected]

Areas of Expertise: General

Shaista Khilji, Professor of Human & Organizational Learning, teaches graduate level courses on leadership, change, and diversity & inclusion and has taught and trained a diverse audience in Hong Kong, Singapore, Russia, United States, Canada, India, Morocco, and Pakistan. Her research focuses on issues related to macro talent development, diversity & inclusion, humanizing organizations/ leadership, and individual experiences with inequality.

Natalie Millman standing in front of a bookshelfNatalie Milman

School: GSEHD    

Subject: Educational Technology   

Email: [email protected]

Areas of Expertise: General

Natalie Milman is Professor of Educational Technology and Director of the Educational Technology Leadership Program. She is a member of the interdisciplinary Human-Technology Collaborations PhD program and research lab ( Her research focuses on the design of instruction and models for the effective leadership and integration of technology at all academic levels; online student support needs, engagement, and learning; issues of diversity, inclusion, and digital equity; and the use of digital portfolios for professional development. 

Head shot of Carol Rentas with gray backgroundCarol Rentas

School: SMHS

Subject: Biomedical Laboratory Sciences Department 

Email: [email protected]

Areas of Expertise: General

Carol Rentas, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Laboratory Sciences, has more than 17 years of experience in clinical laboratory science and more than 18 years in education. She worked as a medical laboratory professional in hospital across the country before moving into education. Ms. Rentas has taught or is presently teaching online courses in laboratory operations, urinalysis and body fluids, clinical chemistry, and immunohematology.

Head shot of Lisa Schwartz with a gray backgroundLisa Schwartz

School: SMHS

Subject: Biomedical Laboratory Sciences Department 

Email: [email protected]

Areas of Expertise: VoiceThread, remote proctored quizzes/tests, wikis, discussion boards, and reflective journals

Lisa Schwartz is Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences who specializes in ethics and genetics. She is an education professional with more than 25 years of experience in the higher education and healthcare industries conducting program, curriculum, student, and faculty development, marketing, grant writing, and quantitative and qualitative research.

Ryan Watkins sitting on a river bankRyan Watkins

School: GSEHD    

Subject: Eductional Technology   

Email: [email protected]

Availability: General

Areas of Expertise: General

Ryan Watkins, Professor of Educational Leadership, is a member of the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI), the American Evaluation Association (AEA), and has served a vice president of the Inter-American Distance Education Consortium (CREAD).He has worked with National Science Foundation and, routinely, with The World Bank on applying needs assessment, instructional design, and performance improvement to international assistance programs.