Virtual Teaching and Learning During COVID-19

 

photo - a GWSB student prepares to join an online class

 

With the spread of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, GW School of Business (GWSB) students, faculty and staff should be prepared for classes to be held entirely online. Resources and support are available through university libraries and on Blackboard, but this page is designed to help answer most of your questions concerning online teaching and learning at GWSB.

Learn about our AY2020 academic plan

 

For Students

Through the end of the Spring 2021 semester, all GW courses will continue in an online format only. Your professors will be discussing virtual learning plans specific to their course in emails and on GW's learning management system, Blackboard.

Blackboard has many tools to help students participate in class online in an interactive way, both in webinar-like classroom settings and through discussion boards, interactive multimedia presentations, and other online materials and exercises. Students can also take exams on Blackboard as well.

Online courses will take place at the same time on the same day they are normally scheduled. All class sessions should be recorded in case students are unable to attend due to bandwidth problems, time zone differences, health issues or other challenges. Unless your instructor has communicated otherwise, your course will be delivered using Blackboard Collaborate. This can be accessed using the tools menu in Blackboard.

Please be sure to log in to your class 15 minutes before the official start time. This will allow you to work through any technical problems you might have so you can get the most out of the class and not distract others.

Information about exams will be provided by your professors.

View Virtual Student Resources to Get Ready for Final Exams

For many students, this may be the first time they experience online learning. Like a normal class, it will always help if you prepare for class by completing the readings and/or any assignments. You will also need to make sure your computer or tablet is ready beforehand.

Ten Tips for Your First Week of Online Classes

Hardware Requirements

It is easiest to utilize the Blackboard Collaborate tool using a laptop or desktop computer. You will need to test your webcam and ensure your microphone is working. Some users prefer to use earphones to minimize feedback and increase the sound clarity of the conversation.

Browser

Blackboard recommends using either Chrome or Firefox if you are a faculty member leading a session or a student that shares a screen to present material. Blackboard Collaborate also requires specific permissions to function as desired. For example, Collaborate needs permission to access your camera and microphone so you can use audio and video. Give Collaborate permission when asked, or set up permissions in your browser preferences later. Learn more about browser support for Collaborate Ultra.

For more information on how to use Blackboard and/or Collaborate, please contact the Instructional Technology Lab at (202) 994-0485 or email [email protected]. You also can also check out the Official Blackboard Help Site (search for the links on Collaborate) for more information.

For general IT-related help, you can contact the GW Office of Information Technology at (202) 994-4948 or email [email protected] for assistance. You may also find it helpful to ask a friend or a peer for assistance.

GW libraries like the Gelman Library will remain digitally open, and access to remote library resources and services will always be available to all students, faculty, and staff. This includes support for virtual learning, peer tutoring and course reviews, and faculty and student research.

Access to (some) free digital textbooks is available through the GW bookstore. If you are having any concerns about access to course materials, please call the bookstore at (202) 994-6870 and ask for the manager. The bookstore is also providing free shipping.

The Undergraduate Advising Center has moved to full service remote operations during the period of virtual learning. Students can schedule virtual and phone appointments with an advisor or access virtual drop-in advising hours. Visit the undergraduate advising page for more information and to schedule an online appointment.

The Office of Undergraduate Programs Co-Curricular Programs team has moved to full service remote operations during the period of virtual learning. If you are an undergraduate student serving in a leadership capacity for a GWSB-affiliated student organization, please email [email protected] to schedule a virtual meeting or phone call.

The Graduate Programs Advising Office has moved to full service remote operations during the period of virtual learning. Students can schedule virtual and phone appointments with their program advisor here.

The F. David Fowler Career Center has moved to full service remote operations during the period of virtual learning and will offer extended coaching hours ​from ​9:00​ ​a​.​m​. – 8:00​ ​p.m. Monday through Thursday​ and 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. on Fridays​. Students can schedule virtual career coaching appointments via Handshake.

As GW moved to virtual learning in response to the spread of COVID-19, the university gave students the option to change the grade mode for most courses to Pass/No Pass (for undergraduate students) or Credit/No Credit (for graduate students) for the Spring 2020 semester.

Students chose to have one or more courses graded as Pass/No Pass or Credit/No Credit. This choice may or may not be offered for the Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 semesters. If it is, we encourage you to speak with your academic advisors before making this choice. More information will be provided soon.

View the grade mode change policies.

Please note: letter grades will still be issued by default; you do not have to take any action unless you wish to change your grade mode to Pass/No Pass or Credit/No Credit for one or more of your courses this semester.

Undergraduate Students

If you are an undergraduate student, and you wish to change your grade mode for one or more courses this semester, you must complete the Spring 2020 Grade Change Mode Form and submit it here by Sunday, May 31 at 5:00 p.m.

Graduate Students

If you are a graduate student, and you wish to change your grade mode for one or more courses this semester, you must submit this form by Sunday, May 31 at 5:00 p.m. For more information, view the Graduate Student Grade Mode Change FAQ.

Students needing new accommodations due to a disability because of the instructional modality change, should contact the GW Disability Support Services office.

The university's decision to move to instructional continuity and reduce the population of on-campus residential students was made in an effort to slow the anticipated spread of COVID-19. Our primary concern is for the health and safety of our community as we make preparations to sustain essential services for individuals who are not able to go home.

No student should remain in the residence halls for the sole purpose of student employment. Students who have requested campus living solely on the basis of student employment will not be approved for on-campus housing during this period of instructional continuity and virtual instruction. GW understands this may cause financial hardship for those students who rely on the funds that student employment generates. In recognition of that, Federal Work Study students will be compensated for their regular work hours through April 6. In some cases, there may also be options for current work assignments to be completed remotely.

We understand student life on campus is a diverse experience that for many includes employment in various facets of the university. Employers, please remember that student employees are students first. It is a priority for you to release on-campus undergraduate student employees from their on-site responsibilities and encourage students who can go home to do so.

For questions regarding student employment, please call 202-994-8046. For questions regarding student housing, please call 202-994-2552.

Due to recent guidance from the CDC, school commencement ceremonies as well as the university commencement on the National Mall will not be held in person. We are working diligently to determine how we can, appropriately and safely, celebrate our graduates within the constraints of the current circumstances. We encourage you to email [email protected] any suggestions you have to help mark this milestone for our graduates. The GWSB Commencement page will be continually updated with additional information as it becomes available.

 

 

For Faculty and Staff

GW President Thomas LeBlanc has announced that all GW courses will continue in an online format only through the end of the Spring 2021 semester. View more COVID-19 updates from President LeBlanc. Please review with students your course-specific virtual teaching plan.

Online teaching can take place in a live synchronous lecture/discussion or it can be pre-recorded and placed on Blackboard for students to view. If you choose to pre-record your lectures (either via LectureCapture classroom or voice-over-PowerPoint, etc.), please use your regularly scheduled class time to meet students on Blackboard Collaborate to answer their questions in a synchronous session.  

Any synchronous course sessions should take place using Blackboard Collaborate and be offered at the same time of your regularly scheduled class. 

Please note: The default setting of Blackboard Collaborate allows you and your students to enter into the synchronous session 15 minutes ahead of time. You can also increase the amount of early log-in time to up to 60 minutes when you set up the synchronous session. It is helpful for you to log on at least 15 minutes early to make sure your microphone and video camera is working and allow students to test their cameras and microphones before class begins.

Please also record the sessions for your students in case that illness, internet access, or significant time-zone differences impede their participation that particular day. Click on the purple thumbnail icon at the upper-left hand corner of your Blackboard Collaborate screen and choose “record.”

First, make sure your hardware is set up to effectively launch and run Blackboard and its online features, like Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. Your username and password on Blackboard are the same as your GWeb credentials.

Hardware Requirements

It is easiest to utilize the Blackboard Collaborate tool using a laptop or desktop computer. You will need to test your webcam and ensure your microphone is working. Some users prefer to use earphones to minimize feedback and increase the sound clarity of the conversation.

Browser

Blackboard recommends using either Chrome or Firefox if you are a faculty leading a session or a student that shares a screen to present material.  Collaborate also requires specific permissions to function as desired. For example, Collaborate needs permission to access your camera and microphone so you can use audio and video. Give Collaborate permission when asked, or set up permissions in your browser preferences later. Learn more about browser support for Blackboard Collaborate.

More Information & Support

Here is a document to help you get started with Blackboard Collaborate. GWSB’s Instructional Design Team is offering online course continuity workshops and 30-minute one-on-one support sessions for faculty. Faculty can sign up for 30-minute sessions with an instructional designer or a faculty member with online teaching experience here. If you cannot attend a course continuity workshop or a one-on-one session and you would like assistance in preparing or conducting courses online, please contact Susan Copp at [email protected] or (202) 309-0721.

Here are some steps you can take to improve your session performance:
 
  • Close all programs on your computer except for the browser you are using for your Collaborate session.
  • Connect to the internet using a hard-wired (ethernet) connection instead of Wi-Fi, if possible. 
  • If you are using Wi-Fi, try bringing your computer closer to the Wi-Fi router or access point.
  • If you are experiencing slow speeds, use video only when necessary.
  • Check your Internet connection speed using an online speed test.
  • Reduce or stop video streaming or online gaming activities on your home network during your session.
  • As a last resort, if you are connecting through a VPN, try disabling that connection.

Additional resources about how to move classes online are available here.

You can also contact the GW Office of Information Technology at (202) 994-4948 for assistance, or you can check out the Official Blackboard Help Site for more information. You may find it helpful to consult with a colleague with online teaching experience as well.

The University Instructional Core has also been conducting workshops for faculty on how to use Blackboard for educating our students online. The team is ready to ramp up workshops over the next few weeks to assist faculty in maintaining instructional continuity should the campus suspend (or scale back) face-to-face instruction for any period of time. Faculty and chairs should email [email protected] for assistance.

GW libraries like the Gelman Library will remain digitally open, and access to remote library resources and services will always be available to all students, faculty, and staff. This includes support for virtual learning, peer tutoring and course reviews, and faculty and student research.

As a reminder, here is a list of suggestions for how faculty can best support students that need an accommodation due to a disability. Students needing new accommodations due to a disability because of the instructional modality change, should contact the GW Disability Support Services office.

As GW has moved to virtual learning in response to the spread of COVID-19, the university has given students the option to change the grade mode for most courses to Pass/No Pass (for undergraduate students) or Credit/No Credit (for graduate students) for the Spring 2020 semester.

Students may choose to have one or more courses graded as Pass/No Pass or Credit/No Credit. We encourage students to speak with their academic advisors before making this choice. View the grade mode change policies.

Please note: Faculty members should still submit letter grades for all students. Students are not required to notify faculty members of their decision to change their grade mode. Students do not have to take any action unless they wish to change their grade mode to Pass/No Pass or Credit/No Credit for one or more courses this semester. The deadline to turn in grades has been extended from five business days after the final exam to 10 business days after the exam. However, any faculty member that needs more than five business days to submit final grades should notify his/her department chair.

Undergraduate Students

Undergraduate students who wish to change their grade mode for one or more courses this semester must complete the Spring 2020 Grade Change Mode Form and submit it here by Sunday, May 31 at 5:00 p.m.

Graduate Students

Graduate students who wish to change their grade mode for one or more courses this semester must submit this form by Sunday, May 31 at 5:00 p.m. For more information, view the Graduate Student Grade Mode Change FAQ.

This is a stressful time for everyone, including our students. Given that students will be connecting from all parts of the world in different circumstances, some may have bandwidth problems, health and family-related issues, etc., class participation may be challenging. Here are some suggestions that might be helpful to faculty:

Refer Students to Official Information Sources

Regular updates will be posted on the GW COVID-19 website and the World Health Organization COVID-19 website. Please do not provide medical, preventative or diagnostic advice, opinions or recommendations, etc. regarding COVID-19 to students.

Be Flexible

Faculty should be prepared to accommodate students who may have a number of legitimate issues, including time zone differences, technical difficulties, illness, travel delays or other circumstances that may pose problems for attendance and deadlines. 

Use the Announcements Feature of Blackboard

The announcement feature allows you to alert students to something important. The announcement will be sent to students as an email and will be posted at the top of your course area on Blackboard. View a video that demonstrates how to do this.

Create a Q&A Discussion Board

Even if you do not use a discussion board in your course, creating one where students can post questions about the course can be a way to efficiently and effectively answer student questions and potentially cut down on the number of emails to which you have to respond.

Offer Opportunities to Meet Students Online

Depending on your availability, you might offer to log into your synchronous session 30 minutes early and visit informally with students that choose to log in early. You could also set up a separate synchronous session, labeling it “office hours,” and offer to meet students virtually just as you would in your office.

File a CARE Network Report, If Needed

The CARE Network reaches out to offer support so that students can be as successful as possible through graduation. Fill out a confidential CARE Network report.

The following policy updates are intended to help you prepare for final exams in distance-learning mode.

Retroactive request for Pass/No Pass for Spring 2020 (undergraduates only)

Students may request that a grade be converted to Pass/No Pass up until five days after a grade is posted on Banner. This includes students who are trying to qualify for the Dean's list. Requests to change the grading format for a graduate student to credit-no credit should be made before the last day of class. Students cannot make retroactive requests to convert courses to the credit-no credit option.

Freshman Forgiveness for Spring 2020 (undergraduates only)

Students may use ‘freshman forgiveness’ for courses in which they receive an NP. Students may repeat a course for which they receive a P. A student who is repeating a course using ‘freshman forgiveness’ may choose P/NP instead of a letter grade.

Final Exam Guidance for Spring 2020 (graduates and undergraduates)

Please note that faculty members should not schedule a final exam or final paper during the last week of classes. The university-scheduled exam period should be used, especially in consideration of students that might have multiple exams on one day and to meet the Middle States accreditation requirements for a 15 week semester.

For faculty members who are teaching graduate “ON” sections that were intended to be offered online, please see the asterisk below for more information about when and how to schedule final exams.

The deadline to turn in grades has been extended from five business days after the final exam to 10 business days after the exam. However, any faculty member that needs more than five business days to submit final grades should notify his/her department chair.


There are two options for giving exams during the final exam period:

Option 1: Traditional Timed Exam

In this option, the exam must be administered in the university-scheduled time band, and an alternative different version of the exam must be scheduled at a different time to accommodate the time zone difference of students taking the course. Some points below may be useful to note:

  • Sometimes students may experience connectivity problems, and an alternative assessment (which may not be a timed exam but a take-home exam that can be turned in at a later date via email) or time extension may become necessary. 
  • Blackboard has instructions on how to set up timed exams. Blackboard support contact info can also be found on the university's COVID-19 resources page, including support on how to set up remote test proctoring through the Respondus lockdown browser. Remote test proctoring needs to be set up ahead of time.
  • Students qualifying for DSS accommodations may require 1.5 or 2 times the time allowed. This is typically accomplished via Backboard by not enforcing the “Forced Completion” option for the exam. 

Option 2: Take-Home Exam

Faculty members can give students a final exam or paper promptly at the beginning of the exam period. Students can be told that the final exam/paper must be turned in no later than Tuesday, May 12, at 5:00 p.m. EDT.

  • Faculty members who adopt this option for the final exam/paper may not require students to submit it before the end of the exam period because any other date might conflict with other exams a student is taking, thus resulting in multiple exams/papers/projects due on the same date.
  • Faculty members can ask students to turn in the exam the date it was scheduled. If a student has more than two exams due on one day, the student can speak to the faculty member to make an adjustment to the exam date, like they would in any normal semester.

*Faculty members who are teaching graduate courses that were designed to be online BEFORE all courses went to distance learning on March 23 have the following options for the final exam (since there is no university-scheduled exam period for these courses): 

  • Option 1: Faculty members can opt to offer students an exam during the students’ regularly scheduled synchronous time periods on days during the final exam period (note- this means that these exams should last the duration of the synchronous session and not beyond). 
  • Option 2: Alternatively, faculty members can offer a timed exam that can be taken at the students’ convenience but must be completed before the last day of the final exam period.
  • Option 3: Some faculty members may prefer to assign a take-home exam or project and allow students to turn it in no later than Tuesday, May 12, at 5:00 p.m. EDT. Faculty members who adopt this option for the final exam/paper may not require students to submit it before the end of the exam period because any other date might conflict with other exams a student is taking, thus resulting in multiple exams/papers/projects due on the same date. 

Faculty Purchase of Equipment (FSA/RSA)

With approval from the associate dean of faculty, faculty are authorized to use available FSA/RSA funds to purchase additional computing equipment as appropriate to provide support for online instructional continuity.

Purchased Travel or Activities

For travel, events, conferences, and other activities that will no longer occur due to cancellations, please work with your vendors to recover as many of your expenses as possible. With current circumstances, most airline, hotel, and conference partners are working to provide refunds or credits for future activities that will mitigate any unrecoverable expenses. We ask that you take the following steps:

  • Contact your airline or travel agent (or Concur) directly to seek a cancellation or refund.
  • If no refund is available, exercise your travel insurance policy, if available.
  • If you are unable to obtain a refund for out-of-pocket expenses despite following the guidance above, GWSB will assist with any remaining unrecoverable expenses incurred for GW affiliated travel or activities. In order to request a reimbursement for unrecoverable out-of-pocket expenses, please submit the documentation in a regular expense report and include documentation such as your written attempts to recover costs or notification from the vendor that a refund is unavailable with the receipt. If you have any questions on how to submit these reports, please email [email protected].

Please bear in mind that some expenses, such as hotels and other lodging, may incur fewer or zero penalties if canceled within a defined period of time. Other expenses, such as conference fees, may be fully reimbursed should the conference later get cancelled (e.g. waiting to see what happens for conferences scheduled in June may be the wiser course of action than immediately cancelling in the case of a non-refundable registration fee).

For expenses already purchased via P-card, completed expense reports still need to be submitted regardless of pending or expected refunds. The refund, once processed, should be submitted in an expense report and allocated to the same Oracle Alias to which the original expense was supplied. Do not hold an expense for which a refund is in process, please continue to submit expenses regularly.

For P-card expenses that are currently unsubmitted, for which refunds or attempts for refunds will be ultimately made, please note this in the comments in the expense so the F&A team can assist with ensuring the refunds are matched to the expenses.

Upcoming Travel & Events

View updated GW travel information for faculty and staff.

As of March 5, the university has suspended all upcoming, GW-affiliated international travel for students, faculty and staff.

As of March 12, the university has not placed restrictions on GW-affiliated domestic travel, however, based on conditions at this time, we urge faculty and staff to delay or cancel non-essential GW-affiliated domestic travel. As such, please do not make any financial commitments related to future travel or activities until we have additional clarity on this rapidly situation.

As of March 12, no event contract or requisitions will be approved at the school level unless authorized directly by the dean or associate dean for Faculty. Please email [email protected] with specific concerns or requests about future events.

Sponsored Awards and Related Activity

Travel expenses on sponsored projects are subject to OVPR guidelines and restrictions. OVPR is awaiting guidance from sponsors related to the allowability of fees associated with changing or canceling trips and will provide information as soon as it becomes available. In the meantime, investigators and staff may direct urgent inquiries to their assigned sponsored projects administrator.

All Duquès and Funger suites are currently GWorld swipe access only. Please keep your GWorld card on you so that you can access the suites. We will resume normal business hours when the instructional continuity period has ended. 

  • If there are staff and faculty in the suite, we encourage you to prop the door open so that others can come and go freely.  
  • Please be sure to place a sign on your suite doors, if you keep them closed, on how and who they can reach for access to the space with a phone number and email address.  
  • Please email [email protected] with any questions or concerns.

 

 

Technical Support

For solutions to most issues, including problems with Blackboard, please contact GW Information Technologies:

Website: https://it.gwu.edu/support
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (202) 994-4948

You can also contact the GWSB Office of Information Technology Services (OITS) for GWSB-specific issues like device connectivity and VPN configuration:

Website: https://portal.business.gwu.edu/
Mobile device: FreshService app available from both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store (URL: portal.business.gwu.edu)
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (202) 994-4972

 

 

About the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Visit the GW University COVID-19 website

 

The university closely monitors the evolving public health situation related to the COVID-19 pandemic and is taking all necessary precautions to protect the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff.

Visit GW's COVID-19 Info Page