CCAS Online Instruction and Accessibility

Last updated March 23, 2020, 12:03 p.m.


GW's Response to COVID-19

The health and safety of the GW community is a top priority for the University. GW will continue working with local, state and federal public health officials to monitor the situation and respond appropriately. The latest updates from the University can be found on the COVID-19 Campus Advisories page.


General Virtual Learning Advice and Guidance

Keep students well informed. Clear communication with students on what is expected is critical. In Blackboard, you can communicate through Announcements and Email.

Under the circumstances, the best platforms/technologies are ones that you know students are already familiar with. Be flexible with yourself and your students. Trust them and accept alternatives when you can.

Please note that OTS and the Instructional Technology Team support WebEx and Blackboard.

If you have specific questions regarding the move to online learning or online tools these should be directed to the Instructional Core at [email protected]. Your question will be directed to the appropriate instructional core professional who can provide help based on your specific question and need.


Frequently Asked Questions

Virtual Learning at GW

This section of the Campus Advisories website includes resources about how to move classes online. Instructional Technology and the CCAS OTS Team can provide support.

Getting Support, Getting Started and Technology Matrix (PDF)

This resource provides phone numbers for various support offices, as well as a technology matrix with links to specific technologies.

Peer-to-Peer Online Faculty Support

The Instructional Core has put together a team of expert GW online teaching faculty from around the university. These individuals are available to consult with faculty new to online teaching to share best practices and pedagogical approaches. Those interested in pairing with a peer should email [email protected] and request a contact.

Faculty Workshops

The Instructional Technology Lab (ITL) is hosting a number of faculty workshops in order to provide faculty with information on moving online. These are now all being done as webinars. Please sign up on the ITL upcoming workshops page.


WebEx Information

Self-Guided Blackboard Resources for Faculty

When you log in to Blackboard, click on the "Blackboard Guides" tab, which should be displayed on the top left side of your homepage. Depending on the issue you need help with, Blackboard has a corresponding guide and/or video. You should see under "Special Use" in your course list a course called Online Faculty Development, which also provides information.

Blackboard Support

Blackboard is supported 24/7 through the Instructional Core team as well as through our vendor. Access to this support can be gained through calling 202-994-4948 or sending an email to [email protected].


If you want to offer a synchronous online session you will need to offer the class in the time frame that your course is scheduled in the Eastern Time Zone.

Keep in mind that if you are holding synchronous online sessions, there will be students in different time zones, and you need to remind them that class will be held at the time it was scheduled for on GW’s campus. For example, an 8:30 a.m. EDT class would be a 4:30 a.m. class in Alaska.

Synchronous sessions can be done using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra or WebEx. If you are planning to conduct a synchronous session and you are teaching a cross-listed course, you should make sure that your courses are merged. Remember, if you are using Blackboard Collaborate or other tools, there are best practices that you should review (e.g., asking students to turn off microphones when they are not participating).

If you are using synchronous sessions, please record and post your sessions. You can record in both Blackboard Collaborate and WebEx.

Blackboard Collaborate Resources


Remember there may be very good reasons to use asynchronous approaches to present information and create virtual discussions. There is a lot you can do in an asynchronous fashion. It is going to be important to be flexible and creative.

Asynchronous Options


Faculty can administer exams on Blackboard. Review the Blackboard guides for how to create tests.

Faculty can use the Respondus Lockdown Browser to lock down a testing environment. The university license also allows for the Respondus Monitor (a video monitoring service that uses the Respondus Lockdown Browser). Please note that use of the monitor requires students to have an internal or external webcam.

What is the Respondus LockDown Browser?

Respondus LockDown Browser is a custom web browser. It 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 other applications on their computer. When an assessment is started, students are locked into the test until it is submitted for grading.

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.

How It Works

  1. Exams are created on Blackboard and deployed using the Respondus LockDown setting (Watch a video on how to prepare an exam for use with Respondus Monitor and LockDown Browser.)
  2. Students can test on their own devices by pre-downloading Respondus LockDown widget using GW's unique download link.

Instructor Training, Guides and Other Resources

Training is absolutely critical for instructors to be successful in using LockDown Browser and Respondus Monitor.

Technical Support

All support requests from faculty and students should initially be directed to the instructor. If the instructor cannot resolve a problem, students should submit a ticket to Respondus Technical Support.

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

Policy Elements to Include for Students Using the Software

  • Students must download the LockDown Browser from the GW's unique link.
  • Respondus LockDown browser only works on PCs, Macs and iPads. (Chromebooks 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.


Student Rights and Responsibilities offers this guidance on academic integrity in online learning environments. If you have further suggestions or questions, please don’t hesitate to contact their team at [email protected].

Remind students that the Code of Academic Integrity still applies, as it always has.


Your undergraduate students will have the option to select whether they are taking your course pass/no pass. This is something the students initiate at their discretion. They may decide this up until the last day of classes. We expect all faculty to continue to provide students with the remaining course content. You should assume that students are taking the course for a letter grade and compute your grades accordingly. When you input final course grades you will see whether a student as elected your class for pass/no pass.

What should you do if students ask you how to elect this option? 
Students are encouraged to consult with their CCAS and faculty advisors. Information on switching a class from pass/no pass can be found on the CCAS Advising Office website.

How has pass/no pass policy changed in CCAS for spring 2020 semester? 

  • All CCAS students may request a switch in their pass/fail status in a course up until the last day of classes (Monday, April 27, at 5:00 p.m. EST).
  • Students of any academic standing may take as many courses as they wish pass/no pass for this semester only, and this number will not count against the usual number of pass/fail courses they are allowed.
  • General education courses may be taken pass/no pass.
  • Major and minor courses may be taken pass/no pass.
  • A pass will suffice in courses that are prerequisites for another course.
  • Students should check to make sure that they are receiving grades in courses that are required for medical or dental school, law school, graduate school, veteran’s benefits, athletic or visa status, etc. Students should consult their pre-health, pre-law, athletic, Yellow Ribbon, specialized scholarships, or ISO advisor about such requirements.
  • A pass will count to satisfy a minimum grade when a course has a minimum grade to move on to a higher-level course or to avoid repeating the class (UW1020).
  • Determinations of probation and/or suspension will be held in abeyance this semester and will not be affected by the choice of taking a course pass/no pass.
  • A D- and above is considered a pass.


Yes. GW's Academic Commons offers tutoring for STEM and non-STEM courses. They also maintain a list of current modes of support and other virtual resources.

GW's Writing Center is offering 50-minute Zoom tutoring sessions.


Some students are returning to alternative addresses where internet access may be unreliable on non-existent. If your student reports an inability to access the internet or a lack of technology to continue with the course, please ask your student to reach out the CCAS Advising Office and please contact them yourself. Advising is keeping a list of students with access issues of all types.

If students cannot meet those conditions, they should try these best practices and workarounds:

  • Use recorded lectures. If a faculty member is doing a live-sync session, either on WebEx or Blackboard Collaborate, they should record the lecture. This option is built into both of these platforms. Students can access the recording afterwards without having to connect live and can later stream the video on their mobile devices.
  • Reduce connectivity issues. If students are connecting to a live session, they should try turning off their video cameras and microphones if they are having issues. They can also try calling in from their phones or landlines. If possible, ask them to limit other types of streaming while class is being held (i.e., ask their roommates or family members not to watch Netflix or YouTube in the same room, play Xbox, etc., while they are attending class). They should also try closing all other programs or browsers that could be running on their computers.

Some faculty have asked about internet access from China or other countries where there are restrictions on the internet. We are trying to get additional guidance.

Right now, GW Blackboard is NOT blocked in China. However, YouTube and most Google sites are blocked. If you have posted material from YouTube for your class, students in China may not be able to access the material. Students also cannot access their GW email directly without a VPN. The GW VPN is not currently blocked in China so students should download the VPN.


Yes, students can log into Blackboard Collaborate through their smartphones. Blackboard is accessible on a mobile device (e.g., cell phone, tablet, etc.).


DSS will offer the same support that they currently offer students who are taking face-to-face classes but in an online forum.

Remember faculty need to meet the accommodation required for a student registered with DSS. Faculty may want to review accommodations for students in your course based on the letters provided at the start of the year.

They have sent out guidance to faculty, students and providers who utilize any accommodation that is more complex when we move online. Their staff is ready to assist faculty who may have additional questions, however the focus will be on supporting those faculty who have DSS registered students in their courses. Faculty with questions should reach out to [email protected] for assistance.

Synchronous sessions are encouraged when you have a student with DSS accommodations. Should that not be possible DSS will work with you.

Visit the DSS website for information on who to contact based on the type of support needed if you have a student registered with DSS and have questions or concerns.

In terms of creating an accessible curriculum, faculty should visit DSS’s Faculty support page.

DSS has let students know that during the transition to online courses DSS is there to support them. They have been told that “It is imperative that you contact us directly should you encounter an issue with accessing your course materials or accommodations.”

Guidance has gone out to students and faculty related to supporting CART in an online format. See “Tips for Providing CART Notetaking Online" (PDF).

Sonocent Users please watch this video on how to use your technology for online classes.


Requests can be made directly to the library for online course materials. If professors can provide basic details on scholarly articles or textbooks (author name, title, year, etc.), the library can work with the faculty member to import an accessible PDF of the readings directly into their courses on Blackboard.

Please note, however, that the library has the easiest time accessing materials GW already has a subscription to, otherwise, they have to wait for a copy to be sent through ILL (Interlibrary Loan). For textbooks, the library can scan and import 10% of the book's content, or up to 30 pages only. Some books have e-book alternatives, which students can buy, and they're usually cheaper than hardback options.

If the book is still too expensive, librarians can work with the professor to assign another book or article that is accessible but still within the same topic.

Tip: One way to get around the 30-page scan limit is by using chapters of the same book from different editions. You can get one chapter scanned in one edition and another scanned from another edition. For such requests, contact [email protected].


Students will receive an email by April (three or more in total) to remind them to return their rentals. The due date is May 12. They can ship their books back for free.

  1. Log in to the GW Bookstore website with the account they created when they rented their books. A link will give directions on how to print the shipping label.
  2. Print out a shipping label (returning to GW).
  3. Box up their book(s). If it is postmarked by May 12, students will not be charged.

All books can go in one box however, students should include a piece of paper with their name, phone number and Patriot ID(s). The Patriot ID is located at the bottom of the email(s) they received and will list all rental books that are due back. If their name and/or phone number do not match up with the books for some reason, the Patriot ID will. Some students have multiple accounts, such as a parent's account. The student needs to know which books are from which account and include all Patriot IDs on the paper. All books, regardless of account, can go in the same box.



Support Contacts at GW and CCAS


Blackboard GW ITL GW IT
CCAS Cloud Applications CCAS OTS  

Academic Technologies

For tools including ECHO 360, Collaborate Ultra, etc.