Virtual Learning at the Elliott School

GW's Fall 2020 Update

COVID response information


The George Washington University has decided to hold courses online for the Fall semester, with limited exceptions.


Read the full Fall 2020 update



Updates & Announcements


Virtual Forums



Below you will find information relating to the Elliott School and COVID-19. On July 27, 2020, President LeBlanc announced that the George Washington University has decided to hold courses online for the Fall semester. Read the most recent messages from Interim Dean Ilana Feldman for more information.

Contact Information for Additional Questions

The university recently launched a COVID-19 hotline – 855-GWU-INFO – which is open and ready to answer any questions you may have regarding the university’s preparedness for COVID-19. You can also visit GW's Fall 2020 website for all updates related to COVID-19.

For Elliott School-specific questions, please email [email protected] and visit this page. This webpage will be updated regularly as new information becomes available.

This page was last updated October 21, 2020.

For Students

Frequently Asked Questions

All courses at ESIA will be held online in fall 2020. Unlike in the spring, instructors have had the opportunity to redesign courses to take advantage of the unique opportunities available online. All classes are unique, so classroom experiences will vary. Each instructor will choose the techniques and technology appropriate for their course goals. 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.

During spring we needed to react quickly and transition courses from on campus to online within a matter of days. For fall, the Elliott School, in conjunction with GW Library’s Instructional Core team, developed a series of workshops and instructional resources to help all faculty develop their courses for hybrid and online settings. In addition, Elliott launched the Flex-Start program, where selected courses from each program went through a full online course design process in which faculty members and instructional designers worked closely together to tailor a highly engaging online course. All faculty further received a newly developed teaching guide with many helpful tips and resources, received access to an online course on how to develop and facilitate online courses, and had the opportunity to attend several workshops and trainings.

Faculty have been guided to record their lectures, so if you are experiencing connectivity issues, you can view them at another time. In addition, both Blackboard Collaborate Ultra and WebEx have both call-in and mobile features, where you can gain access to your live-sync session through your mobile device. Faculty have also been guided to be as flexible as possible during these unprecedented times.

Please start by contacting your academic advisor to discuss any changes to your academic plan and impacts to the completion of your degree. Students should then check with the Office of Graduate Admissions regarding Elliott School funding and the Office of Student Financial Assistance regarding federal financial aid. International students should contact the International Services Office for potential visa implications as well.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) has created a comprehensive Toolkit and mental health Self-Help resources for specific populations related to COVID- 19. CAPS is available to provide support to students. Call 202-994-5300 and press 2 to speak to a CAPS clinician during regular business hours (Mon-Fri. 8:30am-5p). Crisis support is available 24/7.

A full range of academic support continues to be offered virtually in fall 2020. Tutoring and course review sessions through Academic Commons will be offered in an online format. Academic Commons also offers several short videos addressing different virtual learning strategies for the unique circumstances of the fall 2020 semester. They also offer a variety of live virtual workshops to equip students with the tools they need to succeed in a virtual environment. Writing and research consultations will also be available online.

Coaching, offered through the Office of Student Success will also be available in a virtual format.

Our Elliott School Undergraduate Advising and Graduate Advising teams will also continue to provide academic advising and career coaching support through virtual appointments, drop-in hours, workshops, and events.

Disability Support Services (DSS) is available to assist students in need of additional support or access to online classes due to a health condition. 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.

The university will continue to closely monitor the latest data on COVID-19 cases locally and nationally, guidance from our medical and public health experts, and ongoing feedback from the GW community in making a determination on plans for the spring semester.

Graduate tuition rates have been rolled back to the 2019-20 academic year. For more information, visit the Student Accounts website.

The schedule of classes is currently being updated to reflect remote instruction for all IAFF courses. Any rare exception will be noted in the course comments. In the coming weeks, your instructors will provide additional details regarding class meetings.

Most graduate courses are being held online this fall. Please monitor the schedule of classes and/or your fall schedule in GWeb for updates to your courses. If you have questions, please contact your instructor or academic advisor for further assistance.

Both the reading and speaking exams will be conducted virtually in the fall, as they were in the spring term. Registration information will be communicated from Graduate Student Services (GSS) in September. Contact GSS with any questions at [email protected].

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 your online classes. These include:

Academic Commons is also offering a series of live workshops on virtual learning, including:

You can also request technology assistance including hotspots, loaner computers, and more through CARES emergency funding. 

Visit the Academic Commons website for additional resources and assistance with virtual learning.

Four Basic Tips for Success 

1. Self-direction leads to success 

Online classes can feel self-paced and fluid, so there is an extra emphasis on professionalization and accountability.  Be prepared to take the initiative in your own learning journey- set aside designated times in your schedule to read course materials, watch any assigned videos, and work on assignments.


2. Time management

Map out due dates for each module and have a plan for completing your assignments each week. Avoid procrastination by prioritizing your tasks and complete them based on their order of importance. Setting up a calendar at the start of the semester that holds all the due dates for your classes is a great way to plan and prepare. 


3. Ask for help when you need it

Be sure to reach out to your classmates and your professors when you have questions. You’re in this together and your instructors are here to help you succeed. If you are having trouble with technology, be sure to reach out to the IT Help Desk as soon as possible. The IT Help Desk can be reached at 202-994-4948 and [email protected]


4. Learn and Adapt 

 Identify the hours when you do your best work and adjust your schedule accordingly. 

Encourage Collaboration 

  • Reach out to your peers and share phone numbers. Your classmates will become part of your network of experts after you graduate, so you can use this time to connect with your peers. 

  • Ask your professor if they would be willing to facilitate a semester-long class challenge. Ask to suggest organizations and vote on which one to collectively support.  For example, you and your classmates can pledge to walk a certain amount of miles for a good cause, or write letters to pen pals in nursing homes or orphanages, etc. 

  • Ask your professor if you can propose “experiential learning” to supplement assignments.  For example, ask to interview relevant family members or people in your network who may be able to contribute substantively to class topics.  Suggest a “walking tour” of your home city, and point out relevant buildings, monuments, and notable landmarks that may bring class materials to life.

Be an Active Participant 

  • Be an active participant by ensuring that your learning environment is free from distractions, especially during your live sync sessions. Participate in discussion boards by providing thoughtful responses to your peers and by actively participating during live sync sessions. Even though your class is online, make time to meet with your professor before or after class or during office hours. 

Class Notes and Group Projects

  • Ask your professor if you can write class notes in a shared Google document or spreadsheet so that everyone can contribute collectively and learn from each other. 

  • Set up study groups or times to convene as a group or class to review materials and work on projects.

Before the Live Session: 

  • Use a headset or headphones with a built-in microphone for best audio quality. 

  • Make sure you have access to a webcam 

  • Make sure your space is quiet with minimal distractions so you can focus on your session. 

  • Test your space’s internet connection prior to your live session. You’ll need a strong internet connection for live sessions. 

  • Add a profile picture to your Blackboard account so that your classmates can become familiar with you. 

  • Visit the Course Room in Blackboard to check that it works with your browser settings prior to your live session. 

 During the Live Session: 

  • Join the session early to make sure you have time to set up your audio and video and to familiarize yourself with the functions of Blackboard Collaborate. 

  • Focus on your Live Session- make sure all other tabs are closed. 

  • Use the “Raise Hand” tool to avoid interrupting other participants. 

  • Be professional during your session- keep you audio off when not speaking, keep your camera on, and pay attention to the presenter. Be respectful of your classmates and allow others to add to the conversation.

For a list of frequently asked questions that address the university as a whole, visit GW's Fall 2020 FAQs page.

For Faculty

Resources and support to help move classes online are available through GW’s library; but also, directly, at the Elliott School. Below you will find more information on assistance from the Elliott School's Academic Programs and Online and Instructional Design Teams, plus additional resource guides from Blackboard and the library.

Please feel free to reach out to the Elliott School's Online and Instructional Design Team with any questions or help at [email protected] and visit the ESIA Online page for more resources.

Campus Advisories provides additional online resources for the virtual learning period

The University Instructional Core, in the library, also has 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 contact [email protected] for assistance.

Several topic-specific guides have been produced by Blackboard and by the library. 

To find topic-specific guides, please follow these steps:

  1. Go to
  2. Log in with your GW username and password (Your username is the phrase in your email address appearing before "")
  3. On the top left side of your homepage, you should see a tab for Blackboard Guides. Click there.
  4. Depending on the issue you need help with, Blackboard has a corresponding guide and/or video.

***If you still need help or wish to set up a time for a guided explanation, please send an email to [email protected]

To help guide your syllabus development, download the Elliott School syllabus template.

Additionally, the University Teaching and Learning Center provides online resources for designing your syllabus.


For Connectivity and Functionality Issues

Contact GW IT:

GW IT provides instructor and student support for access issues related to Blackboard (NetID), Banner (student enrollment, faculty assignments) and email.


For Instructional Technologies Issues

Contact the Instructional Technology Lab (ITL):

ITL provides instructor support on the use of Blackboard, VoiceThread, Echo360, and other instructional technologies. 

Updates & Announcements from the Elliott School