Preparing for Classes

In many respects, the preparation for online learning and classroom-based learning are very similar. In advance of the class, students should:

  1. Review course prerequisites and syllabus. Verify that you meet all prerequisites and review the course syllabus to make sure you understand the course format, objectives and expectations.
  2. Get everything you need for the course. Based on the course syllabus, make sure you have any required materials, such as textbooks and software—and review GW’s online learning technology requirements as well.
  3. Determine when and where the class meets. Online courses may be:
  • Fully Asynchronous Online – In asynchronous courses, faculty and students do not interact in “real time,” allowing participants to complete work and communicate with their instructors on their own schedules. Course content and interaction relies on Learning Management Systems such as email, pre-recorded lectures, discussion boards and blogs.
  • Fully Synchronous Online – Synchronous courses create a more traditional classroom environment in which the professor and students have a set time for class activities. Delivery may include video conferencing, chat sessions and prerecorded material.
  • Blended/Hybrid – These courses combine online learning with scheduled face-to-face meetings, either on or off campus. Variations of this model include combining:
    • Online and in-classroom activities for all class meetings
    • Short-term in-classroom residency and longer-term synchronous or asynchronous online segments
    • Short-term field trip/travel and synchronous or asynchronous online course completion

Check any specified meeting dates and times and be sure the schedule works for you.

  1. Explore your virtual classroom. Find out how to log in to the course management system and make sure your username and password work. Then become familiar with the system and software and its menu options. Contact Student Technology Services or the instructor if you need assistance.
  2. Manage your time wisely. Time-management skills are essential for success with online courses. Missing assignment deadlines and scheduled course interactions are equivalent to missing scheduled classroom sessions.
  3. Have a computer and Internet connection. Be certain an adequate computer and a reliable Internet connection are available for the duration of the course.

Online Course Overview

At its core, the George Washington University’s online learning program is committed to combining the highest academic standards with the most advanced, creative, and interactive technologies. The result: exceptional courses taught by faculty who are leaders in their fields.

You can expect the most innovative, engaging faculty and content from all of the George Washington University’s online courses. While we offer a wide range of online learning programs in a variety of formats, each class provides the intellectual rigor of the traditional GW curriculum. Whether you take a course that is entirely online or a blend of online and classroom study, you will find:

  • A virtual classroom experience. Most of GW’s online courses or course components are not self-paced, independent study. You will interact with the professor and other students, actively participate in a virtual classroom community and submit assignments according to deadlines set by the professor.
  • An academic challenge. Online courses are as rigorous as on-campus courses, requiring the same amount of study time, commitment to attending class and completion of homework assignments.
  • Access to faculty. GW students who learn online benefit from the same strong relationships with our faculty that distinguish every course at our University. Our online learning program assures students regular and appropriate contact with faculty—individually and in groups—through email, online discussions, and other interactive technologies.
  • Course innovation. While online technologies and techniques vary by subject area, GW’s online learning program features the optimum innovations for creating a stimulating and effective learning experience. Using the latest technologies, our courses apply active learning techniques, promote independent action and thinking, and explore problem-based learning—particularly when it can take advantage of activities that are not possible in a classroom setting.
  • A need for self-discipline and time management. Students taking online learning should reserve time each day to participate actively in class through the course management website and complete their homework and other class assignments.

GW’s primary modes of online content delivery are Blackboard and Embanet, both recognized as industry leaders that embrace best practices in delivering courses. In addition to our key delivery systems, we use state-of-the-art classroom lecture capture, virtual 3-D environments, podcasts, and the latest technology additions to ensure a rich and full online educational experience.

We recognize that online courses do not replicate the in-classroom experience. Instead, online courses provide an expanded array of options and tools for learning. You will interact with classmates through discussion forums, wikis, blogs and, occasionally, Internet telephony. Lectures are delivered as Powerpoint presentations, podcasts, streaming video captures or PDF documents. Assessment may take the form of traditional essays or written papers, automated online testing modules, posting of visual images and audio recordings.


Is an online course right for me?

Successful online students are comfortable managing their own schedules, approaching assignments with the same motivation they would in a face-to-face course. Take into consideration your learning style, study habits and access to and familiarity with technology. 

What computer configurations are required?

For all GW online courses, you will need access to a computer with certain minimum specifications, while a few courses that use graphic-intensive content or virtual 3-D environments may require more advanced capabilities. See Technology and Requirements for a full description.

How are online courses noted on my transcript?

There is no special designation for online courses on your transcript. Credit earned is factored into your grade point average, and your completed course will appear as any other GW course on your transcript.

How do I register for online courses?

Once you have been accepted into your program, you will receive a GWID number, which you will use to register for online courses. Follow registration directions provided by specific schools, programs and GW Admissions. Also review directions for adding or dropping a course and policies regarding late registration penalties.

When can I register for online courses?

Online courses are offered during spring, summer, and fall terms, and you may register during the appropriate registration period for the term. It is especially important to note the late registration deadlines and policies, as late fees apply. Some courses may require that you order books and materials from the bookstore in advance.

How do I add or drop a course?

Follow the drop procedures for your course as you would any other course. Course credits dropped after the start of classes are subject to a loss in tuition and fees. See policies concerning schedule changes, late registration and dropping courses. Failure to participate in an online class for which you are already registered does not officially withdraw you from the class.

How much do online courses cost?

The tuition for most online courses is the same as for campus-based courses. There are selected courses and programs with special tuition rates. Individual schools and programs will provide information on a special tuition rate.

How do I order textbooks and course materials?

Some courses require that you order materials such as textbooks, DVDs and CDs or software. We recommend that you purchase your materials from the GW Bookstore or from sources recommended by your professor.

How will I know when my class begins?

When the professor is ready to begin the course, he or she will send you an email to initiate contact and provide introductory information. In addition, use your GW email login and password to log into Blackboard and look for your course at, or a few days before, the beginning of the session.

Is an online course easier than a face-to-face course?

This really depends on your individual learning style. Online courses are no less rigorous in content than face-to-face courses. In fact, often they are especially intensive when a full semester of course content is offered in a condensed timeframe.

How is academic integrity ensured in an online environment?

Faculty who teach online courses are attuned to violations of the Code of Academic Integrity, including plagiarism, insufficient attribution of source materials, or file sharing. If you are at all uncertain about whether your conduct comports with the code, contact your professor in advance of submitting your work.

How do I follow course updates and activities?

Online courses use learning management systems, chiefly Blackboard and Embanet. You should log in and check the course site frequently for changes that include announcements, course content changes, interactive student discussion boards, group activities and graded assignments. In addition, your professor and colleagues may communicate frequently by email, using your GW email address.

How do I get help with an online course?

Treat your online course as you would any other course and contact your instructor for assistance. Your GW email or discussion areas within the online course are the primary modes of communication with faculty and classmates, and you can expect to receive communication from your professor and colleagues.

What do I do if I encounter technical difficulties while taking the class?

First try to troubleshoot your problem using the Blackboard FAQs. In the event of technical difficulties, it is your responsibility to notify your professor and request assignments so that you do not fall behind in the course.

  • Student Technology Services (STS)

A division of Information Systems and Services, STS provides technology support for the GW student community. Contact STS at 202-994-7041 or

  • ISS Help Desk

The GW Blackboard login page provides a few Blackboard FAQs and a link to the online GW Helpdesk. The Information Systems and Services (ISS) Help Desk has an extensive array of helpful information relating to the use of technology for the GW community.

  • Gelman Library Distance Education Services

GW has created a step-by-step guide through the Gelman Library System research process, tailored to the needs of off-campus students. Contact the Distance Education Librarian at 202-994-1357.

Individual Courses

The George Washington University’s students and non-degree students do not have to be enrolled in an online or on campus program to take advantage of online learning. We offer a growing number of individual courses, both undergraduate and graduate, in fully online and hybrid/combined formats. These courses may fulfill GW degree requirements, transfer to other institutions, or simply be taken for personal edification. 

These courses provide additional flexibility and accessibility for both specialized and high-demand courses, particularly for working professionals and full-time GW students with internships or other activities that place constraints on their time.

Individual courses are an excellent option for students from other institutions seeking selected courses to transfer to their home institution. They also enable lifelong learners to take exceptional courses to keep abreast of contemporary issues and practices.

In addition to the course areas listed in the link below, selected courses in structured programs may be taken on an individual basis. Please check with program advisors for this option.

Browse Online Courses By Department

Combined Online/On-Campus Courses

A variety of the George Washington University’s degree and certificate programs blend online and classroom learning. Currently, among these combined programs, these programs can lead to a bachelor’s degree, master’s degrees, a Ph.D., undergraduate and graduate certificates.

Online Programs

A variety of the George Washington University’s degree and certificate programs are fully online and can lead to an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, an undergraduate certificate and graduate certificates.

Explore the Spring 2013 online course listings for more information. 

Online Options

GW’s online learning options are:

  • Online Programs – GW offers a variety of academic programs delivered entirely online—including several leading to master’s, bachelor’s and associate’s degrees and graduate-level certifications.
  • Combined Online/On-Campus – A variety of GW’s graduate and undergraduate degrees and certificate programs blend online and classroom learning.
  • Individual Courses – A growing number of individual courses that may satisfy degree requirements, serve as electives or simply provide personal edification are now available in an online format.

View our full schedule of classes

Online learning provides opportunities for various degrees, certificates, and courses, regardless of your location and without having to leave your job or other obligations.

The benefits of online learning are numerous and include:

  • Offering the ability for newly admitted students to jumpstart their learning
  • Increasing summer course offerings
  • Optimizing classroom resources
  • Delivering cutting edge multimedia tools and content
  • Providing virtual communities for discussion and information exchange
  • Increasing the technological literacy of students and faculty
  • Reaching larger audiences

Just like the George Washington University’s classroom experience, our online courses are taught by innovative, engaging faculty and provide the highest caliber content. And because specialized instructional designers develop our online programs, they integrate and take full advantage of the latest interactive technologies and tools that online learning affords. We strive for:

  • Flexibility – Online courses can work with any schedule and location. Because many of them don’t involve scheduled classes, students can pair their coursework with other activities like work and internships.
  • Accessibility –You can take GW’s outstanding courses—taught by the same acclaimed faculty who teach those courses on campus—from anywhere.
  • Cutting Edge – We use state-of-the-art technology to provide the optimum online learning experience, creating an online course community through interactive media, online posts and blogs, and written dialogue.

At the George Washington University, new technologies are not simply a vehicle for distance learning. They are fundamentally changing how students and faculty live, learn, teach and work. Technology continuously presents opportunities to challenge our students while expanding their access to information.


Virginia Science and Technology Campus

The Virginia Science and Technology Campus was established in 1991 as GW’s flagship research and technology center. Situated on 100 acres in Loudoun County, Virginia, it is strategically positioned in the center of Northern Virginia’s technology corridor.

More than 20 exceptional graduate degree and certificate programs in business, information systems technology, engineering and human and organizational learning are offered at the Virginia Campus.

The Virginia Science and Technology Campuss collaborates with regional corporations, organizations and local governments, as well as with on-site organizations such as the Integrated Justice Information Systems Institute (IJIS), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the renowned Jason Project, a subsidiary of National Geographic. Dozens of centers of excellence and laboratories in critical areas are housed on the campus, including:

  • National Crash Analysis Center, a collaboration among academia, industry and the federal government to explore and improve road safety and security.
  • Center for Intelligent Systems Research, conducting research applying neural networks, fuzzy logic and genetic algorithms to solve a variety of transportation problems.
  • Center for High-Performance Reconfigurable Computing, a national center and consortium for research funded by the National Science Foundation, with partners from academia, government and industry.
  • Institute for Massively Parallel Applications and Computing Technologies, advancing interdisciplinary research, education and training in high-performance computing.

Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon Campuses

Foggy Bottom

Since 1912, GW’s Foggy Bottom Campus has been a part of the historic Foggy Bottom neighborhood, only blocks from the White House, U.S. Department of State, World Health Organization, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the World Bank, as well as museums, galleries and corporate headquarters. The University capitalizes on its location to deliver an unrivaled educational experience that draws nearby international, governmental and cultural resources into the classroom, attracts adjunct faculty from the top ranks of public and private institutions and facilitates exceptional research, internship and career opportunities for its students.

The Foggy Bottom Campus includes more than 100 campus buildings on 42 acres in the heart of Washington, D.C. and is home to more than 200 doctoral, masters and graduate certificate programs. Fields of study are wide-ranging, innovative and, often, interdisciplinary. 

Mount Vernon Campus

The Mount Vernon Campus, spread over 25 acres, is in Washington’s wooded Foxhall neighborhood, surrounded by homes, embassies, diplomatic residences and the Kreeger Museum of Art. Connected to the Foggy Bottom Campus by a 24-hour shuttle service, it houses science labs, extensive athletic facilities and six undergraduate residence halls. The campus is home to the graduate programs in forensic sciences and interior design.

Other Washington, D.C. Locations

  • Next to the Foggy Bottom Campus, the K Street Center for Professional Education, at 2020 K St. NW in Washington, D.C., is home to graduate programs in landscape design and paralegal studies.
  • GW’s legislative affairs program has been offered in the Hall of States building on Capitol Hill for several decades.