Technology and Common Course Requirements

The College of General Studies and your instructors have dedicated much effort into bringing you online courses of the highest quality. Succeeding in a CGS Online course, however, also requires effort and self-discipline from students, just as in a face-to-face course. It also requires access to the technology you need, awareness of available resources for technical questions or problems, textbooks and other course materials, and familiarity with some of the common course requirements.

Technology Requirements

Computer Requirements / Web Browser

Your basic requirements are a computer with a web browser and a Pitt e-mail account, which gives you access to the online courses platform (CourseWeb/Blackboard amd Canvas) and to the University Web Portal ( For the technical requirements needed on your system, visit the University’s Computing Services and Systems Development (CSSD).

Pitt E-mail

Every University of Pittsburgh student receives a free e-mail account, and you will need this account to participate in online courses. Messages from your instructor and online course administrators will only be sent to your Pitt e-mail account. Learn more about Multifactor Authentication at Pitt (Duo).


Blackboard is an online course management system: think of it as a password-protected website where your course’s materials can be found. The term "CourseWeb" refers to the University of Pittsburgh’s implementation of the Blackboard system. Your course should be available in Blackboard on the first day of the term, although some instructors open their courses a little ahead of time. You may access CourseWeb directly, but the best way to access Blackboard/CourseWeb is through your portal.


The University of Pittsburgh is transitioning to the Canvas Learning Management System during the 2019-2020 academic year. A limited number of courses are using Canvas during the fall 2019 and spring 2020 terms. Starting with the summer 2020 term, Canvas will replace Blackboard (CourseWeb) for all courses. If you have courses that are taught in Canvas, you can access them via the Pitt Portal at For the Canvas Student Guide, visit Canvas @ Pitt Resources

Pitt Portal (

The University of Pittsburgh portal provides a single point of Web access to communication tools and University information that students, faculty, and staff use frequently. Continuing students can access their academic and financial records, along with course scheduling information through the portal. Students can enter Blackboard and Canvas through this portal.

Technical Support

Learning about Blackboard

View tutorials and instructions related to Blackboard at the Teaching Center's Online Resources for Students page or study Blackboard essentials for students through, accessible through

Getting started with Canvas

The Canvas @ Pitt Resources page contains various resources and detailed student guides that can help you get started with Canvas. 

Technology Problems

Contact the Technology Help Desk and LMS Support & Consulting if you have problems with Blackboard or Canvas, e-mail, passwords, or further technology-related questions. Some common questions are addressed on help sheets.

Required Textbooks and Other Course Materials

Consult your syllabus in CourseWeb or Canvas to see what books or other materials you need to purchase and whether you have any materials on reserve at the library. The best place to find all your required books and course materials is the University Store on Fifth. Course materials may be requested by mail, phone, or fax, and you must pay with a credit card.

Common Course Requirements

Although each CGS Online course is different, there are some common elements:

  • My CourseWeb homepage: welcomes you and tells you what to do next
  • Faculty Information: your instructor's contact information and office hours for consultation
  • Syllabus and an At-A-Glance Calendar: course goals, requirements, expectations, grading, schedules, and policies within the Blackboard or Canvas course
  • Modules:  CGS online instructors typically use modules or weeks to organize the content of their courses in logical and chronological order. A typical module structure includes a) a module overview and objectives; b) readings, lecture notes, videos, or powerpoint presentations; c) assignments and activities, and d) additional optional and required resources
  • Assignments/Exams: submit assignments and take exams (you may be asked to submit material to your instructor electronically, via e-mail or an assignments feature in Blackboard or Canvas, or in person at a required workshop.) CGS online courses may also require tests proctored at the University's Testing Center.
  • Discussion Board: Web and Hybrid courses typically make heavy use of Discussion Board and other collaboration tools; students are often asked to address a question posed by the instructor and reply to classmates’ discussion board posts – instructions will make this clear.
  • My Grades: record of your grades.  

Consult your course syllabus in CourseWeb or Canvas for specific course requirements.